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At a Glance: Face Steaming

Are you ready to crank up the steam?
Are you ready to crank up the steam?

Usually when you sweat, it's anything but luxurious. But if it's a steam treatment that's bringing on the perspiration, all of that glistening can be part of a healthful, relaxing beauty therapy.

If you've been to a spa in recent years, you know that steaming is a common component of facial treatments. But did you know that ancient Romans and Greeks incorporated face steaming into their beauty regimens? That's because this time-tested cleansing treatment involves little more than heated water.

You can have your face steamed professionally at a spa, where they use steaming units that heat water to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) and concentrate the steam toward your face.

Of course, you can also opt to steam your face at home, which is an easy and inexpensive method. All you have to do is pour heated water into a pot or bowl, then cover your head with a towel so that you make a tent over your face and the bowl. Make sure your hair is pulled out of the way, and then lower your face close to the steam but not right against the water. Continue steaming for five to seven minutes.

If you'd like to simplify the steaming process even further, you can purchase a self-heating, at-home face steamer. These products are available at a number of price points.

For many people, the process can be beneficial to skin health. Steaming can control or reduce acne breakouts, boost circulation and cleanse pores. It does these things by softening the skin's surface layer of dead skin cells, heating up the skin's temperature and prompting the sweating out of dirt, bacteria and toxins. Another benefit of steaming your face is that it helps your skin better absorb facial products (such as a cleansers, moisturizers and exfoliants) -- although adding aromatherapy oils to the water you steam doesn't seem to offer anything beyond sensory benefits.

Though it has several benefits, face steaming isn't for everyone. People with rosacea, fungal infections or severe acne can have their conditions aggravated by steaming. If you're not sure whether face steaming is a good idea for you, check with a dermatologist before trying it.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the hot water you use for steam can scald you if you spill it on you or let it touch your face. Professionals advise getting about 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 centimeters) from the water. This is not only to protect you from burns but to also guard you from broken capillaries that can occur when you're exposed to too much heat. Before you get started, keep one more thing in mind: Steaming too often (more than once a week) can dry out your skin.

We have lots more skin care information on the next page.