One of my nerdier qualities is being allergic to everything, but there is nothing like a hot cloth seeped in herbs to release the sinuses pressure beautiful weather brings to me. This, of course, got me thinking about how I can kill two birds with one stone: a homemade facial steam that benefits my skin as much as my sniffles. The newly budding flowers may bring tears to my eyes, but that also means it's the perfect time of year to use natural ingredients in a facial steam for oh so many benefits.
A major reason to try facial steaming at home is how inexpensive and effective these treatments are for all skin types. Facial steams increase perspiration and, according to Livestrong, the steam softens blackheads, making them easier to draw out from the surface. A steam treatment can help flush out excessive oil, dead skin cells, and even dirt without drying out your skin. As Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City told Allure, this method is perfect for sensitive skin types, since the concentration of the active ingredients hitting your skin is way lower than a normal topical treatment.
Heat, when applied the right way, can be incredibly beneficial for acne because it opens pores and make your face more receptive to your cleansers and face masks. Aura Cacia Educator and Aromatherapist Charlynn Avery tells me over email that the ideal temperature of the water should be between 100 and 110 degrees. "Anything hotter can burn and irritate the skin — and certainly acne prone skin which is already inflamed...bring the water to almost boiling, or [let] the water boil until the desired temperature is reached." Charlynn also points out that your skin should be at least five to 10 inches from the water. If you can sip from your facial steam bowl, you are probably too close.
You can turn yourself into a facial steaming expert with some of these delicious recipes that I've come to love below. A general rule of thumb is to steam with the aromas you find pleasing, be it stimulating or calming. According to Avery, choosing the right herb for the specific effect on the skin can help you have a more successful experience. "Beauty steams for the face have relied heavily on guiding around choosing the right herb for the specific effect on the skin. Astringent herbs for tightening/oil control and moisturizing flowers and or herbs that soothe and protect or contribute to the moisture of the skin. Choosing based on skin type is the best approach rather than following a product trend," Avery explains.
Once you've determined which ingredients you want to work with, you'll be getting steaming benefits regularly. Since facial steaming opens up the pores, it's best to steam after you cleanse. According to Avery, "Steaming will help to open the pores and is a 'next step' cleansing practice. If you do it before washing, the dead skin layer and built-up dirt on the face can get in the way and/or diminish the overall effect on skin."
You will notice that the recipes I've come up with below only include fresh ingredients, lipid oils (aka carrier oils) won't benefit the steaming process, but they can certainly join in before or after the cleansing. Here are some of my personal fave facial steaming combos. By the way: With facial steaming, less is more. Once a week is more than enough quality time your skin needs with steam!
1. Chamomile & Rose Petals
This facial steam is a truly calming experience. Both rose and chamomile are great for smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and taking care of under-eye puffiness.
2. Hibiscus & Basil
I truly love hibiscus in everything: Teas, cocktails, body scrubs, facial steams — you name it. Hibiscus has cleansing properties and can reverse damage from the harmful rays of the sun. Basil has astringent and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes this facial steam is great for my oily skin!
3. Calendula & Dandelion Root
There is so much to love about the healing properties of calendula, but dandelion root comes with some great skin benefits as well. According to sources at Stylecraze, dandelion opens pores and frees the skin from impurities. Together, calendula and dandelion make a great steam for dull complexions that are in need of hydration.
4. Bay Leaves & Lavender
Lavender usually wins the popularity contest in skincare — and it's not just a trend. Lavender is calming and has antifungal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties. I used fresh lavender buds and added bay leaves for their antioxidant properties. Sources at Organic Facts state that the unique combo of antioxidants found in bay leaves can fight free radicals. This is great for when your skin is feeling dry or irritated.
5. Turmeric & Skullcap Leaves
Turmeric is amazing for acne; it's cleansing, anti-inflammatory, and has an inoffensive spicy smell that I certainly don't mind inhaling. I added skullcap leaves for their proven ability to increase elasticity and firm up skin. This combination makes for a facial steam that my fellow acne-prone 30-somethings can get down with.
6. Clove & Rosemary
This mixture of fresh clove and fresh rosemary is wonderfully fragrant, so make sure you love the combination of the smell before you dive right in. Cloves are stimulating, antimicrobial, and antiseptic while rosemary softens the skin, leaving you feeling nourished and rejuvenated.
7. Lemongrass Essential Oil & Geranium Essential Oil
According to Avery, you can add essential oils to steaming water in lieu of fresh herbs. Use your favorites in moderation though — you only need a few drops to enjoy the aromatherapy and skin benefits of your steam.
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Image: Kristin Collins Jackson (9)