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The best facial steamers for your at-home skin care routine, according to experts

Adding a facial steamer to your skin care regimen can boost the efficacy of your other products, experts told us.
We spoke with dermatologists about the benefits of steaming your face and how to use a facial steamer correctly.
We spoke with dermatologists about the benefits of steaming your face and how to use a facial steamer correctly.NBC / Vivian Le

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Though every skin care product serves its own purpose, some things (like sunscreen) are more essential to your everyday routine, while others are just nice to have. One product that falls somewhere in the middle of essential and enjoyable is a facial steamer. While there's no risk to your skin if you don't use a facial steamer, many people find facial steamers to be an integral part of their skin care routine.

SKIP AHEAD The best facial steamers | Benefits of facial steamers | How to use a facial steamer | Why trust Select?

Facial steamers can be used for a myriad of reasons — for instance, they can boost the efficacy of your other products and help unclog your pores. Below, we spoke with dermatologists about the benefits of steaming your face and how to use a facial steamer correctly. We also asked them about which models are worthy of being in your shopping cart.

What does a facial steamer do?

According to Dr. Tracy Evans, a board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology, facial steamers heat water to create vapor or steam. "They are traditionally used during facials to clean the skin, as the warm steam helps to loosen dirt and oil," Evans explained.

Facial steamers need to be filled with water before they can be used. Evans recommended using distilled water to fill up the device, as she noted that tap water “can contain heavy metals and other pollutants that can affect the integrity of the steam itself." Board-certified dermatologist Dr. David Rayhan added that distilled water can make your device last longer.

The best facial steamers in 2022

When it comes to choosing a facial steamer, consider the capacity of the device — the more water the steamer can hold, the longer your steam session will be. Also worth noting is the size of the device: The more compact the design, the easier it'll be to transport and store. Below, we rounded up facial steamers, some of which are expert-recommended and others that we chose based on user reviews and experts’ shopping advice. I also included the facial steamer I personally use and love.

NanoSteamer Ionic Facial Steamer

Evans recommended this facial steamer from NanoSteamer, which mixes heat with an ultrasonic vaporizer to produce nano-ionic steam that penetrates the skin more effectively, according to the brand. This pick conveniently comes with a 5-piece blackhead extractor kit to use after your steaming session, and it can double as a humidifier for your room, NanoSteamer says.

Panasonic Nano Ionic Steamer

Six minutes is all you need to reap the benefits of this facial steamer, according to Panasonic. In that time, it helps open up pores and gently removes impurities for a healthier, more hydrated complexion, the brand says. I’m a fan of its compact design — which makes for easy storage — as well as how easy it is to use: All you have to do is fill up the water reservoir to "half" for a three-minute cycle or to "full" for the full six minutes. Evans agreed that this steamer is quick, efficient and easy to transport.

Dr Dennis Gross Pro Facial Steamer

This is the most luxurious facial steamer on our list, but Evans said it's well worth the money if you're looking to really clarify the skin. ​​It uses a wide nozzle to cover more surface area and employs micro-steam technology, which the brand says can soothe the skin in nine minutes. According to the brand, the steam strength is strong (similar to what you'd see at a professional facial), while the device itself has a lightweight yet sturdy design.

Conair True Glow Moisturizing Mist Facial Sauna System

This 3-step set from Conair has everything you need for a full spa day at home: a nasal cone, a facial cleansing brush, an exfoliating brush and a moisturizer sponge. According to the brand, the steamer delivers a warm, steady flow of steam mist that opens up the pores and increases blood flow for a healthy-looking glow and hydrated skin. The brand says to use the nasal cone if you're looking for a more concentrated flow of steam as well as the exfoliating brush (combined with an exfoliating cream) for a deeper clean.

Benefits of facial steamers

In addition to evoking a spa-like sensation in your own bathroom, there are a number of skin care benefits to using a facial steamer. Similar to how the steam in your shower is made, Evans said that facial steamers use a combination of water and heat to create steam that helps soften the outer layer of the skin (aka the stratum corneum). When this happens, there are a slew of skin care benefits:

  • Softens the skin: Facial steamers soften the skin, which makes removing blackheads an easier — and less painful — task, Evans said.
  • Increases efficacy of other products: When the top layer of the skin has been exfoliated and lifted, the skin is more susceptible to penetration of topicals such as vitamin C, retinol and hyaluronic acid, Evans said. This helps your products absorb into the skin more effectively.
  • Deep cleans pores: Facial steamers can help unclog your pores and remove acne-causing dirt and oil from the skin, which can minimize the risk of acne. This is especially effective for those using acne-fighting skin care products, as this will increase product absorption and better fight breakouts.
  • Minimizes shaving-related irritation: "Facial steamers soften the cuticle of the hair and moisten the skin, which allows for less irritation while shaving," Evans said.
  • Opens up nasal passages: Facial steamers, especially when combined with essential oils like eucalyptus and peppermint oil, may help provide relief from nasal congestion.
  • Hydrates the skin: If your skin is feeling dehydrated, Rayhan said that facial steamers are a great way to replenish your skin, as they deliver hydration to the skin and can make it appear more plump.

How to use a facial steamer

When you use a facial steamer, make sure your face is clean and makeup-free beforehand, as steaming your face with makeup on can clog your pores. Also, Evans said you should avoid getting your face too close to the steamer, as it can burn the skin — she advised standing 12 to 24 inches away depending on the strength of the steam.

Evans recommended steaming your face for 10 minutes, which is enough time to reap the hydrating benefits without over-drying your skin. Rayhan said that you can use your facial steamer every day if you want — just make sure you're not standing too close to it. When you’re done, Rayhan recommended applying your moisturizers and serums to help retain the hydrating benefits of the steamer. If you're steaming during the day, make sure you follow up with sunscreen as well.

Experts told us you should avoid using a facial steamer if you have a skin condition like rosacea or severe eczema, as these devices increase blood flow to the face and can exacerbate these inflammatory conditions.

Why trust Select?

Select writer Michelle Rostamian has more than 10 years of experience covering beauty and skin care topics. Rostamian has tested dozens of skin care devices over the years, including facial steamers. For this story, Rostamian spoke to two board-certified dermatologists. Based on their guidance and recommendations, Rostamian reviewed the features of several facial steamers from brands like Panasonic, Conair, Dr. Dennis Gross and more.

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