Our skin puts up with a lot, especially in London where its exposed to above-average pollution and extremes in temperature from central heating and temperamental weather.
Your poor cells are probably crying out for a bit of TLC and while we’re the first to pat on a sheet mask at the end of a particularly trying day, winter-battered skin deserves more attention.
A facial steamer is a great way to purge your complexion of all the dirt, oil and makeup that builds up in the cells over time, causing spots and blackheads. A steam is usually one of the steps in a professional facial (often followed by, depending on your outlook, a deeply satisfying / gross extraction process), but you needn’t wait until restrictions ease for a salon visit.
The great and good beauty retailers of Britain have developed at-home devices that promise to deliver squeaky clean skin in your own bathroom, all at prices you can afford.
What skin issues can a facial steamer help with?
If you suffer from spots or have clogged pores, a facial steamer can help. As regular spa-bunnies know, the heated mist softens the skin and helps coax out the nitty gritty embedded in it with ease. Less prodding means less damage to your skin.
The benefits aren't just skin deep. Dr Ross Perry Medical Director of CosmedicsUK âexplains the benefits of an at-home steam: "it’s a great way to switch off after a long day. A steamer helps to unclog pores and loosen excess dirt and built up toxins but it will also help with the overall circulation of the skin, which promotes collagen and elastin production.
It helps increase oil production which in turn naturally moisturises the face, and then there’s also the added benefit of helping with sinus congestion if you’re suffering with a cold - particularly if you add essential oils".
Using a facial steamer will also drastically increase the benefits of any other skincare product in your beauty cabinet. It makes sense; the ingredients in your posh lotions will be able to penetrate more deeply if there’s no dirt blocking its path.
How long should you steam your face for?
While the benefits of a facial steam are clear (in fact, as clear as your complexion will be with regular use), the key is not to overdo it. Exposing sensitive skin for a prolonged period to water so hot that its vaporised will inevitably do more harm than good.
Dr Majid Shah from The Artistry Clinic says: "It is advisable not to steam your face for too long to avoid drying out the skin – 10 minutes is good. After facial steaming and subsequent cleansing, the best thing to do is close your pores with cold water and a calming toner."
Can I steam anything else?
For goodness sake, no. These steamers are for the Goop on your face only.
What’s wrong with a bowl of boiled water and towel?
The old school method of hanging your head over a bowl of freshly boiled water with a towel over your head isn't doing your skin any favours.
For one, you’re guessing the temperature of the steam, which is likely far too hot. Two, with your eyes closed and mind drifting, you may not notice how long you’re exposing your skin to piping hot steam until it’s too late. Facial steamers come with timers so you can take your eye off the clock and just relax.
And finally, unless you’ve just descaled your kettle, you have no idea about hygiene. The last thing you want is to open your pores only for bacteria to climb in and set up shop.
Remember, your skin is a highly sensitive organ that will clearly display its displeasure if you sweat it out for longer than wise.
If you like the idea of adding a steam to your cleansing or pre-makeup routine, the good news is that there are lots of models to choose from. But the best? That’s where we come in.
See our favourites below
Sarah Chapman Pro Hydro-Mist Facial Steamer
If you’re trying to kick your expensive spa habit but you’re reluctant to forgo frequent facials, Sarah Chapman’s face steamer offers a happy compromise. While at first the £119 price tag seems on the indulgent side, for anyone who regularly gets facials you’ll get your money back within the first couple of uses.
This skincare gadget, much smaller once out of its packaging, is made to upgrade your at-home skincare routine and comes packed to the rafters with high-tech features like ionic and ultra-sound tech. It’s designed to give you the same steam experience you’d have during a proper Sarah Chapman Skinesis facial (which start at £150), just from the comfort of home.
Getting started is simple: fill the back reservoir with water, much like you would a steam iron (we used Evian because we were feeling fancy but filtered or tap will work just as well), plug into the mains and hit start for a pre-programmed five-minute steam, adjusting the nozzle so it’s aimed 20cm from your face and upper neck.
At first, it might seem that the mist is too gentle to make any real impact, but keep the faith. It’ll soon gather pace, gently warming pores with an ultra-fine mist, which for the sceptics will feel like it’s not doing much – especially for the short run time. However, once you’ve done a post-steam cleanse you’ll clearly notice the difference in your skin’s hydration levels and texture. Bouncy, plump, soft.
The instructions advise steaming no more than three times a week, which should be plenty to see lasting changes in your complexion. If you’ve got particularly congested skin, try a deeper cleanse of 10 minutes to loosen the worn-in dirt.
Post-steam, now’s the perfect time to smooth on pricey lotions and serums and let the active ingredients work their magic.
EZBASICS Nano Ionic Facial Steamer
Give central-heating parched skin the quench it needs with this nano-ionic steamer from EZBasics. Once you've filled up the tank and plugged it in, it turns water into a steady consistent stream of steam in 30 seconds.
It runs for 10 minutes, significantly longer than the other steamers on our list, making it ideal for a deep cleanse - especially if you use the five-piece stainless steel blackhead and blemish extractor kit that comes free with every purchase.
The longer operating time means it's also helpful if you're trying to shift a cold.
Top tip: allow the steamer to run twice fully to get rid of plastic smell before exposing it to your face.
Rio Facial Sauna & Steamer with Steam Inhaler
Offering a more purse-friendly option, this steamer comes with gleaming five-star reviews from Argos's fans. As well as a steam function for your skin, it also comes with an inhaler add-on; perfect to use if you're feeling under the weather and want to unblock your sinuses.
Unlike many other models, this is aromatherapy oil-compatible, so dim the lights, crack open those scented candles and prepare for a soothing spa-like experience without leaving the house.
A long cord means you can position it wherever’s comfortable and keep it well out of reach of curious little hands once you’re finished, as it takes around 20 minutes to fully cool down.
Panasonic Facial Steamer EH-XS01
Size matters: especially when it comes to water droplets, it seems. The smaller they are, they easier they can penetrate your cells and leave you with clear, glowy skin. Panasonic’s device use nano-ionic technology to create steam particles that are 18,000 times smaller than normal making them more effective at clearing out gunk like excess makeup, oil and other impurities while also boosting collagen and water levels.
This hot box of skin-enhancing tricks comes programmed with three, six and 12 minute steam cycles, so you can enjoy an express or deep steam when you like. Take care to finish with an oil, serum or moisturiser afterwards to prolong the hydrating effects.
£90 | Currentbody *On sale from £129.99
Magnitone Steam Ahead Facial MicroSteam Sauna
This little gadget uses ionic technology to deliver a thin veil of mist over your face, loosening dirt-locked cells and leaving your complexion radiant with hydration. Get ready to glow.
Send congested skin packing by micro-steaming with Magnitone STEAMAHEAD. Harnessing the latest technology, it preps skin for products with ten minutes of de-ionised microsteam particles for a gentle, deep clean that will leave dry skin feeling perfectl hydrated.
It’s also helpful if you’re trying to shake off a lingering cold as the heat will open up your sinuses and loosen mucus.
You can use it with facial essential oils for a more soothing experience, turning your bathroom into a spa. Best of all it won't take up much room when you're not using it as you can dismantle the parts and store with ease.
With a fine and steady steam, a quick run time and from one of the best names in the business, the Sarah Chapman Pro Hydro-Mist Facial Steamer mimics the effects of a salon-steam the best. However if you're looking for an inexpensive way to enhance your skin care routine, try the EZBASICS device.