Facial steamers: Why searches for this beauty gadget were up 400 per cent in lockdown

With beauty salons set to open soon, but still unable to perform facials or any other procedures above the neck, many of us are continuing to turn to at-home beauty alternatives.

According to a recent report from Marie Claire, searches for facial steamers have gone up an incredible 400 per cent, with 50,000 people searching for them at present. So what’s all the fuss about, and should you get one? Here’s everything you need to know.

facial steamers
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What is a facial steamer?

If you’ve been for a professional facial before, you’ll most likely have experienced a facial steamer of some sort. They are often used prior to extractions, where the facialist or aesthetician will gently squeeze blackheads and any noticeable blemishes.

Facial steamers are available to buy for at-home use however, and have become more popular during lockdown when professional facials are not an option.

Steamers use either filtered or distilled water and heat the water up to 40 degrees, which is the perfect temperature. They then release ionised water molecules to skin in the steam. This steam is negatively charged (as opposed to our skin, which is positive and therefore attracts the steam), meaning it can be drawn into the skin deeper than regular steam.

What are the benefits of using a facial steamer?

The best-known benefit of using a facial steamer is that it is thought to ‘relax’ pores. ‘Facial steamers are thought to hydrate and soften the outermost layers of the skin, making it easier to perform extractions and potentially more receptive to products,’ says By Dr Emma Cunningham, skin specialist and founder of dr-emma.co.uk. This is particularly handy if you suffer from persistent, pesky enlarged pores and blackheads around your nose.

Steamers are also said to be good for circulation and hydration, as well as just being a really pleasant spa-like treat for an at-home self care session.

facial steamers
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How should you use a facial steamer?

Despite probably wanting to use yours as much as possible when you first get it, the experts recommend resisting —- and resist, you must.

Steamers are best on a ‘less is more’ basis. Dr Cunningham suggests only reaching for them as part of a bi-weekly facial, twice a month. ‘It is important to remember to use the steamer on an already cleansed face,’ she adds. ‘Do not use it with make up still on the skin as this can result in the pores becoming clogged.’

After using it on a cleansed face, she suggests ‘sealing the moisture with a hydrating serum or moisturiser.’

What are the drawbacks of using a facial steamer?

Both Dr Cunningham and skincare consultancy Lion/ne founders Megan Felton and Ksenia Selivanova urge us to remember that facial steaming is something usually best left to the professionals, and should only be used to supplement your routine very occasionally. ‘At-home steamers are no substitute for in-clinic facials with dedicated skincare specialists,’ says Cunningham.

Using one at home can come with risks too, say Felton and Selivanova. ‘This is a tool that aestheticians use in-clinic in a sterile environment, and if used incorrectly actually is a great way to cause further breakouts on the skin,’ they say. ‘If your skin is not properly cleansed before steaming, it can trap bacteria causing congestion and breakouts on the skin. If your steamer is also not cleaned properly then this can be a problem as well.’

In addition, they are also sometimes a risk to the skin barrier, and can aggravate issues such as rosacea.

Lastly, steamers, while claiming to hydrate, can sometimes have the opposite effect. ‘They can actually strip the skin of natural oils and cause dehydration through trans-epidermal water loss — making it hard on dry skin types that already are lacking in oil!’

Who should avoid using facial steamers?

With all this in mind, you should use an at-home steamer with caution, and try to only bring it out for a special treat every month or so.

There are some skin types which are best left completely alone, however. ‘Steamers should especially be avoided for those with inflammatory conditions, sensitive skin, acne, and dry skin,’ say Felton and Selivanova.

Which are the best facial steamers?

If you really can’t live without the steaming step in your facial, take a look at these four options:

facial steamer

Facial Steamer/Professional Steam Inhaler for Face, was £25.19, now £19.99, Amazon

Pro Hydro Mist Steamer, £119, Sarah Chapman

Panasonic EH-XS01 Facial Steamer, £129.99, Harrods

Rio Facial Sauna & Steamer with Steam Inhaler, £24.99, Argos

Feature by Rebecca Fearn