At-Home Spa: Herbal Steam Facial

date: September 10, 2014

Facials are one of the most popular spa offerings for good reason: Not only are they incredibly relaxing, but they offer a number of beauty benefits, including clearer pores, softer skin and a glowing complexion. While most facial treatments include steps you shouldn’t take on your own, such as extractions and chemical peels, one of the most common elements of a professional facial—a soothing steam—is something you can do at home.

Benefits of Steam
A steady stream of warm, soothing steam does more than instantly relax your body and mind. Steaming your face also:

  • Boosts circulation. Exposure to warm steam increases perspiration, helping your skin’s blood vessels to dilate, which improves blood flow.
  • Hydrates and oxygenates your skin. Moist heat revives dry, tired-looking skin thanks in part to that fresh, oxygenated blood.
  • Loosens debris and unclogs pores. Warm steam softens the skin’s surface, which makes it easier for bacteria and dirt to exit pores.
  • Promotes a healthy glow. That boost in circulation beneath the skin, combined with a blast of hydration to the surface, will help you look refreshed.
  • Calms your nerves with herbal aromas. When you add herbs and essential oils to your facial steam, it works as aromatherapy to help soothe your mind and body.

Create a DIY Herbal Facial Steam
You don’t need a pricey facial steam machine, like those that aestheticians use, to reap the many benefits of this treatment. Simply find a metal pot or mixing bowl and follow these other set-up steps:

Step 1: Find your spot. Choose an area in your home—perhaps at your kitchen table, or a clear desk space—and place a thick towel on the tabletop surface. Put another bath towel nearby. Ideally, you’ll sit in a chair that’s a bit higher than the tabletop, so you can easily hold your head above the pot or bowl of steam.

Step 2: Boil water. Use a tea or electric kettle to bring one to two quarts of water to a boil.

Step 3: Pour the boiling water into a medium-sized metal pot or mixing bowl. Anything you already have in your kitchen should work fine; just be sure not to use a plastic container, which can release chemicals into the water when heated and may even melt.

Step 4: Add a handful of your favorite dried herbs or a few drops of essential oils. Drop them into the boiling water while stirring with a wooden spoon and let the mixture steep for 10 minutes. (If you’re not sure which herbs to use, see our recommendations below.)

Step 5: Get the temperature right. If the steam is hot (it should be warm), pour in some cold water.

Step 6: Position your face six to eight inches away from the water and place the second towel over your head, creating a tent-like effect so the steam doesn’t escape. Keep in mind that the steam should feel soothing—not too hot.

Step 7: Hold your face over the steam for up to 10 minutes. If, though, you have a skin condition like rosacea or even excessive dryness, five minutes or less will give you the benefits of steam without aggravating your complexion. If the facial steam doesn’t feel good or it has a negative effect on your skin, skip it altogether and ask your aesthetician to forgo steam the next time you get a spa facial.

Step 8: Gently rinse your face with cool water to remove any sweat and debris that’s loosened from your pores, and pat your face dry with a clean towel. Then choose your favorite hydrating serum or moisturizer and massage a small amount into your face. Just as a professional would do during a facial, take some time to massage your jaw, cheeks, temples, forehead and nose.

Choose the Right Herbs
Knowing which dried herbs/plants or herbal essential oil is best for you can help you make the most of your at-home facial steam:

  • Dried lavender: This calming plant is often used for relaxation and can help ease insomnia, making it a good choice if you’re feeling especially frazzled, have trouble sleeping or simply want to feel more restored.
  • Geranium essential oil:  Geranium’s astringent properties may help tighten the skin, giving a tired, sagging complexion a quick lift.
  • Eucalyptus leaves: The cooling qualities in eucalyptus make it a wonderful pick if you’re overheated, whether physically or emotionally. It’s also a great choice if you’ve got a stuffy nose or a cough; eucalyptus is often used as a natural decongestant for those with respiratory issues.
  • Anise seeds: Anise is a natural antiseptic, which makes it ideal for acne-prone skin, as well as those with wounds or scars. Avoid during pregnancy, while breastfeeding, or if you are diagnosed with an estrogen-dependent cancer, liver disease or endometriosis.
  • Fennel seeds: This member of the parsley family is loaded with antioxidants—those free-radical scavengers that have big beauty benefits for dry, mature skin as well as breakout-prone complexions.
  • Rosemary leaves: Fresh or dried rosemary has been shown to help balance very oily skin. The camphor in rosemary leaves is highly stimulating, however, so be sure not to use during pregnancy. If you suffer from asthma, you may be bothered by the strong scent. Additionally, the active ingredients in these leaves can bring on seizures in epileptics.

More: Relax and Recharge with a Bathing Ritual

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