Photo: Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images
Your skin breathes through its pores. Pores can become clogged, however, when skin oil stops dead skin cells from shedding away. You know what happens then -- ugly blackheads and whiteheads. While regular facial cleansing is essential, steaming your face is particularly effective at clearing clogged pores. A combination of gentle cleansing and steaming prevents breakouts and keeps your skin looking radiant.
Especially if you have oily skin, your pores may tend to collect that oil along with dead skin cells and germs that normally live on your skin. The clogged pore may appear as a tiny dark spot or as a noticeable plug of dead skin cells -- what is commonly called a blackhead. A blackhead occurs when the pore is only partly clogged. If the pore is totally blocked, that's a whitehead. Whiteheads are more likely to turn into pimples. All of that may gross you out, but fortunately, solutions are available to clear clogged pores.
Facial care products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are effective at clearing pores. If these irritate your skin or you'd rather use a nonchemical method, steaming your face may help. Steam works by quickly increasing humidity and perspiration, which opens your pores and flushes them from the inside, explains Woodhaven Wellness Center. This allows oil buildup, dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria to escape. In contrast, washing your face mainly removes these substances from the skin surface rather than from inside the pores.
Here's how you do it. First wash your face and be sure to remove all makeup, creams and acne treatment products. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and pour it into a wide shallow bowl. Lower your face over the bowl until you feel the warm moist air. Don't get so close that it's uncomfortable, because that can irritate your skin and leave it reddened. Steam can even burn if you get too close. Drape a towel over your head to create a saunalike effect that holds in the steam. Relax with your eyes closed and enjoy the experience for at least five minutes and for up to 20 minutes. Rinse your face with cool water afterward to wash away the substances you've drawn out of your pores.
Generally it's recommended to steam your face no more than two or three times per week rather than every day. Once a week is better if you have dry skin, because steaming can have drying effects. If you have sensitive skin or a skin disorder such as rosacea, or if you use prescription skin treatment for acne or anti-aging effects, check with your dermatologist before steaming your face.