Fact or Fiction: Steam opens up pores.

Written by Sara Fulton, co-founder and president of Vivant Skin Care

In a professional facial, steaming the skin is regarded as an essential element, but not for the reason many clients believe. While steaming provides multiple benefits to enhance the facial process, opening the pores is not one of them.

 

The fact is, pores do not open and close. They are not a muscle. They are, in effect, the lungs of the body’s largest organ, the skin. What makes pores appear larger and more visible is the act of stretching caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, dirt, and oil. Oxidation of this buildup creates the darkened color known as blackheads. When all this debris is cleared from the pores, they appear smaller.

 

So, what is actually happening when steam is used during a facial? Many things. Steam is used to soften the skin to make extractions easier to perform and less painful. In this scenario, the pore is not expanding; the impaction is loosening.

 

Steaming introduces moisture to the skin, creating a more absorptive canvas for product application. Enzymes, acids, and retinoids all work more effectively when applied to freshly steamed skin – again, not because pores are more open, but because the moisturized skin more readily absorbs these ingredients.

 

Steaming increases blood flow to improve circulation, which facilitates the transport of nutrients and oxygen to skin cells to promote regeneration and healthy collagen.

 

For clients with acne, steaming is particularly beneficial. While it does not directly clear blemishes, it does aid greatly in unplugging the pores by allowing for easier removal of puss, sebum, and cellular debris.

 

Because steam is intensely hydrating, it softens the top layer of the epidermis, which aids in exfoliating dead skin cells and promoting cell renewal.

 

It is the combination of exfoliation and deep cleaning that ultimately makes the pores appear smaller (not the imagined opening and closing).

 

All skin types can benefit from steaming. Dry skin is hydrated and plumped. Oily skin is clarified. Impacted skin is relieved. However, it is important to tailor the temperature, distance, and time for each client to avoid overstimulating or irritating the skin.

 

There are some secondary benefits that steam provides, as well. It can help clear sinus congestion. It is also a stress reducer. The relaxation quotient can be further boosted by adding aromatic herbs to the steam.

 

Some clients may feel they can steam their skin at home and reap the same benefits that they do in a professional facial. Educate clients about what is really going on during the process, so they understand the complexities of this seemingly simple step. While the extraction process is made easier with steam, it still requires a professional hand to
prevent scarring.

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