Attention guys, homies, hombres (bad and good), dudes, and bros. Gentlemen, we’re here to talk about steaming. You may already be familiar with the concept as it pertains to broccoli, or you might be picturing mid-career Burt Reynolds wrapped in a towel, a couple of gold chains nestled in his chest hair, winking his way into a tiled steam bath in a long-forgotten movie from the 1970s.
Or, conversely, you might be thinking of step seven in your wife or girlfriend’s spa regimen, just between the seaweed wrap and the mimosa. And you might be thinking, “What does this have to do with me?”
Everything. All the benefits conferred on women, broccoli, and Burt Reynolds can also be yours, with the introduction of a regular steaming regimen to your lifestyle. You might find a steam room at your gym, the local spa, in hotels when you’re on the road—all good.
If you live in a medium sized city, there are probably at least a few traditional Russian, Korean, or Turkish baths to be found on some pleasingly sketchy street in a part of the city you’ve never visited. Check ‘em out! They often have snacks, and someone is likely to thrash you with an unusual branch—therapeutically, of course.
The Five S's of Steaming for Men
So what benefits are we talking about? Interestingly, they can all be summed up by words starting with the letter S. Sweet! (That’s not one of the words.)
How would you describe your own skin?
If you answered, “I would describe it as doing a pretty good job of preventing my internal organs from falling onto the ground,” then you are a typical guy. Fair enough. But even if you aren’t thinking about what position your skin might occupy on the spectrum between “baby’s bottom” and “elderly alligator,” you can be very sure that the folks who come into contact with it (e.g., your significant other) will have some opinions.
Even rugged, tire-kicking, non-metro dudes who buy their shirts in shrink-wrapped packages of four at the same store where they get their brisket should be concerned about healthy skin.
Steaming regularly opens your pores, letting the sweat flow freely and taking with it whatever gunk and impurities have worked their way into your hide over the course of your busy day: city grit and grime, soap and shaving cream, dead skin, the blood of your enemies, etc. You want to get it all out of you, and sweating profusely in a steam room is the best way to do it.
“But I sweat all the time!” you object. On the basketball court! While giving presentations at work! While eating a meatball sub from Carmine’s! Yes, but the sweating you do in a steam bath is of a rarified quality. You’re bathed and showered; your skin is exposed to healing wafts of 100% humidity; there are no harsh fabrics rubbing against you; your pores are open and doing their job flawlessly. Steam-room sweat is to garden-variety flop-sweat as brilliant analogies are to stupid ones.
After a session of steam, your skin will be smooth, supple, moisturized, and cleansed of impurities. Even if you can’t say the word “supple” without a twinge of embarrassment, you still want this for your skin. Trust us.
What do you do to relax? Play Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare? Argue politics on Facebook? Watch the game over beers and pizza? Bowl?
With the possible exception of bowling, these are all stressful things masquerading as relaxation. (And we don’t need to remind fans of The Big Lebowski that bowling can be deadly, too. We’ll never forget you, Donny.) Sure, these activities are fun, but what your body and mind really require, ideally once a day, is to stop moving, stop thinking, stop reacting, and zone out. Let your breathing slow. Let the blood flow. Let the concerns of the day melt from your mind as your limbs loosen, muscles go slack, and endorphins work their magic.
Steam bathing actually increases your heart rate, as your circulatory system works to rush blood to the surface of your skin to cool the body, but for basically healthy individuals the net result is a looser, happier, calmer you.
Maybe you’ve got the best driveway jump shot on the block, but sports—especially sports played on weekends after a long week of more sedentary, desk-bound activity—take a toll on muscles, joints, and other body parts you might want to hang onto till old age, just in case you need them.
Steam baths are a great way to ease swelling and improve elasticity of tendons and ligaments. Some studies suggest judicious doses of high heat can even increase the rate of muscle growth. And minor aches and pains simply don’t ache and pain you quite as much after 15 minutes in a relaxing steam bath.
Finally, the cure for the common cold! Just kidding. Nothing can cure the common cold. Nothing, ever, including magic. One thousand years in the future, when mankind has colonized distant planets and self-driving cars have been made obsolete by the Apple iTeleport, we will still be reaching for the Puffs Plus because the neighbor’s kid sneezed on us last week. That’s just a prediction.
It is confirmed wisdom, though, that steam can reduce the symptoms of a cold, and maybe even shorten its duration. Moistening your airways, reducing congestion, and even killing off a few viruses that can’t take the heat? These are all good things that will make your misery more enjoyable.
Immersion in steam results in a nice, smooth, irritation-free shave. But do not attempt this at the gym or in any kind of public steam room, because you’re likely to get kicked out— and it can be pretty embarrassing to find yourself standing in the parking lot wearing nothing but a towel, with a half-bearded face and an angry gym staffer shaking his fist in your general direction. You might even wind up on Instagram.
However, if you are lucky enough to have a steam shower in your own home, you can shave whenever, wherever, and whatever you care to. In fact, we recommend a 15-minute steam bath every morning, during which you shave your face (and, for the hirsute gentleman, any portion of your back you can reach), bliss out, limber up, and follow it up with a bracing cold shower.
What a great way to launch yourself into a day of conquering the universe. Or at least paying the bills.
Personal Steam Bath? Who Am I, Mark Zuckerberg?
Bad example—have you seen how stiff that guy is? He walks like an ironing board. No chance he steams. But the good news is that in-home steam showers are not the exclusive domain of tech billionaires and lottery winners.
Most standard bathroom showers can be retrofitted to be a personal steam shower without investing a ton of money or effort. Installing a steam system can increase the value of your home and make steaming an easy and integral part of your daily routine.
You’ll look better, feel better, and nobody’s gonna tell you not to shave in there.
There’s another benefit. That’s right: Construction project! You might even get to smash your bathroom tile and drywall with a sledge hammer. (No promises.)