Keep your skin radiant and youthful with the power of steam therapy. Here’s how.
Don’t be alarmed, but you’re under attack every day. But don’t take it personally—it’s your skin that’s under attack, and every single person is at risk. Skin is constantly under siege from pollutants, allergens, and toxins that fill the air from artificial and natural sources. Even indoors your skin isn’t immune from irritants that can clog pores and damage tissue. Makeup alone can do a number on your skin.
Enemies of skin can be found within, as well. Poor circulation and stress can cause blemishes, dryness, pimples, and discoloring. A bad diet can add to your skin woes, filling your bloodstream with unhealthy chemicals that find their way deep into skin cells. Then there’s the weakening of skin elasticity from aging.
The Cost of Good Skin
Of course, this isn’t news to you—especially if you’re a woman. One survey found that the average woman in the U.S. spends about $300,000 in beauty products over a lifetime, much of that related to improving skin quality. And that’s not counting spa treatments and other rituals that cost plenty. While skin creams, lotions, cleansers, facials, and skin treatments can help, these solutions to healthier skin are only, well, skin deep.
More is at stake than cosmetic beauty. Healthy skin is an important part of any successful wellness plan. To keep skin healthy is more than a surface battle. You need stronger tools to fight against this daily onslaught to your epidermis, and chances are, you’re overlooking one of the most effective ways to cleanse and rejuvenate skin: steam heat therapy.
Regular sessions in a steam room can help boost everything from cardiovascular health to stress response. But where the benefits really begin is in the flushing of impurities from your clogged pores. Here’s what the science says about the benefits of steam on skin.
Empowering Skin’s Natural Defenses
Skin is the largest organ in the body, and its physiology is complex. The main layers of skin are the epidermis on top, then the dermis, and finally subcutaneous tissue.
The outer most layer of the epidermis is called the “stratum corneum,” which means “horny layer” in Latin. This layer is made of dead cells, which form a protective barrier from harmful elements. The thickness of the stratum corneum (SC) varies around the body, but it’s more effective when it’s able to hold water. This is why dry skin so often leads to damaged skin. Dry skin doesn’t contain the protective moisture it needs.
Heat from steam rooms actually helps maintain the water capacity of SC’s protective cells. This means more defense from exterior and interior toxins and waste products that want to take root in your epidermis.
One study showed that heat therapy can also help stabilize surface pH in skin. Healthy pH is made from the amino acids in sweat and free fatty acids in the skin’s sebaceous glands. This is maintenance care, and easier to achieve with the therapeutic sweating that results from the humidity of a steam room. Or as researchers put it, heat therapy can create a “more stable epidermal barrier function.” 
By bolstering skin’s natural defenses, you’re better able to clear away toxins and bacteria with simple daily washing. But sometimes cleaning your skin isn’t enough to remove tissue-damaging particles. That’s where the flushing action of heat rooms comes into play.
Open Your Pores, Flush Out the Bad Stuff
The term, “let your skin breathe,” isn’t far from the truth of how your epidermis reacts to its environment. Pores become clogged with germs, bacteria, waste products that aren’t evident to the naked eye. Over-the-counter creams and lotions alone can’t reach these deeply embedded little nasties gumming up the works.
That’s not a problem in the steam room. Heat from a steam room is humid, which hydrates your skin. This helps flush out surface toxins that collect and stick to your skin that you collect throughout your day. This prevents the bad stuff from coagulating and forming blackheads, pimples, and other skin eruptions. The increased sweating from steam heat helps enhance the flushing process. The average person will sweat as much as a pint during a single 15-minute session in a steam room.
How deep can steam go? One study revealed that heat therapy helped lower dangerous metal toxins—including mercury, cadmium, lead, and arsenic—in the bloodstream. These elements can harm your health, and that includes skin damage. Even pesticides can be cleared from the skin as a result of heat therapy.
To get more out of your steam room session, you should remove all makeup residue, lotions, and any other skin-care products. And make sure your steam room sessions are consistent. This helps keep your pores clear, your pH stable, and your skin hydrated. Make sure you shower after your steam session to wash these loosened particulates from your skin.
More Blood Flow, More Skin Glow
Steam therapy greatly increases cutaneous (skin) circulation, according to research. This enhanced circulation is to compensate for the increase body heat caused by a steam room session. This increase in skin circulation causes blood vessels to dilate in the skin, which helps create that glowing appearance that many enjoy after time in a steam room.
Steam rooms can also increase blood and lymphatic circulation, which also helps to flush out impurities from your bloodstream and skin. This effect also helps overall cardiovascular health, which keeps cells healthy. Sallow skin, discoloration, and age spots are often caused by poor circulation.
Stress reduction is another benefit of steam rooms. Not only does steam heat relax you, it also has beneficial effects on stress hormones like cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone. Too much cortisol can damage your cells, including skin. Pressures of modern life—traffic, overwork, demands of technology—can increase this stress hormone, so time in a steam room is a perfect way to relax at the end of a day.
Steam heat can also help raise serotonin, a neurotransmitter that’s a key mood regulator, as well as melatonin, a hormone that promotes relaxation and sleep. Also, sessions in a steam room can help greatly reduce inflammation on the cellular level. Inflammation has been implicated in causing a number of illnesses and chronic conditions, and can wreak havoc on your skin quality as well.
When You Go Hot, Go Steam
Not all heat is created equal. When you’re looking to improve your skin quality, you want the humidity of a steam room. While dry heat can help some aspects of skin quality, the deep flushing action of steam can’t be beat when it comes to removing toxins and impurities from your epidermis.
Your skin tells the story of your overall health. Your skin not only contends with airborne toxins, but also the waste products your body emits on a constant basis. With just a few 15-minute sessions per week in a steam room, you will go a long way in keeping your skin youthful, healthy, and glowing.