- Best overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer
- Best budget: Plum Beauty Spa Facial Steamer
- Best for aromatherapy: Vanity Planet Aira Ionic Facial Steamer
- Best cool mist: Jenny Patinkin Mister Assister Facial Hydration Tool
- Best portable: LADY RIGHT Handheld Rechargeable Ionic face Steamer
Craving an at-home spa day? You should cop a facial steamer. No, these beauty tools aren't exactly necessary for your regular skin care routine (in fact, you shouldn't use them every day; more on that later), but if you want to dial up the luxury and send your complexion some T.L.C., they're a sound investment.
But, unfortunately, you can find quite a few less-than-stellar devices out there, which makes facial steaming… a little scary. Choose the wrong device, and you'll wind up with irritation, dryness, and even burns if you're not careful.
That being said, I'm very selective about the facial steamers I recommend. (Your skin health deserves high standards!) In fact, only five tools meet my criteria—below, find the facial steamers that are actually worth your hard-earned dollars.
mbg's picks for the best facial steamers of 2023
Best overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer
- Very fine mist
- Doesn't sputter at all
Key features:Wide nozzlePortable handleAutomatic safety shut-offMicro-steam technology
Yes, this is the priciest option on this list, but I'd say it's 100 percent worth the investment. Facial steaming can easily go from relaxing to dehydrating (and even dangerous), so you want to arm yourself with a high-quality tool. This Dr. Dennis Gross device is the best of the best: It features a fine micro-steam spray that doesn't sputter, and it automatically shuts off 15 seconds after the last water droplet emits from the nozzle.
What our tester says
I was first impressed by how quickly the water took to heat up—probably around 30 seconds. The mist was also super fine and didn't sputter or leak out of the machine. (A major win for facial steamers.) The only downside, of course, is the steep price tag, but as someone who treats steaming with extra caution, I would feel comfortable recommending this high-quality design to anyone I know.
- Easy to use and set up
- Some reviewers say the steam isn't consistent
Key features:Wide nozzlePortable handle
One customer review calls the device "basic but impactful," and I would have to agree. No special bells and whistles—just a steady steam in a compact, portable design. The wide nozzle helps target the steam toward your face, which means more moisture for you and less vapor lost to the air.
What our tester says
This steamer is incredibly easy to use—just fill up the water dispenser, pop it into the chamber, and press the on button to steam. It does take a couple minutes to fully heat up (not as fast as other options), and I have to agree with reviewers that the steam was a little inconsistent (i.e, stopped and started a few times during the steam session). However, it didn't sputter for me at all, which I consider a win. I'd much rather have a slightly inconsistent steam than scalding water droplets spewed on my skin.
Best for aromatherapy: Vanity Planet Aira Ionic Facial Steamer
- Very relaxing
- Doubles as a humidifier
- Chic design
- Takes a bit longer to heat up
Key features:Automatic safety shut-offEssential oil basketsAdjustable nozzle
This steamer's chic, sleek design will fit any decor. It features an adjustable nozzle to direct the steam wherever you please, and it will automatically shut off after the allotted 15 minutes (to make sure you don't over steam!). Not to mention, it doubles as a diffuser: Simply soak the essential oil basket with your EO of choice, place the basket on the nozzle, and let the aromatherapy ensue.
What our tester says
As you can see, my Aira device looks slightly—I received it when Vanity Planet collaborated with Honest Beauty—yet the high-tech features remain the same. It does take a bit longer for the water to heat up (around two minutes), and it did sputter a bit towards the end of its water supply; but overall, this is a great option for those looking for a facial steamer and humidifier combo. Not for nothing, the elegant design will make you want to proudly display it on your bedside table.
Best cool mist: Jenny Patinkin Mister Assister Facial Hydration Tool
- Great to bring on airplanes
- Doesn't disrupt the skin barrier
- Sleek & portable
- Doesn't warm up if you're looking for heated steam
Key features:Portable designUltrasonic vibration technology
OK, this tool is technically not a steamer. But it does give you similar benefits! Ultrasonic vibration technology breaks water into nanoparticles that shimmy past the skin barrier and plump your complexion from the inside out. The water just feels cool instead of hot. So if you're looking to dilate pores and promote blood circulation, you might want to opt for a heated steam. But for those craving just a shot of hydration, you can't go wrong with this cool mist.
What our tester says
This has officially become my carry-on staple. Dry, airplane air can rob your skin of moisture, but this handy tool infuses your pores with precious hydration. And it's small, portable, and TSA-friendly!
It's also a gem to prep your skin pre-makeup. (I wouldn't expect anything less from celebrity makeup artist Jenny Patinkin.) It delivers similar results to applying a humectant serum, which effectively plumps your skin before foundation—only this tool never leaves behind a sticky residue.
Best portable: LADY RIGHT Handheld Rechargeable Ionic Face Steamer
- Heats up very quickly
- Difficult to prop on a table or desk
Key features:USB chargerSilicone nozzle
Desktop steamers totally have their time and place, but we cannot ignore the power of a handheld tool. You can easily chuck this device in your tote or car to steam on the go, but don't be fooled by its adorable size—it puts in the work! It heats up quicker than any option on this list (we're talking one to two seconds), and it features a large, detachable nozzle to target the steam towards precise areas.
Note: It's currently out of stock on Amazon, but I'd check back in periodically to assess its availability. It's worth it!
Comparing the best facial steamers of 2023
|Product||Price||Time to heat||Portable?|
|Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Pro Facial Steamer||$159||30 seconds||Yes|
|Plum Beauty Spa Facial Steamer||$28.99||2 minutes||Yes|
|Vanity Planet Aira Ionic Facial Steamer||$69||2 minutes||No|
|Jenny Patinkin Mister Assister Facial Hydration Tool||$65||N/A||Yes|
|LADY RIGHT Handheld Rechargeable Ionic Face Steamer||$45.99||Few seconds||Yes|
How we chose
- Design: Some prefer a desktop steamer, while others love the ease of a portable device. We made sure to include a variety of options with special features, like handles and detachable nozzles.
- Innovative technology: All of these devices feature some sort of ionic or nano-steam technology, which helps usher the water molecules deeper into the pores.
- Tried & tested: Everything on this list comes recommended and tested by trusted professionals and editors. We also used real customer reviews to inform our choices.
Facial steaming benefits
Facial steaming devices provide a constant mist at a set temperature, which can help supplement your hydrating skin care routine. We have a full guide to facial steaming benefits here if you'd like to take a deeper dive, but here's the gist:
- Opens pores: The warmth from the steam opens up the pores, which loosens trapped dirt, bacteria, and sebum.
- Hydrates: "Facial steaming may provide a hydrating effect with water vapor, which may keep your skin moisturized, plumper, and supple," says board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, M.D., founder of Eternal Dermatology.
- Brightens: "Facial steaming also dilates your skin blood vessels, which promotes healthy circulation to the skin," says board-certified dermatologist Kim Nichols, M.D., founder of NicholsMD of Greenwich, and stimulating blood flow often leads to a more radiant complexion.
- Boost skin care products: "It loosens the dirt and opens your pores, so serums, toners, and eye creams work better," Rodney notes.
- Softens dead skin: "Utilizing a facial steamer softens the skin and dead cells on the epidermis," Nichols says.
- Relaxing: A cloud of warm mist over your face just sounds soothing, no? Some facial steamers even double as aromatherapy diffusers, too.
Side effects & warnings
Directing hot steam toward your face can wreck your skin barrier without caution. Before investing in a tool, no matter how high quality it might be, please consider the following side effects:
- Can cause dehydration: It sounds counterintuitive, but "just like over-exfoliating, over-steaming may trigger a process called transepidermal water loss," says Nichols. "This is when water passes from the dermis through the epidermis and evaporates from the skin's surface."
- Can trigger hyperpigmentation or broken capillaries: "Applying too much heat can damage the skin, possibly causing hyperpigmentation. You'll lose the benefits if you're not careful or it's too hot," says Rodney. You don’t want to frequently flush your delicate facial skin.
- Can aggravate skin conditions: If you have eczema, rosacea, melasma, acne, broken capillaries, hyperpigmentation, or sensitive skin, you'll want to avoid steaming. Heat can trigger inflammation, which only exacerbates those skin issues.
See here for a full breakdown of side effects and who shouldn’t steam, straight from derms themselves.
How to use a facial steamer
So you've snagged your steamer and are ready to give it a whirl. Great! Follow along with our derm-approved tutorial below. Note: This routine may seem a bit more involved than your regular cleanse, treat, moisturize regimen, which is intentional! Facial steaming should be a treat, perhaps one accompanied by an at-home facial.
- Cleanse your skin: A fresh, clean canvas is necessary for all that follows, including a good steam. You may even opt for a double cleanse if you're wearing makeup or sunscreen.
- Exfoliate (optional): Now that your pores are open, it's time to buff away that dead skin and grime. It might be easiest to use a mask here, be it an enzyme mask, chemical peel, or oil-absorbing clay formula. See here for our favorite face exfoliators.
- Tone (optional): Some experts swear by a swipe of hydrating toner or essence to balance the skin's pH and prepare it for moisture; others deem it wholly unnecessary. If you do choose to use toner or essence, incorporate it here. Just make sure you choose a simple, hydrating toner over a purifying or exfoliating option if you already exfoliated in the step above.
- Hydrate: If you want to use a hydrating serum—like one with hyaluronic acid, CoQ10, or peptides—before your face cream, you can go right ahead. Just make sure to seal everything in with an emollient-rich face cream, like one of these superstar formulas.
- Protect: If you steam in the morning, sunscreen is nonnegotiable. Always end your routine with a good ol’ lather of SPF.
Do dermatologists recommend face steaming?
Generally, yes, derms do approve of facial steaming. It’s not a necessary step in your skin care routine, but it can provide benefits when done correctly (correctly being the operative word here).
But facial steaming isn’t for everyone, and derms do emphasize the risks. "If you have conditions like eczema, rosacea, or melasma, it can exacerbate them, so steer clear of steaming," Rodney notes.
Is it OK to steam your face every day?
No, it is not! Steaming every day can overwhelm your skin barrier and lead to dryness and irritation. Rather, "Once a week is probably a good start," says Morgan Rabach, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical in NYC.
If your skin can tolerate it, you can increase the cadence up to two times a week, but Rodney says you definitely shouldn't steam more than that. "People of color should aim for once weekly, if at all," she adds. "Skin of color can become hyperpigmented much more quickly from excess steaming."
What should I put on my face after steaming?
If you’re steaming for those hydration benefits, you can follow up with a humectant serum and moisturizer and call it a day. The heat can improve the potency of those subsequent skin care products.
You can also choose to exfoliate after steaming, since the warmth from the steam opens up the pores and loosens trapped dirt, bacteria, and sebum. By dissolving all the gunk within your pores an exfoliating mask or scrub, you can help those products work even better. Just remember to always moisturize after exfoliating.
Now, an esthetician might use a steamer to make it easier for them to perform extractions—but you should never, ever do that at home. Stick to exfoliating or hydrating skin care products and keep finicky fingers away.
Should face steam be hot or cold?
Either works! If you’re hoping to open up pores, dilate blood vessels, or soften dead skin, you might want to opt for heated steam. But if you’re just looking to plump the skin with hydration, you can totally use a cool mist. The latter may be better suited for sensitive skin, anyway.
Overall, the key to choosing the best facial steamer is to find a high-quality design, innovative water-molecule technology, and a nice, steady stream of mist. You can't go wrong with the Dr. Dennis Gross Pro Facial Steamer, but I do understand it's a bit expensive. If you'd like to save a few extra bucks, the Plum Beauty Spa Facial Steamer has a similar design with a much more affordable price tag.
Looking for more facial tools to add to your arsenal? The market is practically exploding with quality at-home options; see here for our full deep dive on LED masks, microcurrent, massagers, and more.