Do Steam Rooms Help Acne? (Better, Worse, or the Same)

Steam therapy for skincare has become an increasingly popular service offering at wellness spas and various dermatology clinics. You can’t help but wonder- do steam rooms help acne?

Steam rooms can improve comedonal acne up to 50% if used in 15-minute sessions and with an appropriate skincare regimen. These saunas can also potentially heal acne scars by increasing blood flow to the epidermis and stimulating collagen production. Avoid going into a steam room with cystic acne, as it increases redness and inflammation.

Continue reading to find out if steam rooms can reduce or increase acne, if heat and humidity are even good for your pimples, and if the steam room or sauna is better for breakouts.

Can using a steam room help reduce or eliminate acne?

It’s not uncommon for your facialist to use steam to open up your pores while she’s ridding your face of impurities. So, why shouldn’t steam rooms provide the same results? The short answer is: yes, they do.

When used properly, a steam room can help reduce or eliminate acne by up to 50%. Steam rooms increase skin hydration and epidermal function to assist with healing and the absorption of nutrients by epithelial cells. Additionally, heat and steam act together to open your pores and allow for dirt, oil, and bacteria to escape. 

According to recent studies, comedonal acne (or whiteheads and blackheads) will respond differently to certain treatments than inflammatory or cystic acne will.

The products you use, how you take care of your skin before and after, and the order in which you use the sauna will determine how effective steam rooms are at treating acne. We’ll touch on a few more specifics below that can help heal your acne more quickly when paired with a steam room.

Does steam make acne worse?

While steam can aid in repairing your pimples, using the steam room too frequently or improperly could actually worsen your acne.

Steam can make acne worse. It is recommended to expose your face to steam only 1-2 times per week. The steam room is best suited for healing whiteheads and blackheads; it can worsen inflammatory acne. Pair your steam routine with the appropriate skincare to improve outcomes.

Here are the best steps to follow when incorporating a steam room into your treatment:

  • Step 1: Make sure you have a good skincare routine in place. Glycolic acid and benzoyl peroxide are great ingredients to incorporate.
  • Step 2: Wash your face with a gentle cleanser before entering the steam room. It’s essential to get all of your skincare and grime off. This ensures a clean slate with few irritants.
  • Step 3: Sit in the steam room for up to 15 minutes. You can gently dry the sweat off your face, but try not to touch it with your bare hands.
  • Step 4: Immediately after, make sure to wash your face gently. Avoid chemical or physical exfoliants.
  • Step 5: Your pores are open and clean, and your skin is now permeable to receive a moisturizer or serum. Avoid prolonged sunlight exposure for the rest of the day.

Remember that the purpose of using steam is to open your pores. If you don’t wash your face before and after, you risk clogging your skin with the dirt on your face and making matters worse.

A good practice is to stick to clean beauty products; however, they can still be irritating depending on your skin. Allow your dermatologist to guide you in this arena.

Are heat and humidity good for acne?

When used in conjunction with certain skincare products, heat can be instrumental in transforming your skin.

In moderation, the pairing of heat and humidity strips impurities from your pores while also stimulating collagen production. Heat can help speed up acne spots that are healing on their own while reducing the size of existing ones. Although, in excess, heat can be damaging.

Know your limits! We’ll talk more about this below.

Can a steam room cause new acne breakouts?

Sitting in a steam room can help with existing spots, although it might also cause new ones.

Steam rooms can cause new acne breakouts in two ways: 

  1. Bacterial overgrowth: The bacteria that live on the surface of your skin (called flora) are normally kept in check by your immune system. When sitting in a steam room, however, you’re restricting one of the things your immune system needs to keep these bacteria in check: oxygen. This can increase your bacterial count, causing new pimples to form.
  2. Overproduction of oil: Steam rooms naturally exfoliate your skin with their high temperature and humidity. When this happens, dead cells on your face are removed. Unfortunately, this process can speed up oil production at the same time, leading to more breakouts.

This doesn’t mean that you should skip going into a steam room altogether, but it does mean that you’ll need to manage your expectations when using one regularly for acne treatment purposes.

Does a steam room help with acne scars?

Using a steam room can do more than just lessen the appearance of new acne; this practice can also reduce acne scars.

Steam rooms drastically improve acne scars in 3 months by boosting collagen production and stimulating blood flow in your face. Both processes play a critical role in healing acne scars. Steam saunas also speed up the cellular turnover process, which assists in exfoliation. 

Ultimately, the best way to get rid of acne scars is through a combination of treatments like lasers, dermabrasion, and chemical peels. Steam rooms should never be used to replace these dermatology procedures; rather, they make an excellent addition to existing treatment plans.

Does steam help cystic acne?

Cystic acne affects 45 million people in the U.S. alone. It is probably the most painful and severe of all types of blemishes, so use caution when seeking treatment.

It is recommended that you avoid sitting in a steam room if you have inflammatory acne, like cystic acne. It’s impossible to extract deep cystic acne blemishes, so applying steam will only increase the redness and irritation of follicles.

Instead, use preventative skin care products recommended by your dermatologist, like a retinoid, to further prevent any outbreaks.

Is the steam room or sauna better for acne?

Now that we know the benefits of using a steam room to help with acne-prone skin, is the steam room or sauna better?

Generally speaking, a steam room is better for acne than a sauna because of the lower temperatures and added humidity. Overall, steam rooms are less drying and less irritating than a sauna. Steam rooms most closely mimic steamers used by a facialist to clear pores.

Quick Tip: If you’re struggling with an acne breakout, staying in the sauna or steam room longer than necessary is not helpful. When your skin begins to dry out and become flaky, it’s harder for acne to heal.

Unfortunately, the only way to determine which treatment option is right for you and your skin type is through trial and error. Keep a journal to monitor how much time you spend in either place and how it affects your skin condition.

To summarize, there are many benefits to using a steam room, but it’s essential to avoid them if diagnosed with cystic acne. The heat and humidity can increase redness and inflammation, worsening the skin condition.

If you have comedonal acne, use a steam room no more than 2 times per week to maximize the benefits of cell turnover, acne scar healing, and collagen production. As long as you stay within these guidelines, steam rooms will help your acne!