What Can I Add To My Facial Steam? A Complete Guide

what can I add to my facial steam - various herbs

So, you want to take your facial steam sessions to the next level and you’re wondering “what can I add to my facial steam?

In general, you can put herbs, essential oils and fruit peels in facial steaming water. However, it’s important to note that these ingredients can only be used in DIY steamers. They can’t be used in store-bought steamers because they could end up damaging the machine.

That said, if you have any doubts about what your facial steaming machine can or cannot handle, be sure to read the manual or email the manufacturer.

Now, without further delay, let’s take a closer look at what you can add to your water for facial steaming.

NOTE: there’s no research that dives into the benefits of steaming with any of the add-ins mentioned throughout this article. However, the practice of steaming – especially with herbs – remains popular because of anecdotal reports of its benefits.

This post contains some affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.


what to put in water when steaming your face - collage showing herbs, orange peel and essential oils

1. Herbs

Many herbs contain volatile oils (aka essential oils) that are released when the herbs are steeped in hot water. Those volatile oils have therapeutic benefits that include:

  • Anti-aging.
  • Antibacterial.
  • Anti-inflammatory.
  • …and more.

Since those volatile oils are carried in steam, some people believe that herbal face steams can be helpful for the skin. 

That said, it’s important to note that:

  • Since these oils are volatile, they do evaporate quite easily. 
  • It’s not clear how much of these oils are actually carried into steam and onto our skin.

So, while steaming does release the essential oils that are in plants, the benefits that come from those oils (if any) will be nowhere similar to the benefits you get from topical application of essential oils. 

Overall, steaming provides the following benefits (regardless of whether or not you use herbs):

  • increases blood flow to the face.
  • promotes detoxification via sweating.
  • opens up congested/blocked pores (which improves penetration of products that you apply afterwards).

Now, here are some herbs to consider including in your at-home facial steaming routine.

NOTE: Fresh herbs are best because they contain more volatile oils. However, if you can’t find any, dried herbs will do!

HerbGeneral benefits
HibiscusRich in antioxidants and alpha hydroxy acids; contains mucilage that moisturizes the skin; regulates oiliness; soothes sensitive skin (source).
BasilAnti-microbial and anti-inflammatory; enhances skin moisture levels and soothes dry/rough skin (source).
ElderflowerAnti-inflammatory; rich in antioxidants; promotes circulation; mild astringent (source).
CalendulaCools and moistens the skin; soothes inflammatory conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis; classified as a “vulnerary” i.e. speeds up wound healing; antimicrobial and antifungal (source).
ChamomileRich in antioxidants; soothes inflammation and side effects of free radical damage; helpful for inflammatory conditions like eczema, rosacea and psoriasis.
LavenderReduces swelling and redness caused by acne and other inflammatory skin conditions; anti-microbial and inhibits p. acnes, which is the bacterium that contributes to acne; suitable for all skin types, but particularly helpful for dry, sensitive, inflamed and mature skin.
ComfreyRelieves pain and inflammation; promotes skin renewal or cell turnover; balances oily skin; improves fine lines and wrinkles; suitable for all skin types, but particularly soothing for dry, sensitive, inflamed and mature skin (sources: 1, 2).
PeppermintAntiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory; soothes acne-related redness; great for all skin types, but particularly helpful for balancing oily and acne-prone skin (source).
Rose petals & budsHelps the skin to retain moisture; anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial; suitable for all skin types, but particularly soothing for dry, sensitive, inflamed and mature skin (source).
Violet leafNaturally cleansing; natural source of salicylic acid; contains mucilage that hydrates the skin; considered beneficial for oily skin as well as sensitive skin (source).
RosemaryNatural astringent; anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial; rich in antioxidants; promotes circulation; great for oily and acne prone skin.
TurmericAnti-inflammatory and anti-microbial; great for oily and acne-prone skin.
This table lists herbs that can be used for facial steaming.

2. Essential Oils

If you want to fully incorporate aromatherapy into your face steaming, then essential oils are a must-have.

Most of the oils listed below are suitable for all skin types. However, I’ve noted the cases in which they can be particularly beneficial for specific skin types.

Essential oilIdeal skin types
Roman chamomileall skin types, especially dry skin.
Cypresssuitable for oily skin.
Eucalyptusall skin types.
Frankincenseall skin types, especially dry skin.
Geraniumall skin types, especially dry, sensitive and mature skin.
Lavenderall skin types, especially dry, sensitive skin.
Lemonsuitable for oily and acne prone skin.
Peppermintsuitable for oily and acne prone skin.
Roseall skin types.
Sageall skin types.
Sweet orangeall skin types.
Tea Treeoily and acne prone skin.
This table lists essential oils that can be added to water for face steaming.

3. Fruit Peels

In general, citrus peels add a clean and invigorating aroma to a facial steaming session.

Even though orange and lemon peels are the most commonly used, you can also experiment with:

  • lime.
  • grapefruit.
  • clementines.
  • tangerines.

Just as with herbs, fresh peels are better, but you can substitute with dried peels.

Another advantage of using these peels is that they’re great for all skin types. This allows you to mix and match them based on what you have on hand or based on your mood.

4. Green Tea

Another item that some people use for face steaming is green tea.

The main reason for using green tea is that it is high in antioxidants and can be quite gentle and soothing to the skin.

But once again, it’s not clear if any of those benefits are carried into the steam. You may be better off using green tea topically I discuss in this guide on green tea vs matcha for skin.

5. Salt

Unrefined salts – such as sea salt or pink salt – are another ingredient that some people use in face steaming.

While these salts do have health benefits in terms of their trace mineral content, there’s no evidence to suggest that those benefits translate into the steam.


how to use herbs, essential oils and other ingredients for face steaming

In general, the following ratios work well when making an herbal face steam blend:

  • 1 cup of fresh herbs (or 1/2 cup dried)
  • 4 cups of very hot water
  • 1 – 2 drops essential oils

Some blends to try are:

  • Rosemary, peppermint, lavender and eucalyptus oil.
  • Calendula, lavender, comfrey and geranium oil.
  • Peppermint, rosemary and tea tree oil.

No matter which herbs you decide to use, it’s more practical to buy them in bulk (rather than trying to get them from your local grocery store). I suggest using Mountain Rose Herbs for this.

Once you have your ingredients, here’s how to proceed.

STEP 1: Cleanse your skin to get rid of makeup, dirt and oil.

STEP 2: Put ½ cup of dried herb and 4 cups of hot water into a large, heat-proof bowl. Optionally, you can include a handful of fruit peels also.

STEP 3: Sit down with your face about 8 – 12 inches away from the bowl.

STEP 4: Drape a large towel over your head and the bowl, so that it creates a tent around you. This will help to trap in the steam.

STEP 5: Close your eyes and enjoy the steam for up to 10 minutes.

STEP 6: Proceed with the other steps in your skincare routine as outlined in this guide on what to do before and after steaming your face.


Can I steam my face with honey?

To get the most of honey, it’s best to apply a thin layer to your face after steaming. Since honey is a humectant and anti-inflammatory, it will help to draw moisture back into your skin, while also soothing any redness that may have resulted from steaming.


Steaming your face with natural ingredients like herbs and essential oils is a fun way to give yourself an at-home spa day!

I hope this article gave you some ideas to play with during your next steaming session.

what can i add to my facial steam - pin image showing herbs and essential oils

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