Steam bathing has been part of cultures around the world throughout history, but it’s not uncommon to meet Americans unfamiliar with the practice. MrSteam Vice President of Marketing Martha Orellana – also known as Mrs. Steam – has experienced steam in nearly every style and culture, including the Temazcal ancient sweat lodge, Russian banya, Turkish haman, Japanese onsen and, of course, the regular use of her own MrSteam shower at home.
Martha is not only an expert but also a long-time enthusiast of steam therapy for enhanced relaxation, skincare and more. Better yet, in an increasingly time-crunched world, capturing the benefits from this detoxifying ritual only takes 20 minutes or less.
Step 1. Wear The Proper Attire.
If your previous steam bath experiences were in a spa or health club locker room, you may have opted for modesty, wearing a bathing suit or towel during the steam. However, many of the benefits of steaming come from the expulsion of sweat, making the best outfit the one you were born with.
"No attire is good attire when you are in a spa with no restrictions.” Martha said. “For an effective steam bath, less is more."
The less is more mantra extends to everything on the skin, so it’s advisable to remove makeup, rinse off any lotions or body sprays and take off your glasses and jewelry as well.
Step 2. Hydrate, But Avoid Eating, Before A Steam.
Steaming is really about harnessing the benefits of heat and sweat for the body. As a result, it’s preferable not to go in if you’re dehydrated or full after a big meal.
"Water and herbal tea are my favorite pre-steam drinks,” Martha said. “I find it’s best not to eat right before steam bathing."
While maintaining proper hydration will prevent the uncomfortable physical results of dehydration in the steam room, there are additional potential benefits of steam and hydration for your skin: glowing skin.
Step 3. Experiment With Your Steam Session Length.
Sweating in the hygienic, closed environment of a home steam shower allows the body to detoxify itself while reducing exposure to dirt, germs and other undesirable pollutants that can land on the skin outside. The amount of time necessary for an effective steam varies from person to person, though.
"As you sit in the heat, you’ll feel the temperature of your body rising,” Martha said. “Try to stay in the room until your full body is sweating. Most people find it takes between five and 20 minutes before this happens."
Time in the steam shower fits nicely as part of a regular bathing routine. If the skin is dirty, the process of opening the pores up under layers of oils, lotion, and makeup is inhibited. A cleansing shower before steaming helps facilitate the detox process. Likewise, after your steam, you’ll have the residue of whatever your body expelled through the sweat session, so it’s important to rinse off at the end as well.
Step 4. Discover The Best Time For Steam Bathing.
According to Martha, the best time to steam and the frequency of steaming per week is a pure personal preference. Figuring out what works best for you is part of the fun.
Interior designer Denise McGaha, for example, said she likes to steam in the morning to prepare for the day: “I get great ideas and I feel like I have done something good for myself before I leave for work.”
Athletes and those interested in increased physical performance and decreased recovery time have realized the benefits of steaming post-exercise, whether that’s in the morning or evening. Those who suffer seasonal allergies may steam more often during allergy season to clear their sinuses in the morning or find relief before sleep.
If you’re one of the 35% of Americans who suffers sleep troubles, steaming for relaxation in the evening may help you find much needed rest. Depending on the package you choose at the time of installation, you may also experiment with AromaTherapy, sound and color to fully customize your steaming experience for optimal results. Ultimately, the best routine will be the one that feels good and easy to follow for you.
Step 5. Be Smart About Your Sequencing Therapies.
Some steamers choose to blend the rejuvenating effects of multiple therapies alongside steam at home. For example, athletes may rotate between hot and cold, a practice known as contrast water therapy, to support recovery.
If your home also includes hydrotherapies such as a cool swimming pool, whirlpool tub or hot tub, avoid warming up the body too quickly or for too long, Martha advises allowing your body to cool down between heat sessions in the hot tub and steam room and avoiding going straight from cold temperatures to into hot. If you have or are seeking to treat any medical issues, be sure to consult a doctor before attempting these at home.
If you’re interested in multiple therapies, you may also be debating whether to install a steam shower or sauna. While the two share some benefits, the differences may help you choose one over the other.
Saunas are distinct for their dry heat, wood construction and high temperatures up to 200°F, while steam baths are considered a wet heat, fit into most showers and typically have a high temperature of 115°F. The wet heat of steam may be preferable to those seeking to soothe their respiratory system and relieve sinus pain, save on space and protect dry skin. Explore more about the differences between a steam bath and sauna here.
Ultimately, for Martha, a critical factor of success in steam therapy is listening to your body: "If you feel uncomfortable, listen to your body and don’t overdo it."
Building On The Basics
Once you’re comfortable with the basics of steaming, you may try incorporating meditation while steaming or taking advantage of the benefits you didn’t initially consider, such as elevated skincare. With the power of steam, you can feel relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to take on the world.