Steamers: Use and Care
Steamers come in numerous shapes and configurations but all are equally useful. Unfortunately, many estheticians seem to have a love – hate relationship with their steamers. Some are so devoted to them they run them for 45 minutes out of a 60 minute facial. Others won’t touch them. Both are extremes that stem from the need for more information.
Steaming the face hydrates it, but if over done the result is the “prune” effect. Most of us have experienced this in a bath tub from too long a soak. The skin buckles due to hyper-hydration that can actually lead to dehydration. Most manufacturers’ recommend steamers should be used during the cleaning or massing segment of the treatment, about 10-15 minutes.
Positioning of the steamer is also critical. If the client has allergies, asthma or other respiratory related conditions a steamer can irritate these. If you wish to use the steamer – back it farther away from the client’s face. Instead of the recommended 18-24 inches from the steamer wand to the client’s face, try 36 inches or more. Client comfort is number one. Technicians in a high-humidity climate have less need for a steamer than those in a more arid environment. Using a steamer when it is hot and muggy outside, could lead to skin inflammation or irritation. Caution must be exercised and a thorough knowledge of the client’s skin is important.
A good client history is also important. Clients may use products they think don’t matter with what service we are offering so it is critical to ask questions. What are they using? How are they using it? When did they last use it? These can give us keys to best take care of their skin. If they are using anti-acne, anti-aging or anti-rosacea products, we know we must be more conservative in the use of the steamer to prevent an inflammatory response.
The other part of using a steamer is proper maintenance. Steamers should be used with de-ionized water only. This is sold as distilled water, a different product from spring water or drinking water. The later two may have minerals in them that could build up on the coils of the steamer heating unit causing the equipment to fail.
Never leave water standing in the steamer. Most manufacturers’ recommend emptying it daily and all say it should not be left standing over a weekend. Routine maintenance must also be done. Monthly the steamer should be cleaned following the manufacturer’s guidelines or the following basic steps:
- Add two tablespoons of white vinegar and fill to the top with water.
- Turn on the steamer and let it heat to steaming. Do not turn on the ozone!
- Let the machine steam for 30 seconds or to the point where it starts sputtering but won’t steam. If the unit hasn’t been wanting to run, this sputtering indicates you now have the vinegar solution throughout the steamer parts.
- Turn off the steamer and let the vinegar solution rest in the unit until it cools down so that the glass holding tank can be safely handled. Because vinegar tends to have a pungent smell, schedule cleaning for a time when the clinic is not busy or in a utility area away from treatment rooms.
- When it is cooled to a safe handling temperature, drain the steamer completely, rinse the holding jar and then refill with water. Again let the steamer heat to steaming and operate with steam running for approximately 10 minutes. If there is still an odor, drain the unit and repeat the process.
- Do not allow the caustic vinegar and water solution to sit on the heating coil without steaming immediately. If left overnight, it will totally corrode the copper coils.
- Note that there is usually a reset button on steamers for additional safety in the event the steamer runs out of water. If the steamer is not running, check the reset button before you call for help. Most problems occur when these basic cleaning steps are not followed.
- Even distilled water left standing in the steamer for periods of time can cause problems with the coils. Always empty the steamer.
- When securing the jar to the steamer base it should have a “snug” fit but not be over tight. Glass jars expand during the heating process and if over-tightened, they can crack, break or explode. It should not be so loose there is steam escaping at the top, but not too tight either. A little experimentation will give the best result.
- If you want to use essential oils they should not be added to steamer water as they will clog the steamer. Instead just a drop or two should be placed on the felt rim just inside the head of the steamer or in a designated essential oil dispenser. While the oil will stain the felt, it evaporates completely during the steaming process. A drop of a different oil may be placed on the felt prior to turning it on for the next client.
Judith Culp, CIDESCO Diplomat, NCEA Certified. Contributing Editor Milady’s Standard Esthetics: Advanced. President and instructor NW Institute of Esthetics now focusing on advanced skin care training. http://nwinstitute.estheticsnw.com