Take It From Mr. Steam's Martha Orellana — the Many Benefits of Steaming May Surprise You
By Kelly Phillips Badal
Martha Orellana won’t hesitate to say she gets steamed up easily. Every single morning, in fact.
Mr. Steam’s L.A.-based Vice President of Marketing awakens each day by spending 15 minutes breathing and luxuriating in clouds of steam, followed by an icy shower—a ritual she claims leaves her instantly invigorated. Perhaps it’s no wonder that her alter-ego at the company is “Mrs. Steam” (it’s also her social media handle). Her self-care rituals are spa-like, and she practices what she preaches.
And in case you’re mentally cringing at the idea of a cold shower, hear her out. “Steam boosts your metabolism and increases your circulation, so you welcome the cold water,” Orellana insists. “It’s a great way to shock your system. And it’s just an amazing daily experience.”
Orellana has been with Mr. Steam for nearly 39 years, starting with parent company, Sussman Automatic, when she was still in college and spearheading the infant Mr. Steam division in 1985 (she’s now a partner). Suffice to say, she’s seen the billowing emergence of steam as a health practice.
Southern California was one of the first areas of the U.S. to really embrace it, she recalls, and Snyder Diamond has carried the brand for over 40 years. “Initially it was the ultra-ultra 1%-ers who wanted steam showers in their homes rather than going to a hotel or gym, and we had the Hollywood types who wanted that kind of pampering. Now the narrative has changed. It’s no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity.”
Today, as improving lung health has taken on new urgency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she regularly finds herself recounting what she believes so many people already know about steam inhalation: It helps you breathe better. “We’ve all had steam baths with our grandmas or moms when we were little and had a cold, with the boiling pot and the towel over the head, inhaling Vicks VapoRub,” she says. In contrast, Mr. Steam’s products are the sleek, high-tech luxury version of the timeless home remedy, complete with in-shower command centers, phone apps, plus aroma-, chroma- and music-therapy options.
Relaxation and stress relief is a health benefit she feels is most often associated with steam bathing. And while it is an important benefit of steam, it’s hardly the only one, she says. “I was talking with a colleague one day, and we were asking ourselves, ‘How many benefits does steam really have?’ We started listing them and came up more than 50—but by the time we got done with our legal department, we’d knocked it down to about 40 true benefits,” she laughs. FYI, check out that full list here.
Some of the biggies include respiratory health, as detailed above, muscular-skeletal health (“try it if you’re sore or if you’re tight”), skin health (“I no longer get acne thanks to steam”), even better sleep habits. Orellana, naturally, has a steam bathing recommendation that may send even insomniacs into dreamland. “Take steam at 10 or 11pm at night and use lavender, use a purple or blue light, and put music on to get all your senses involved,” she advises. “Then take a warm shower afterward. You’ll be out like a light.”
Mr. Steam is installed in luxurious getaways like Canyon Ranch, The Ritz-Carlton, or The Luxor, Bellagio, and MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but steam bathing still remains somewhat of a newer option for private residences. That’s why a working steam shower featuring the Mr.Steam’s new iSteam V control will be installed in Snyder Diamond’s soon-to-open Van Nuys location.
The practice, however, is decidedly not new, which is why so many of steam’s benefits are time-proven. Consider that Native Americans used sweat lodges to purify their bodies, the Japanese attribute healing properties to their many natural hot springs, ancient Romans took steam baths religiously, and Turkish hammams, Korean jimjilbang, and Scandinavian saunas are seamlessly built into cultures that value wellness.
While the use of steam in the U.S. has grown tremendously since Orellana started—even more so since the company’s founder invented the first electric steam iron back in 1917—her mission remains to get more steam to more individuals, particularly during bathroom remodels. “After all, what is your health worth? How much do you spend on skin care, or in spas?” she asks. “It’s so easy to have this now.”
It’s like a wellness secret that, truly, shouldn’t be much of a secret at all.
Follow Mr. Steam on Instagram @steamtherapy