There are lots of benefits to hair steaming, but it does require knowing the right hair steamer tips for how to use one and nail down the best hair oils and hair conditioners to pair with it. All of this will ensure that you’re maximizing the moisture benefits that this hair care technique has to offer.
What Does a Hair Steamer Do?
There are a few things that a hair steamer can do, but before diving in, let’s answer an important question: What is a hair steamer? It’s not far off from what you’d imagine it to be. If you’ve ever used a clothing or facial steamer, you know the concept. The steaming device, whether big or small, turns water into steam and shoots it out into the air.
While clothing steamers smooth wrinkles, a hair steamer works more akin to a face steamer, which opens pores to decongest and let skincare ingredients sink in deeper. On hair, it’s the cuticle that is opened up by the steam so that cleansers and sulfate-free shampoos can get rid of buildup and moisture can flow in. After steaming, conditioners can also settle in beneath the surface to moisturize hair from the inside out.
Editor’s note: Wondering about a hair steamer straightener? These are actually something else entirely. The idea is that the steam from the straightener smooths hair without creating frizz. They aren’t offering moisturizing benefits, and you won’t use them to enhance your favorite hair care products.
4 Hair Steamer Benefits
There’s a lot of good that can come from hair steaming. If you aren’t convinced steaming is right for your strands, consider the following points.
1. It helps with deeper conditioning. At the end of the day, no matter what your curl type, moisture is the goal, and hair steaming, while an extra step in what may already be a daunting wash and style process, is worth the added minutes.
For overworked or over-washed hair, apply the Coco Crème Curl Quenching Deep Moisture Mask or use the Monoi Repairing Hair Mask for damaged tresses. Not only will you get the hydrating replenishment these masks have to offer, but adding steam to the equation will send the ingredients in these conditioners deeper into hair to help repair any damage and breakage and rehydrate from inside the hair shaft outward.
2. It’s good for low porosity hair. Steaming can also benefit low porosity hair. It’s hardest for this hair type to absorb moisture because the cuticle doesn’t open easily. Even if you apply products with a lower viscosity that are meant to sink in, it might not happen. This leads to dryness and lots of product buildup on top of the strand. This visible result is weighed down, greasy curls that once cleansed are actually dry.
What steaming does for low porosity hair is utilize a safe heat to open the cuticle and let moisture in. For this hair type, it’s best done after washing with the Almond Milk Sulfate-Free Shampoo. You want your hair to be clean and ready for all the goodness of your conditioner or treatment to settle in once the vents on the hair shaft open up.
3. It allows you to get a deeper clean. Another benefit of steaming is deep cleaning hair. In the case of medium to highly porous hair, which may tend to soak up oils and creams more easily, when you open the cuticle up with a steam you can help release any grime that has settled in and that your regular cleansing isn’t able to remove. It works the same way to lift the cuticle and clear it out, then restore moisture before you seal it back up.
4. It helps with hair growth. Trying to grow your hair long and not sure if steaming makes your hair grow faster? While we wouldn’t go quite that far, steaming can be beneficial for those working to grow out their natural hair. Your overall hair health is important when seeking longer strands, and steaming can help get your tresses on track.
Editor’s note: One benefit hair steamers don’t have? Don’t make the mistake of thinking they dry your hair. While there may be some confusion since a hair steamer can also be referred to as a hair steamer dryer, they don’t work like hair dryers.
Can You Steam Your Hair at Home?
Many hair steamers and steam treatments can be done at home and not all even require a dedicated tool. While using an actual device will get you the biggest benefits from this process, you can also utilize the steam from your shower to work in a similar way.
Most hair steaming devices are compact enough to be used at home and don’t require a major salon chair setup to use. There are even handheld versions that look like blow-dryers that you can use to focus your moisture-boosting efforts on specific dry areas. For this more concentrated steaming, apply a leave-in conditioner like the Monoi Repairing Leave-In Conditioner and then direct the steamer at that area.
Is a Hair Steamer Good for Natural Hair?
Wondering if steaming is good for your hair? Anything involving adding moisture to natural hair is good, and using a hair steamer on naturally curly hair is one of the most beneficial moisturizing methods out there. In most cases, you don’t want your hair cuticle to be opened for any extended amount of time—this is what makes hair frizzy and vulnerable to moisture loss and breakage. However, using a tool like a steamer can significantly boost your wash day efforts by replenishing any lost moisture that compromises the health of curly hair.
Getting more specific, there are certain curl types that can benefit even more from a steaming treatment every once in a while. The tighter your curls, the more likely they are to struggle with maintaining moisture. Those with 4C, 4B, and 4A curls may find steaming particularly helpful, but don’t rule this technique out if you have a different curl pattern.
What Are the Best Hair Steamers?
There are a couple of factors to keep in mind when shopping for the best hair steamer for natural hair. The biggest is probably going to be space. There are some hair steamer dryers that are floor standing and have a full, hard hooded dome like a salon dryer. These are, of course, the most space consuming, so you’ll need a place to stash it in between uses. And then there are versions that you can literally set up on a table. These still have a hard hood, so while compact, you can’t just toss it in a drawer.
As mentioned earlier, there are also portable options that look like a blow-dryer. Naturally, the steam will be focused on where you aim it as opposed to all over, but this is a good choice if you need more moisture attention on specific areas of your head. (This is a very real possibility since you may have different curl patterns in different spots.)
The last option is very similar to those hair drying hoods that you attach to your blow-dryer. The design concept is the same, but these versions are pumping steam to your hair rather than dry heat.
Choosing the best option really depends on your hair needs. Low porosity hair can benefit most from a traditional full-head steamer, whether that’s the hard hooded type or the soft flexible one. The portable options, on the other hand, are for more light or focused treatments where you may be experiencing dry patches.
How Much Does a Hair Steamer Cost?
There’s one more factor that may play into your decision on the best hair steamer for you and your mane: the cost. The salon-style hair steamer dryers start around $150, tabletops are between $60 and $100, handheld devices can run you around $80, and inflatable blow-dryer attachments are $20 to $30. As you can see, there is quite a range of prices, so you can try hair steaming and accommodate a variety of budgets.
How to Use a Hair Steamer
Once you’ve ID’d your reason for steaming and picked the type of steam treatment you’re interested in, here’s how to steam your hair.
Step #1. Gather up your conditioners. Focus your selection on products with ingredients that are actually going to penetrate the hair cuticle, ones that have hydrating ingredients and humectants to attract moisture, and products that are free from any harmful or damaging additives that you don’t want settling into your hair.
Aside from leave-in conditioners and hair masks, you can also steam your hair after applying a hair oil to help maximize its benefits. Look for the same types of formulas: moisturizing products with penetrating ingredients and no sulfates.
Step #2. Set up a space to steam. For the best results, you’ll be steaming for at least 15 minutes, so you want to be comfortable. If you’re using a tabletop version, set up a comfortable chair and make sure that the hood is positioned high enough to cover your head. For handheld steamers, you have the convenience of being able to steam pretty much anywhere with an outlet nearby.
Step #3. Don’t apply any product before you steam. One of the most important hair steamer tips is to start with freshly washed hair so that your conditioners can fully absorb.
Step #4. Steam, then steam again. To really see a change, start your wash with a steam and end with more steam. Use the steamer for five minutes before applying your deep conditioning treatment. This will give each cuticle a moment to open up. Apply your conditioner and then use the steamer again for a full 15 minutes.
Exactly how you use a steamer will depend on the type you have. Here’s a breakdown:
Standing steamer: To get started, fill the reservoir with distilled water and choose your steam time. Since standing steamers can run for a while, it’s essential to select the right time for your hair to avoid over-steaming. Place your chair under the device and sit upright for a seamless process. Once your steam is complete, the device will shut off on its own.
Tabletop steamer: Add distilled water and connect the device to a power adaptor. Keep your head in an upright position, so the steamer can evenly moisturize your strands.
Handheld steamer: First, fill the reservoir with distilled water. Once the water is in place, plug it in and wait a few seconds for it to heat. Press the on button to apply steam on each section of your hair as needed. Keep in mind, since this steamer makes it all too easy to get right up against your hair, you’ll need to make sure to hold the steamer a few inches away from your scalp to avoid any discomfort.
Blow-dryer attachment: Attach the inflatable cap to your blow-dryer and secure it over your head. Turn on the dryer and let it do its thing.
Shower: Don’t have a steamer of any type? Like we mentioned earlier, you don’t necessarily need one. Place a towel at the base of the bathroom door, then turn on the shower and let it steam up the room. From there, all you need to do is pop on a shower cap.
Step #5. Rinse. When you’re done, rinse hair with a dose of cool water to seal the cuticle.
Step #6. Finish with hair oil. Follow the cool water blast with a root to tip application of the Goddess Strength 7 OIl Blend Scalp & Hair Oil with Castor Oil. This will lock in all the moisture you just infused into each strand.
Can Steam Treatments Damage Your Hair?
Steam your hair the right way, and damage shouldn’t be a concern. One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to go overboard. Sitting under a steamer for way longer than recommended won’t make your products work even better, unfortunately. On the contrary, exposing your hair to the steam for too long can damage your hair. You don’t want to exceed 30 minutes of steam time, so make sure to break out a timer.
How Often Should You Steam Your Hair?
Once you see the benefits of hair steaming, you may want to do it all the time—but should you? Steaming isn’t the type of thing you do every day. Think of it as a special treatment for when your hair really needs a boost. For healthy hair, once a month will usually cut it. Introduce it to your self-care and pampering routines—you definitely deserve one of those at least every month.
If your hair is really parched and seems to be struggling, you can amp things up a little. Still, don’t steam more than once a week. Since using a hair steamer works into your shower routine, you don’t want to start washing your hair more than necessary.
Next: Ready to learn about another natural hair care technique? Read our article, What Is the LOC Method Hair Care Routine?