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In a perfect world, all people would have shiny, healthy hair, but in reality, not everyone is so fortunate. Some people find themselves dealing with hair dryness, frizziness, or dullness.
Hair steaming is an ancient technique, typically done by women, to make the hair shine and to get rid of some unwanted oil. It can also be used as a part of natural hairstyling or as a treatment for dry hair.
In this article, you’ll learn about hair steaming and how it can be used to correct some of these issues.
What Is Hair Steaming?
Most people know that steaming the hair can help to achieve soft, shiny locks. But what exactly is hair steaming?
Steaming your hair is a process of using steam to open up the cuticle and allow moisture and nutrients to penetrate the hair shaft. This can be done with a commercial steamer or by simply holding your head over a bowl of boiling water for a few minutes.
There are pros and cons to steaming your hair.
On the plus side, steaming moderately can help to hydrate and condition your strands, making them appear healthy and shiny. (1) It can also help to loosen up any knots or tangles, making for easy brushing and styling. And if you have curly or wavy hair, steaming can help to enhance your natural texture.
On the downside, steaming your hair too often or on high heat can lead to dryness and damage. And if you have damaged or thin hair, steaming or using any other heat treatment can make your strands appear limp and lifeless. (2)
So it’s important to use moderation when incorporating this treatment into your hair care routine. (3) If you’re interested in trying out steaming your hair, it is recommended to do a patch test first on a small section of hair to see how your hair reacts.
As with any cosmetic procedure, there are pros and cons for any method. The following sections will discuss the pros and cons of steaming hair to help you make an informed decision.
Pros of Steaming Hair
- Moisturized hair: Steaming can help add moisture to the hair, making it look shiny and feel soft. (4)(5)
- Improved scalp health: Steaming helps increase blood circulation in the scalp, which can improve the overall health of the scalp and hair. (6)
- Increased shine: Steaming can help add shine to dull or lackluster hair, making it look healthy and vibrant. (5)
Cons of Steaming Hair
- Heat damage: Excessive heat can cause damage to the hair, leading to split ends, breakage, and overall dryness. (2)(7)
- Time consuming: Steaming hair can take a long time, especially for long or thick hair, which can be inconvenient for some people.
- Need for careful monitoring: Steaming hair requires careful monitoring to ensure that the heat is not too intense, as this can cause damage to the hair. (7)
- High cost: Steaming hair can be expensive, especially if you opt for a professional salon treatment, as it requires specialized equipment and products.
How to Steam Hair
When you steam your hair, you saturate it with moisture, which can make it more manageable and less frizzy.
The heat from the steam opens up the cuticle of the hair, which allows the moisture to penetrate the shaft and moisturize your strands from the inside out. This can also make your hair appear shiny and healthy. (5)
To steam your hair:
- You will need to use a steam cap, towel bonnet, or hood. You can purchase one of these at a beauty supply store. Simply follow the instructions that came with the product.
- Alternatively, you can improvise with a shower cap and a hot towel. First, wet your hair and then put the shower cap on. Place the hot towel over the top of the shower cap and allow the steam to penetrate your hair for 10–15 minutes.
If you have dry or rough hair, you can lightly oil it so that the steam can help the oils penetrate the hair shafts better, thus nourishing them. (4)
Is Steaming Good for Your Hair?
You may be wondering if steaming is good for your hair. While there are some benefits to steaming your hair, there are also some drawbacks that you should be aware of before you do it.
One of the main benefits of steaming your hair is that it can help to hydrate and condition your strands. The heat from the steam helps to open up the cuticles on your hair, which allows moisture from your deep conditioners to better penetrate the shafts. This can help to prevent dryness and damage and leave your hair looking shiny and healthy. (4)
However, there are also some potential downsides to steaming your hair. One of the biggest concerns is that too much heat from steam, especially when left for longer than 15 minutes, as it can damage your hair.
If you have frizzy hair or damaged hair due to the use of chemicals or heat in the past, you may find that steaming makes these problems worse. And if you have sensitive skin or scalp, the heat from the steam may irritate your skin. (6)
So, is steaming good for your hair? Ultimately, it depends on your hair type and the duration you steam for.
If you have dry hair, steaming could be a great way to hydrate and condition your strands. But if you have damaged hair or sensitive skin or scalp, you may want to avoid steaming altogether. If you do choose to steam, make sure not to leave it on for longer than 15 minutes.
Additionally, steaming has many benefits for scalp health too. It not only helps oils penetrate the scalp faster, but there is ample evidence that scalp health is directly related to hair health. (6)
Things to Keep in Mind When Steaming Hair
- If you do decide to steam your hair, be sure to use a heat protectant beforehand to help minimize the risk of damage.
- Always start with the lowest setting on your steamer to see how your hair reacts before cranking up the heat.
- If you are using a towel dipped in hot water for steaming, make sure that the water is not scalding hot to prevent damage to your scalp.
- If this is your first time steaming your hair, steam for 5–10 minutes and observe how your hair feels. You can then adjust the duration accordingly, but do not steam for longer than 15 minutes. Be sure not to steam for too long, as this can dry out your hair and make it more difficult to manage.
- Steaming once a week or once a fortnight is recommended by most dermatologists. If you think that you may need more frequent steaming, it may be a good idea to consult a dermatologist first.
Who Should Go for Steaming?
Steaming your hair can have different results depending on your purpose. Most of the time, it is used as a deep-conditioning treatment.
The heat will help open up the cuticle of your hair, allowing the conditioner to penetrate deeper. This can leave your hair feeling soft and smooth.
Steaming is beneficial for all hair types – straight, wavy, or textured hair (curly or coily) – as it can hydrate and provide nourishment when used appropriately with oils, deep conditioners, etc.
Who Should Avoid Steaming?
Anyone with a scalp or hair condition should first consult a dermatologist or trichologist before attempting a steam treatment.
People who have recently recovered from scalp issues or hair thinning might benefit from avoiding steaming initially until their hair and scalp have completely recovered. (6)
Can Steaming Hair Damage It?
The thought of using steam to relax your hair may sound like a good idea, but you should know that it can actually damage your hair if overused or unsupervised. Excessive heat can cause your hair to become dry and brittle, and over time, this can lead to split ends and breakage. (7)
If you do decide to steam your hair, be sure to use a heat protectant product beforehand, and always use a low setting.
Most-Asked Questions About Hair Steaming
Can I steam my hair with a curling iron?
No, curling irons are not designed to be used as a steamer. The high temperatures that they generate can damage your hair.
Can I use steaming for other purposes?
If you’re looking to detangle your hair, steaming can be a great way to do so. The heat will help to loosen up any knots or tangles in your hair, making it easier to brush through.
Just be sure not to steam for too long, as this can dry out your hair and make it more difficult to manage.
Weighing the pros and cons of steaming hair is important to determine if this method is right for you. On one hand, steaming can help lock in moisture and repair damaged hair. On the other hand, it can be time consuming and may not work well for all hair types.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and what works best for your hair type.