What Is A Hair Steamer? Hair Steaming Explained

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Caring for your hair can sometimes feel like a never-ending mission. From all the coloring treatments, styling methods, and chemical solutions we apply, hair becomes dry and damaged. After trying countless methods to regain the moisture and bounce you desire, it’s time to consider hair steamers. 

You may remember the astronaut bowl-looking contraption on your great-grandma’s hair, as her rollers set in. Although these hooded hairdryers resemble hair steamers, they function quite differently. The old-fashioned hooded hair dryers blow hot air to dry the hair out, whereas hair steamers use vapor steam and heat to add moisture. With other benefits, such as reviving color vibrancy and enhancing hair elasticity, hair steamers leave your injured hair supple and full. Time to heat things up. 

What Is A Hair Steamer?

Woman holding her hair to the sides and laughing.

Using a hair steamer can give your hair a shiny look.

What is a hair steamer? Hair steamers are appliances that add moisture, return color and restore life to hair. As the device creates vapor steam and heat, the cuticle (outermost part of the hair shaft) opens. This exposure enables conditioners and treatments to quickly seep deep into each hair strand.

Hair steamers account for a shorter processing time than overhead dryers since the added color can quickly permeate the cuticle. For extra bold colorings, like red, the large molecular composition makes it difficult for the color to sink in. Thus, steamers work well with these intense colors. They easily allow your hair to process the colors and have the colors settle in swiftly.

You can use hair steamers in conjunction with conditioners and other hair treatments to increase their performance. Hair steamers increase the effectiveness of the products since the steam allows the substances to delve deep into the hair, producing a smooth and shiny finish.

They are also beneficial in creating a smooth cap for those with itchy scalps and dandruff, as the steam imbues moisture into the scalp. This moisture and heat eliminate any fungus or bacteria that are responsible for the itching. 

In addition, the moist heat that forms also promotes blood flow to the scalp. This contributes to healthier, fuller hair growth. As steam is applied, hair is cleansed since toxins are removed from the scalp. This process also improves collagen (protein that strengthens and enhances hair) production and thereby improves blood flow through the scalp. 

Hair steaming can be performed at home or at a salon. The two main forms of hair steamers are hooded and handheld. Hooded steamers allow all your hair to accept the steam treatment at once, while the handheld ones allow you to spruce up smaller sections of hair at a time. No matter which one you choose, never use a clothing steamer on your hair- same name, different function.

What Kind Of Hair Can Be Helped By A Hair Steamer?

Three women standing next to each other and looking at their phones.

Hair steaming is good for different hair types.

Hair steamers are particularly beneficial for those with dandruff or dry, itchy scalps. The steam seeps heat and moisture deep into the scalp, which as I said above, thereby destroys fungus or bacteria that causes the itchy sensation.

What kind of hair can be helped by a hair steamer? Those with thin and brittle hair will benefit from hair steamers, since the moist heat promotes blood flow to the scalp. This helps blood circulate around the scalp and results in hair that grows full of body and length.

Hair steamers are advantageous for those who are changing over from chemically relaxed hair to natural hair. The steamer creates a smooth transition from where the straight part ends and the curls start up. Also, for those who live in humid climates, the hair steamer allows styles to stay in a while with less chances of regressing back to natural hair.

Steam doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re a curly-locked brunette or a straight-haired blonde, hair steamers can improve your hair. Despite your hair’s color and type, all hair textures can benefit from hair steaming. 

Do Hair Steamers Work?

Woman standing under a shower head.

Hair steaming can increase the effects of conditioners and moisturizers.

So the question is, do hair steamers really work? Hair steamers take first place in creating strong, revitalized hair. The heat and moisture from the hair steamer rehydrates the hair and creates a fresh feel, without washing your hair or drying it out. As the heat opens the hair cuticles, nutrients have a direct path to surrounding your hair. This leads to a silky, smooth feel.

The steam penetrates deep into the scalp, which unclogs pores and can contribute to increased hair growth.

When you use hair products, such as deep conditioners or moisturizers, the effects of the hair steamer allow the solutions to further seep deep into the hair strands. This not only optimizes the products’ effectiveness but allows them to remain in the hair longer. 

For those who are shifting from chemically relaxed hair back to natural hair care, the hair steamer will cause your hair to become more elastic, particularly in the section where the two textures merge, creating a smooth transition. 

Hair Steaming Tips

To get the full effect, be sure to follow some hair steaming tips:

To add appropriate hydration and elasticity, hair steaming should be limited to once a week. Although you may get carried away in a heat-oasis, limit each steaming session to 20-30 minutes. Beware not to over steam, as too much steaming results in a flimsy texture and potential breakage. Let off some steam!

Avoid placing a plastic cap on your head. The direct steam works best to quickly seep in conditioner or other products you may apply. Tuck in all loose strands of hair under the steamer so they are surrounded by steam and can receive the full effects. Any hair that is left down won’t receive the deep conditioning effect. No hair left behind!

Are Hair Steamers Safe?

Girl smiling while leaning head on hands.

Don’t steam your hair for longer than 30 minutes.

If you play by the rules, hair steamers are safe to use and can have revitalizing effects. As hair steamers can become hot, limit steam time to 30 minutes or less to decrease the chances of heat damage to your hair. To avoid the direct heat hitting your scalp, allow for at least 6 inches between your hair and the steamer. 

As the heat works its wonders, moisture builds up and can drip down your face, neck and shoulders. When using the steamer, be sure to wear a headband or washcloth on your hairline to prevent water from dripping down your face. It is also recommended to cover your neck and shoulders with a towel to soak up the excess heat vapors and to prevent steam from burning your skin.

As the steam causes hair strands to absorb moisture and swell, hair can be sensitive. Be sure to be cautious when caring for newly steamed hair.

You can perform steaming treatments every 2 weeks to keep the moisture in. Try not to get carried away, as over-steaming can make the hair too moist, resulting in a limp, weak effect.  

When preparing your hair steamer, use distilled/filtered water. If you use unfiltered water, it may contain particles, chlorine or other harmful substances that can damage your hair and contaminate the hair steamer.

Best Natural Alternatives To Hair Steamers Explained

raw coconuts

Coconut oil nourishes hair.

If properly performed, steaming is a beneficial way to rejuvenate and moisturize your hair. If you’re not interested in placing a hair steamer over your head, we’ve still got you covered with some of the best natural alternatives to hair steamers explained. 

Steaming can be achieved naturally at home by following a few simple steps. Start by running a conditioner through your hair, evenly coating your hair down to the roots. You can also use coconut oil or olive oil instead of a conditioner. Tie up your hair and cover your head with a shower cap. Wet a facecloth and squeeze it out until no hot water drips remain. Place the face cloth in a clean microwave at the highest setting for 2 minutes to heat up the water in the cloth.

Remove the face cloth and place it on the center of your head over the shower cap. Try to find a position where the cloth will be balanced on your head. Place a second shower cap on top of the face cloth to contain the heat and promote steam to develop. Allow your hair to steam for 30 minutes. During this time, the steam can soak through your hair strands. For the final step, remove the shower caps and facecloth from your head and let your hair out of the tie. Take a shower with cold water at the highest pressure and allow the water to drain the conditioner out of your hair. The use of cold water assists in securing the moisture in the hair cuticles.  

For the fullest moisturizing effect and least hair damage, allow your hair to air-dry. This natural method should leave your hair feeling revitalized and refreshed for about 1 week. You shouldn’t steam hair more than once a week, as over-steaming can weaken your hair. 


From all the hair styling, chemical treatments, and coloring products we apply to our hair, all it wants is some TLC. Whether at home or at a salon, a hair steamer is what you need to replenish the look and feel you crave. Hair steamers moisturize hair, enhance product absorption, and improve scalp health. Regaining full, moisturized hair simply requires blowing off some steam. 


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