Hair Steaming Is the Easy At-Home Treatment That Helps Your Hydrating Products Work Double-Time

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If you’re like me and have tried dozens of hair masks and deep conditioners and your strands still seem to feel dry and damaged, it may be time to take your moisturizing practice to the next level. Enter: Hair steaming, an easy-to-DIY, salon-grade treatment that will help your hair better soak up all the nutrients from your treatments.

What is hair steaming?

For those unfamiliar, hair steaming is the process of using moisture to expand your hair follicles to allow for products to penetrate deeper, says hairstylist and artistic director for Sachajuan, Trey Gillen. Using a steamer in combination with your go-to treatments can help those treatments work more efficiently. It’s something you can do at home or at a salon, and can drastically help improve the elasticity and softness of your hair.

Experts In This Article

“When the surface layer of a hair follicle is damp and warmed up by steam, the follicle swells, causing the scales on the surface to open up. This allows conditioning treatments and the like to enter the follicle and travel to the lipid layer of the hair, sometimes even as deep as the cortex of the hair,” explains Gillen. FYI, the lipid layer protects the hair, while the cortex is responsible for your hair’s strength, color and elasticity. Both are hotspots for damage, but steaming can provide maximum hydration and moisture these layers need to recover.

At the same time, hair steaming is a great way to exfoliate your scalp, says Malaika Frazier, hairstylist and founder of Rejuvagrow Hair Care. “It helps regulate your scalp and basically gets it to its healthiest point and how it's supposed to be,” she says. Just as we use steam during a facial to open up pores and loosen up the buildup of dirt in the skin, the same happens when steam runs through the scalp. In fact, steaming takes it a step further by helping to balance the pH of your scalp and hair. This is important since a good pH level can prevent breakage, soften your hair follicles and maintain good levels of moisture in your locks, according to the Minnesota School of Cosmetology.

“I think that hair steaming is a great way to add whatever your hair is lacking,” says Frazier. “Again, whether that's moisture, whether your hair just needs to be regulated because it's too oily, whether you have color, whatever the situation is, it's a great way to add or fill in the blanks for what your hair and scalp needs.”

How do you know if hair steaming is for you?

While anyone is likely to benefit from getting their hair steamed, there are certain hair types that should be doing it regularly. According to Gillen and Frazier, strands that are frizzy, oily, brittle, dry, or over-processed are the best candidates for a hair steaming sesh. Also, anyone with low porosity hair or hair that has a hard time absorbing moisture should consider adding steaming to their beauty regimen. This is fairly common in kinkier and coily textures, since the hair's natural oils have a hard time traveling down the curvy hair shaft to moisturize the strands.

How often should you steam your hair?

For the most part, how often you should steam your hair depends on how well your hair absorbs moisture and how healthy it is. If your hair is healthy, you can get away with steaming it once a month, but compromised hair should be steamed every week and a half. “The more damaged or dry your hair is, the more frequent you can steam. Frequent steaming can allow the hair to feel softer to the touch, have more moisture, and improve elasticity," says Gillen.

How to steam your hair at home?

1. Start with clean hair

Make sure to wash your hair before you go under the steamer. This helps to remove any buildup and dirt that's in your scalp and hair so that your scalp and strands are primed and ready for whatever treatment you choose to apply.

2. Apply your nourishing treatment

Once your hair is clean,  saturate your hair with the treatment of your choice. For example, you can apply a mask, hair oil, or any treatment that your hair needs. However, if you're not sure what to use at this stage, consult your hairstylist to find out what your hair needs. One thing to keep in mind? Frazier cautions against products that contain live food ingredients like a DIY avocado mask or aloe mask. These ingredients can cook under the heat of the steamer and will be stripped of their nutrients.

3. Begin steaming

Place your steaming device under your head, and plan to leave it on for 10 to 20 minutes. The steam will open your hair follicles and allow the treatment to penetrate deep into your scalp and hair.

4. Rinse

If you applied an oil treatment, use a little conditioner in your rinse to keep your hair from becoming greasy. Otherwise, rinse your hair with a little hydrating shampoo to wrap up your steaming session.

Shop hair steaming tools

Kingsteam 2 in 1 Ozone Facial Steamer — $80.00

Calling all those with thick and textured hair, this steamer is for you. Once you fill up the water tank, this steamer gets right to work. It shoots out steam quickly and uses tiny ion generated particles to help steam penetrate deeply into your hair and skin. Plus, the device comes with a facial steamer in case you want to give yourself a full spa-like experience. Set it up on a table and slip your head under for 10-20 minutes and you’re good to go.

Artist Hand Professional Hair Steamer — $164.00

If you want feel like you’re right in the salon chair, consider snagging this Artist Hand Professional Hair Steamer. The device has a rotating hood so that you can position the machine how you like and give your hair 360 coverage of steam. You can also switch between high and low temperatures and run the device up to 60 minutes, (though the pros recommended not to steam your hair over 30 minutes.)

Luxebell Deep Conditioning Cap — $27.00

For those who like low maintenance hair care tools, this steamer may be the way to go. All you need to do is throw your hair in a shower cap and put the steaming hood on top. The hood is big enough to cover the edges of your hairline in the front and back and it evenly distributes steam throughout your hair. As a bonus, it has a remote where you can control the temperature according to your preference.

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