“This old-school treatment has kept my delicate hair damage-free for decades”

Written by Keeks Reid

Suitable for all hair types, steaming temporarily opens the hair cuticles and allows conditioning treatments to penetrate more deeply.

I can’t recall the first time I went for “a steam”, but it was something that was integrated into my hair routine from a very young age. 

As a treat, I would go to the salon to have a steam and then have my coils fried straight with a hot comb. I’m sure it was the steam treatments that helped my delicate hair not to break in spite of the heat damage and later chemical damage. 

Back then, a steam was the go-to option for healthy hair, much more so than getting a trim or using a treatment alone. While there are a lot more choices now, when it comes to keeping your hair in tip-top condition, hair steaming still remains one of the most popular hair treatments out there. Here’s why.

What is hair steaming?

Simply put, hair steaming is any method that uses heat to generate steam surrounding your hair. The heat and moisture open the cuticles of your hair allowing a conditioner to penetrate deeper into the shaft. 

Many salons will use a hair steaming machine – a piece of hair kit that has come a long way since the old-school kind that would dribble water down the back of your neck. There are now also mini table-top hair steamers available on Amazon and steaming caps that you place over a shower cap to generate a similar heat and moisture combination.  

What are the main benefits of hair steaming?  

There are so many benefits to reap from incorporating steaming into your hair routine regularly. 

“Steaming can help to reduce breakage. Your hair tends to break when it’s dry and brittle but thanks to the rehydrating properties of steaming you should notice a vast improvement,” says Kash Bishop, textured hair specialist at Neville Hair & Beauty. “The heat also helps to promote hair growth as it increases blood flow to the scalp.” 

This, in conjunction with frequent trims and less heat-styling, could move you further towards your healthiest hair yet.

Can all hair types do hair steaming? 

Yes. Although hair steaming is a popular practice for Afro hair salons there’s no reason other hair types can’t benefit from steam treatments.

Curly and coily hair types tend to be drier than others, which is why steam treatments are so often recommended for these hair types, but it’s the same as using steam in skincare routines or health routines in general– it can be used by all.  

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How do you steam hair at home?  

I have a mains-attached heated cap that I use at home when I’m doing a really long, indulgent washday but even just rocking a shower cap while you have a conditioning mask on will create a steamy atmosphere that will help to open your hair cuticles – even only slightly more than normal.

When using a heating cap at home, it’s important your hair is wet and your conditioning treatment is massaged in. Dry hair meeting with heat yields the opposite result to what we desire. 

Plus, prepping your hair for steaming at home couldn’t be simpler: “I recommend starting with shampooing twice to wash your hair thoroughly,” advises Bishop. “Then, apply a conditioner on the mid-lengths to end and start steaming immediately following the instructions on the appliance.” 

Time-wise, you shouldn’t be steaming for more than 30 minutes to reap the benefits. “I tend to advise 15 minutes for thinner hair and up to 30 minutes for fuller hair as this will allow for the conditioner to penetrate the hair shaft.” 

To complete your steam treatment, you will have to brave a cold rinse: “This will seal the cuticles and add shine to the hair,” says Bishop. If you don’t do this your hair will lack shine and cause the moisture and nourishing ingredients you just worked into the hair to seep back out.  

Can you use steam in hairstyling? 

If you can’t stretch to a longer wash-day to include a steam treatment in your routine, you can incorporate it into your styling choices instead. It’s not as nourishing as a ramped-up conditioning treatment, but tools like the L’Oréal Professionnel SteamPod, £235, use the power of steam to keep hair hydrated as you heat style. 

“You can use it to straighten or curl your hair, but because of the steam it doesn’t dry your hair out,” says Neil Moodie, SteamPod style ambassador for L’Oréal Professionnel. “The steam opens the hair follicle which allows the moisture to penetrate whilst straightening and curling, thus resulting in a healthier-looking finish with high shine and lots of glossy movement.”

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Main image: Getty

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