Here’s everything you need to know about steaming hair

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If you’re like me and have tried dozens of hair masks and deep conditioners and your locks still look dry and damaged, it might be time to take your moisturizing practice to the next level. Enter: Hair steaming, an easy in-salon treatment that will help your hair better absorb all the nutrients from your treatments.

What is Hair Steam?

For those unfamiliar, hair steaming is the process of using humidity to expand your hair follicles to allow products to penetrate deeper, says Sachajuan hairstylist and creative director Trey Gillen. Using a vaporizer in combination with your favorite treatments can help those treatments work more effectively. It’s something you can do at home or in a salon that can dramatically improve the elasticity and softness of your hair.

“When the surface layer of a hair follicle is moist and warmed by steam, the follicle swells, causing the scales on the surface to open. This allows conditioning and other treatments to enter the follicle and travel to the lipid layer of the hair, sometimes even as deep as the cortex of the hair,” says Gillen. FYI, the lipid layer protects the hair, while the cortex is responsible for the strength, color, and elasticity of your hair. Both are hot spots for damage, but steam can deliver the maximum hydration and moisture those layers need to recover.

At the same time, steaming hair is a great way to exfoliate your scalp, says Malaika Frazier, hairstylist and founder of Rejuvagrow Hair Care. “It helps regulate your scalp and essentially brings it to its healthiest point and where it’s meant to be,” she says. Just as we use steam during a facial to open pores and loosen dirt buildup on the skin, so does when steam passes through the scalp. In fact, steam goes one step further by helping to balance the pH of your scalp and hair. This is important because a good pH level can prevent breakage, soften your hair follicles, and maintain good moisture levels in your hair, according to the Minnesota School of Cosmetology.

“I think steaming hair is a great way to add whatever your hair is missing,” says Frazier. “Again, whether it’s humidity, whether your hair just needs regulating because it’s too oily, whether you have color, whatever the situation, it’s a great way to add or fill in the blanks for what your hair and scalp need.”

How do you know if hair straightening is for you?

While everyone can benefit from steaming, certain hair types should do it regularly. According to Gillen and Frazier, frizzy, oily, brittle, dry or over-processed locks are the best candidates for a steaming session. Additionally, anyone with low porosity hair or hair that struggles to absorb moisture should consider adding steam to their beauty regimen. This is quite common in more frizzy and curly textures, as the hair’s natural oils have a hard time moving along the curved hair shaft to moisturize the strands.

How often should you spray your hair?

In most cases, 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 steam it once a month, but damaged hair should be steamed every week and a half. “The more damaged or dry your hair, the more frequently you can use steam. Frequent steaming can make hair feel softer, more hydrated, and improve elasticity,” says Gillen.

How to straighten your hair at home?

1. Start with clean hair

Be sure to wash your hair before steaming. This helps to remove any buildup and dirt that sits in your scalp and hair so that your scalp and strands are prepped 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 your hair needs. However, if you’re unsure what to use at this point, consult your stylist to find out what your hair needs. One thing to keep in mind? Frazier warns against products with live food ingredients like an avocado face mask or an aloe face mask. These ingredients can cook under the heat of the steamer and will be stripped of their nutrients.

3. Start steaming

Place your steamer under your head and plan to leave it on for 10-20 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 prevent your hair from getting oily. Otherwise, rinse your hair with a little moisturizing shampoo to conclude your smoothing session.

Shop hair straightening tools

Kingsteam 2 in 1 Ozone Facial Steamer – $80.00

Calling anyone with thick, textured hair, this steamer is for you. Once you fill the water tank, this steamer gets to work. It projects steam quickly and uses tiny ion-generated particles to help the steam penetrate deep into your hair and skin. Additionally, the device comes with a facial steamer in case you want to treat yourself to a full spa-like experience. Set it up on a table and slide your head in there for 10-20 minutes and you’re good to go.

Artist Hand Professional Steamer — $164.00

If you want to feel like you’re in the lounge chair, consider snagging this Artist Hand Professional Clothes Steamer. The device has a rotating hood that allows you to position the machine the way you want and give your hair 360 degree coverage of steam. You can also switch between high and low temperatures and run the device for up to 60 minutes (though the pros recommend not steaming your hair for 30 minutes).

Luxebell Deep Conditioning Cap — $27.00

For those who love low-maintenance hair care tools, this steamer may be the answer. All you have to do is throw your hair in a shower cap and put the steamer hood on top. The hood is large enough to cover the edges of your hair in the front and back and it distributes the steam evenly throughout your hair. As a bonus, it has a remote control where you can control the temperature according to your preferences.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.