Fact: If you aren’t already using a hair steamer on your curly or coily hair, you’re missing out on so many hydrating benefits. Seriously, the right hair steamer can level up your hydrating treatments, cleansers, deep conditioners, you name it—not to mention, they feel ultra relaxing too. That's why we reached out to curl wizard Anthony Dickey, hairstylist and founder of Hair Rules, to learn everything there is to know about hair steamers on natural hair (including, yes, the best tips and tricks for using 'em correctly—and, you know, not burning your hair off in the process). Keep reading for the ultimate guide, plus the best steamers to shop RN.
Are hair steamers good for your hair?
If you ask the experts (and anyone who has tried them), the answer is a thousand times yes. When you stick your head under a steamer, the moist heat helps hydrate strands, promote scalp circulation, and open the hair cuticle (which can help amp up the effects of your hair and scalp products, especially if you have low-porosity hair). Oh, and they're also relaxing as f*ck. According to Dickey, hair steamers are great for four things in particular: hydrating dry hair, soothing your scalp, pre-cleansing on wash day, and deep conditioning.
"Steamers can do a lot for anyone who's trying to get their natural, dry texture to be softer," says Dickey. "It just makes the hair more manageable so you have more styling options." He also adds that wavy and straight hair textures can benefit from steamers, too—particularly those with longer lengths or color-treated hair. "Everyone—regardless of their hair texture and hair type—is looking for their hair to be more manageable and shiny," he says. And that's where steaming can help.
How do you use a hair steamer?
If you're hung up on exactly how to use a hair steamer the "right" way, don't freak: "There really aren't any real rules for using a hair steamer," he says, especially if you're working with a hair texture that's naturally dry (but, hey, I like tutorials too, so if you need a visual, check out this tutorial on how to steam type 3 curls, and this tutorial on steaming type 4 hair).
There is one thing you'll want to keep in mind though: Your steaming sessions shouldn't last any longer than 30 minutes (in fact, most experts say 20 minutes is the sweet spot). You actually run the risk of damaging your hair bonds when you over-expose your hair to steam, so even though you might be tempted to sit under your steamer for hours on end, it's best to set an alarm for 20 or 30 minutes max.
Once you've got the feeling of steaming down, though, here are Dickey's favorite ways to use a steamer:
- As a hydrating treatment: "I find that women who are natural or are going natural also want the flexibility to wear their hair straight without heat damage," says Dickey. "And heat damage usually happens when hair is so dry that you need excessive heat to straighten it." The solution? A quick steam before you shampoo, which helps add loads of moisture to dry strands before heat-styling it.
- As a pre-cleanse: "A great way to cleanse your scalp and prep your hair for shampoo is by steaming with essential oils to help soften your hair, especially if it's in a dry, tangled state," he says. "Often, when you go straight to water and shampoo after your hair has been in a protective style, the hair matts up and dries out." If you don't have essential oils or are sensitive to them, try pre-cleansing with a hair oil (like Fable and Mane Pre-wash Hair Treatment Oil or Pattern Jojoba Oil Hair Serum). Gently massage it through your scalp and strands until they're saturated, then sit under your steamer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- As a deep conditioner: Yup, you can also use a steamer after you've cleansed your hair—just load up on conditioner before you start and rinse it out once you're done. "Textures that are naturally drier really benefit from the combination of steam and conditioner," says Dickey. "Remember: The more softness and manageability you give your texture, the more you can do with it."
How often should you steam your hair?
That depends entirely on your hair. Those with extremely dry or damaged hair can steam as frequently as once a week, whereas folks with minimal damage can pare back to once a month. At the end of the day, only you (and, okay, probably your hairstylist) know what's best for your hair. Just remember the golden rule: No steaming for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
What is the best hair steamer to buy?
Glad you asked! There are three types of at-home hair steamers—hooded, tabletop, and capped—and it's all about personal preference. It's really about what feels comfortable, what you're used to, and what you have space for. But to make things extra easy for you, I rounded up the seven best hair steamers to try at home, below.
Best Handheld Hair Steamer
Q-Redew Hair Steamer
The coolest thing about this cult-favorite handheld steamer (other than the fact that, yup, it's handheld) is that you can use it to refresh and restyle your curls in between wash days. Just fill it up with distilled water, plug it in, and press the green button to release a fine mist that gently moisturizes your hair. Need a visual? This tutorial is a great guide for getting started.
Best Hair Steamer With Heat Control
Aopow Hair Steamer Cap With Temperature Control
Now 21% off
Perfect for hair steaming newbs who are still getting the hang of it, this steamer cap comes with two customizable heat settings. That means you can play around with the temperature (it goes from medium to high) until you find the best routine for your hair type and concerns. Pro tip: Follow Dickey's lead and massage a hair oil through your scalp and ends before you try this one.
Best Hair Steamer Cap
Vicarko Hair Steamer Thermal Heat Cap
Now 30% off
$26 AT AMAZON $54 AT WALMART
The beauty of this hair steamer is that it's both easy to use and portable (like, no need to invest in a storage unit for this bb—it's small enough to fit into any bathroom drawer). Just plug it in, pop it on your head, press the "on" button, and you'll get a nice and gentle steam that pairs great with and of your fave deep conditioners.
Best Tabletop Hair Steamer
Kingsteam Hair Steamer 2 in 1 Ozone Facial Steamer
Now 38% off
It's definitely bulkier than a cap, but this tabletop hair steamer is a great option if you're looking for something slightly more powerful. It spits out a nice mist when you plug it in, and the hood is large enough to comfortably hold long hair. BTW: This one also moonlights as a face steamer (if you're into that).
Best Cordless Hair Steamer Cap
Tifara Beauty Cordless Deep Conditioning Heat Cap
Don't feel like standing in front of an outlet while you steam? No problem, because this cordless hair steamer heats up in the microwave. Start by placing your hair in a regular shower cap (a plastic one will work just fine—you just want an extra layer between your products and the steamer), microwave the heated cap for 90 seconds, and then fit it snug on your head for 15 to 30 minutes.
Best Professional Hair Steamer
Artist Hand Professional Hair Steamer
If you're looking for a legit salon-level hair steamer, you can't go wrong with this wheeled option on Amazon. It's a bit pricey, but considering it has time and temperature controls, it's pretty worth it for people who steam their hair regularly.
Best DIY Hair Steamer
Aquis Lisse Luxe Desert Rose Hair Wrap
K, so this obviously isn't an actual hair steamer, but it's actually super easy to create a DIY steam—all you'll need is a turban towel (like this microfiber one from Aquis), a processing cap, and a plastic bag. Dickey suggests putting your hair into a plastic cap, microwaving your towel until it's warm, and then wrapping the warm towel over your hair. Finish off by sealing it all in with a plastic bag and sitting under a hooded dryer (if you have one).
Ruby BuddemeyerRuby was the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covered beauty across print and digital.
How do you use a hair steamer? ›
Keep your head in an upright position, so the steamer can evenly moisturize your strands. Handheld steamer: First, fill the reservoir with distilled water. Once the water is in place, plug it in and wait a few seconds for it to heat. Press the on button to apply steam on each section of your hair as needed.Which hair steamer is the best? ›
- Kingsteam 2-in-1 Ozone Hair and Facial Steamer.
- Artist Hand Professional Hair Steamer.
- The Q-Redew Hair Steamer.
- Vicarko Hair Steamer and Thermal Heat Cap.
- Debecty Microwavable Heat Cap.
When is it best to steam hair (before or after washing)? “Wash hair before you steam it, as the steaming process works best on clean hair,” explains Charlotte, just make sure you wash any shampoo out first.What should I put on my hair when steaming it? ›
Hair care multi-use pure oil blend that helps to soften sleek and detangle. And will help to seal inShould I wash my hair after steaming? ›
Tip #1: Always use the steamer before you shampoo, not after. The point of the steamer is to gently lift the cuticle and make it easier for strengthening ingredients to penetrate into the strand. Once you fully wet your hair in the shower, each strand gets flooded with water which causes the hair shaft to swell.Should you wear a plastic cap when steaming your hair? ›
Cover your head. Covering your hair with a plastic cap is one of the worse things you can do. You want your hair to be exposed directly to the moist heat. Allow your hair to feel the steam so that the conditioner can penetrate and work effectively.Can I steam my hair everyday? ›
Steaming can be so good that it can get addictive. However, anything more than once a week will do more harm than good. Over moisturising can make hair limp and prone to breakage.Do you steam hair with conditioner? ›
What products should you use while steaming your hair? "Use a deep treatment mask or a deep conditioner—not just a regular conditioner, not a leave-in conditioner. Something that's a deep conditioner or a mask because it'll do different things for the hair cuticle as well," says Toregano.When should I steam my hair? ›
How often do you steam your hair? If you have dry or damaged hair, consider using a hair steamer every 7 to 10 days. Not only does hair steam add moisture to the hair, but it also improves elasticity. Using a hair steamer more than once a week can actually cause too much moisture, resulting in a weakened hair shaft.Can steaming damage your hair? ›
High heat can damage your hair. Any steam that is too hot for your skin should not be applied to the hair. Also avoid over steaming your hair or doing it too frequently. Hair that turns limp, fragile, or dull may be losing its moisture-protein balance.
Does steaming stop hair breakage? ›
Helps reduce breakage: the steam helps to add moisture and thus can make dry, brittle and thirsty hair supple, hydrated and healthy.Do hair steamers really work? ›
Steam heat can drive the product on the hair deeper into the hair allowing for better, longer lasting penetration." Korab adds that steamers incorporate a moist heat to keep hair and scalp from drying out (as opposed to a dry heat like that of a hair dryer.How do I steam my hair at home? ›
Put the cloth in the microwave for 2 minutes on the highest setting and place it on top of your shower cap once it's steamy. With the hot cloth in place, put another shower cap over it and let your hair steam for 30 minutes. Finally, rinse your hair with cold water to get all of the conditioner out.How do you steam eggs with hair? ›
Mix three to six egg whites (depending on length) with 3 pumps of your favorite conditioner. Wrap a hot damp towel over your head and let it steam-soak in for 15 minutes. Egg whites contain complete proteins and amino acids that coat the hair shaft acting as a shield that prevents breakage.› hair › hair-care-tips › h... ›
Hair Steamers For Natural Hair & Why You Need One
The best hair steamers for natural hair - what is hair steaming?
What Is Hair Steaming And How Can It Transform Our Hair?
How often do you steam your hair? If you have dry or damaged hair, consider using a hair steamer every 7 to 10 days. Not only does hair steam add moisture to the hair, but it also improves elasticity. Using a hair steamer more than once a week can actually cause too much moisture, resulting in a weakened hair shaft.What does a hair steamer do for your hair? ›
A hair steamer is a tool that is designed to provide your mane with a burst of steam that opens your hair cuticle. In turn, this allows your hair-care products to deeply penetrate your strands to achieve long-lasting moisture and strengthen hair.How do I steam my hair at home? ›
Put the cloth in the microwave for 2 minutes on the highest setting and place it on top of your shower cap once it's steamy. With the hot cloth in place, put another shower cap over it and let your hair steam for 30 minutes. Finally, rinse your hair with cold water to get all of the conditioner out.Can I steam my hair with conditioner? ›
What products should you use while steaming your hair? "Use a deep treatment mask or a deep conditioner—not just a regular conditioner, not a leave-in conditioner. Something that's a deep conditioner or a mask because it'll do different things for the hair cuticle as well," says Toregano.