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Are Hair Steamers Really Worth Buying?

Avatar • Jan 28, 2014

productSteamer

Many of you have asked me to weigh in with some science on the effect of the ever popular hair steamers because they are really not cheap to buy and the question remains: Are they worth the investment?

Well, it may surprise some of you, but there is actually very little research done on the benefits of using steamers (this even includes research done by the companies that make steamers). I have seen it all claimed, from hydrating to strengthening hair but not a single scientific paper to back these claims. The little research that was done on steaming hair is actually from work done in 1934 (Yes, you read that date correctly, really, *1934).

The Short Story

1. Steaming hair for under 30 minutes is generally considered safe in terms of not damaging hair
2. Steaming hair is pretty similar to just wetting hair, meaning, hair absorbs moisture and swells. It can feel smoother as a result of the swelling.
3. Steaming will allow hair to stretch a little more than wetting hair would with the same force (therefore be gentle when handling steamed or wet hair)
4. Steamed hair will remain elastic provided you use reasonable gradual force and remain under the 30 minutes.
5. Steaming over 30 minutes can induce disulphide (disulfide if you are on the other side of the pond) bonds to break — essentially, yes, steaming for long times CAN relax your hair

The Long Story — Elasticity is good for you!

Your natural hair is elastic and you want it to remain elastic. Elasticity means that if you stretch your hair, it should be able to spring back to its original unstretched length. Destroying the elasticity of your hair means that you are weakening it. An internal permanent rearrangement must happen within the cortex to cause it to lose elasticity.

Steaming under 30 minutes:  Steaming will allow hair to stretch more than dry or wet (cool or warm water) hair

Steaming over 30 minutes: If you steam hair for over 30 minutes, you can end up causing a permanent relaxation of the fibre

What about steaming with hair conditioner? As there is no actual research, my only deduction would be that it would be similar to using warm conditioner except that it would be slightly diluted by the steam. There are benefits to warming up your conditioner, although a steamer would be a pretty expensive choice — cheap and cheerful water bath works for me.  

*Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series A, Containing Papers of a Mathematical or Physical Character, Vol. 232 (1934), pp. 333–394

Do you own a hair steamer, does it make a difference to your hair, comment and let us know how!
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About The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

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kari
kari
6 years ago

ive always wondered what exactly steamers were for so this article was very helpful

Amanda
Amanda
6 years ago

Ha, I think I’ll stick to my thermal heating cap! Great article.

Trisha
Trisha
6 years ago

I’m an avid WNG’er. In the morning at the end of my shower I take off my shower cap and allow the steam to refresh for hair for about a minute. It does a great job in plumping up my curls. I made the mistake of buying a Q‑Redew intending to use it for the same purpose. It’s not nearly as effective in refreshing my hair as shower steam. I’ve used it just once and now it’s just collecting dust. Charge it to the game I guess.

Tabatha
Tabatha
6 years ago

My hair dresser would put a warm towel around my hair during deep conditioners and it never hurt my hair. Would I buy a little contraption to steam my hair? Probably not.

Monica Kay
Monica Kay
6 years ago

Just as I suspected, commercial hair steamers are a new generation of unneeded gadgets designed to profit off the black woman’s quest for “good hair”. Not to shade anyone but…consider the founder of Huetiful. This guy has a MBA and worked in marketing & brand management in Procter & Gamble’s beauty care division. He is trained and experienced at convincing women to buy stuff they don’t need. To quote him, “Fortunately, I’ve had the benefit of working at Procter & Gamble and learned a lot of the “what to do” and “what not to do” when it comes to marketing,… Read more »

Dananana
Dananana
6 years ago
Reply to  Monica Kay

I can’t agree more, Monica Kay. There’s nothing a $100+ steaming gadget can do for my hair that a hot washcloth and a plastic cap can’t.

sandy
sandy
6 years ago
Reply to  Dananana

Especially since the hood is not big and deep enough to steam the hair in the nape area.

Kai
Kai
6 years ago
Reply to  sandy

Which is exactly why I returned mine. It was cheaply made and the hood is no larger than a mixing bowl lol. Huetiful, like many hair product companies, use popular bloggers to promote their products. Remember to do what works for your hair and budget. These bloggers are receiving these products for free, so they are going to sing their praises. Most of the products I use on my hair and body are found in the grocery store. It saves money and the products (such as olive oil) are more potent than buying products with very little of the desired… Read more »

Elle
Elle
6 years ago
Reply to  Monica Kay

Just as I suspected, commercial hair steamers are a new generation of unneeded gadgets designed to profit off the black woman’s quest for “good hair”. ”

I find steamers unnecessary, but they HAVE had a purpose for many decades for all ethnicities, at home or in the salon, that wasn’t centered around curl pattern insecurity. Don’t castigate all women who use this product as searching for the next generation Jheri.

imani
imani
6 years ago

Yeah, I love steaming my hair but I learned by accident that the steam can straighten your hair. I hope my hair snaps back.I won’t know til next wash day.it makes my hair crazy soft & my hair absorbs product soooo much better but I like my coild & kinks!

Sandra
Sandra
6 years ago
Reply to  imani

If you want to try a herbal treatment. Mix ALMA powder and BRAHMI powder together. They will help snap back your curls. I use this mix as part of my HENNA treatments every 3 months to revert the straightening that HENNA tends to do to my hair. When I first went natural, my hair type was 4C now I am a 4A — as a result of the HENNA. So I faithfully use ALMA and BRAHMI powder.

imani
imani
6 years ago
Reply to  Sandra

Thanks for the tip! I couldn’t wait til wash day so I rinsed my hair yesterday…and yeah! Its baaaack! All my kinks & coils are just fine thank God! I was panicking there for a hot minute thinking id burned my hair with my garment steamer &would have to cut my hair. Crisis averted but I may try the herbal rinse anyway if I can find those ingredients.

Charity
Charity
6 years ago

I purchased a hooded steamer and I have had it for over 2 yrs. Honestly, my hair felt dried out after each use (15 min session). I don’t use it anymore. I tried multiple scenarios with and without conditioner, etc. Yet, I was very un-impressed with the results on my hair. I get my best moisture intake by using plastic shower caps to deep condition. The steamer was also a hassle for me to assemble, use, and breakdown in addition to my already lengthy regimen. It was quite pricey. I may try my hooded steamer again in the future though.… Read more »

cacey
cacey
6 years ago
Reply to  Charity

same here. after while mine would dry out my hair. i felt no difference in the quality of my hair, and so eventually gave that expensive ineffective contraption away.

Nichole
Nichole
6 years ago
Reply to  Charity

I had the exact same problem. Tried it many different times and still felt my hair felt dry. Felt like I wasted my money.

Corgi
Corgi
6 years ago

Bought a Q‑redew and it did nothing to my hair, even when I conditioned it. Found out after wasting over 70$ that steaming was not for me

Natalia
Natalia
6 years ago

I’m 50/50 about steamers. I bought one in March 2011 and it randomly stopped working in December 2013 so I’ve been forced to DC with a grocery bag and a towel over it to create a bit of heat. I can honestly say I have no intention of spending $100+ more on a new one. The design is not convenient and requires me to prop up the machine and contort just to fit under and I feel like the time it takes me to set up, use, and clean up takes the same about of time it takes me to… Read more »

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago

Lovely article,thanks for posting!

Cass
Cass
6 years ago

Luckily for me my best friend owns a steamer. I tried hers last year and after I was done I didn’t see a big deal in it. I could sit underneath my dryer, which I have had for years, is cheaper, and actually covers the entire parameter of my head, as opposed to me buying an expensive steamer that doesn’t cover my entire head and will cause damage after a while. I’m never the type to jump over what’s new and trendy. There are still a lot of products and gadgets that I have never tried because I was fortunate… Read more »

Teressa
Teressa
6 years ago

I recently purchased a hooded hair steamer. It works well for me. So far I have no complaints. My hair loves it and it does not dry out my hair either. I usually would deep condition for hours to get my hair as soft as a 20 minute session under my steamer. It makes my “wash day” not so long and we know how long “wash day” can be :-). Of course if I have nothing else to do the next day I still may sleep with the DC on my hair over night especially if I plan on flat… Read more »

Jamie
Jamie
6 years ago

I bought a steamer and I liked it. I don’t think it was a miracle cure for my dryness. But what made me mad was the water container cracked and the company stated they didn’t have a replacement. So in the trash it goes. I will not be replacing it and upset I feel for the hype.

Nubia
Nubia
6 years ago

I actually do not think the steamer is the be all to end all, but I do think it is benefical to MY hair. I remember being placed under the streamer when I used to go to the DR spot. Back in the day my mother used to place me under the hooded dryer with a cap or a heating cap. I feel the difference in my hair with and without the added steamer.. I think it is worth it #myopinion

Ken (Owner of Huetiful)

Hello! I wanted to chime in since I’m the Founder & CEO of Huetiful. We’ve received well over 1k survey responses from people who have purchased the Huetiful Hair Steamer. The research that we’ve conducted over the past few years indicates that the majority of women who regularly incorporate steam hydration + conditioners into their hair care regimen “notice a significant difference in the health of their hair.” For those with relaxed hair or who wear their hair in heat straightened styles, the results are even more favorable. The reason why steam is better than warm conditioners is that the… Read more »

Monica Kay
Monica Kay
6 years ago

The point of the post was to state that there is scant scientific data to support the claims made by Huetiful and other hair streamer manufacturers. Results gathered from self-reported (market-driven) surveys can not replace results from controlled, reproducible scientific studies.

GSoldier
GSoldier
6 years ago

So Ken you invest, what 40k just to “simply provide information” and to get us to not buy huetiful hair steamer o.O !

We’ve heard you, thank you.
Don’t come again.

And Ladies, food for thought, the money we might’ve considered spending on a plastic bowl that evaporates, why don’t we consider using it somewhere where we get all the benefits, I.e. like a gym for say at least 6 months that has a steamer, or a sauna. Give us something to look forward to =)

iluvedges
iluvedges
6 years ago
Reply to  GSoldier

@GSolider, good idea…Ken please listen…Don’t come again

Rhonda
Rhonda
6 years ago

I am so surprised that the steamer didn’t work for most of you all. The first time I used mine I noticed a huge difference! I’ve had mine for 2 years and absolutely love it and wouldn’t be without one as long as I have natural hair. It made my 4b hair and twist outs more plump and moisturized. When I started using my steamer is when my twist outs started looking the way I wanted them to. I put my best moisturizing conditioner on and sit under for 20 minutes and then let my hair cool down completely for… Read more »

kwmechelle
kwmechelle
6 years ago

Wow, Ken! So glad you chimed in to give your opinion and the facts of studies and market data that you have done. I LOVE my steamer. I wish it were bigger and I can’t say that I’ve had some of the issues that others complain about. However, just wanted you to know that there are some of us who have seen the benefits of using the steamer. Case in point, I left my steamer behind at my bff’s house (in Atlanta) in January 2013 and wasn’t able to retrieve it until November 2013. That’s about 10 entire months without… Read more »

ishan
ishan
6 years ago
Reply to  kwmechelle

Ken you are so shady, stop it.

Black Girl With Long Hair
Reply to  ishan

LOL!!!

Marci W
Marci W
6 years ago

I have used the Huetiful Steamer once, last Sunday. The results I ended up with were far better than all day, baggie, warm towel takes entirely too long of a day process. MY HAIR LOVED IT! Ken, the hood is a bit too small, but in all I love it.

JustJoy98
JustJoy98
6 years ago

I purchased my Huetiful steamer while transitioning and saw the benifits immediately. I also prefer to steam for 20 min versus going to sleep with a plastic cap. On weeks that I don’t steam there is a difference. Ken I do think the hood should be bigger. I plan on replacing my steamer with a floor model that has a much larger hood. But other than that I LOVE MY steamer. As far as Kens background and attacking him per say, I think is a bit much. I did a lot of research on the web before I purchased my… Read more »

Rickie
Rickie
6 years ago

So sad that people can’t voice their opinion without being catty. Don’t come again? Classy.

Monica Kay
Monica Kay
6 years ago

Stating someone’s educational background and work experience is an attack? Is calling attention to the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that a gadget “moisturizes hair 5 times more that just usual normal conditioner in 20 minutes” an attack? Is saying that most of the bloggers who received the streamer for free were inclined to give positive review being catty. I don’t think so.

I think as savvy customers these are questions we have to ask.

sandy
sandy
6 years ago
Reply to  Monica Kay

Monica Kay, you are absolutely correct. I will add that what is even more deceptive is that these bloggers very often do not even disclose that they have received said product for free.

Tash
Tash
6 years ago

Well I have a steamer and I love it! It’s a Secura and it has been working excellently for the past year. I don’t see the big problem with having to turn my chair around to get the back of my hair steamed in a very effective manner. My wash days are much shorter when I use my steamer and the results are noticeably softer, more moisturized hair. I’m not saying everyone needs to get it, but it works for me.

Chandra
6 years ago

Hum, well I must say every time that I’ve used mine my hair feels amazingly better. A lot different than my regular deep condition sessions. I don’t steam it often just when I feel my hair is dryer than normal. Didn’t know that steaming over 30 mins could relax the girl though? Good to know!

Dee Hines
Dee Hines
5 years ago

I bought the Secura hair steamer. My hair felt great the first time I tried it but a week later I was doing my hair and for the first time ever I had multiple upper and mid shaft bubble splits in my hair. I rarely get split ends, let alone middle shaft splits and the only thing I did differently was use the steamer as directed. I tried my best to search and destroy and sent the steamer packing. I won’t be investing in another steamer.

Lucky
Lucky
5 years ago

Love steaming my hair. For me its just plain relaxing!

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