A hair steamer is an effective tool that adds moisture, restores color vibrancy and strengthens the elasticity of hair. According to hairstylist and Stunning Braids author Monae Everett, the steamer uses heat and water to lift the cuticle on the hair shaft and allow conditioners and treatments to penetrate each strand.
Another benefit of hair steamers is that the moist heat encourages blood flow to the scalp, says celebrity and runway hairstylist Devin Toth of Salon SCK. "Aided circulation of the scalp equals healthier, longer growing hair," he explains.
Black women with natural hair have used steamers for years because it helps to hydrate and define their coils. Celebrity stylist Johnny Wright (aka Michelle Obama's hairdresser) also recommends steaming for women who are transitioning from chemically-relaxed to natural hair because it softens the demarcation where the straight portion ends and the curls begin, and for individuals who live in humid climates. "Styles will last long, so your hair will be less likely to revert back," says Wright.
There are traditionally two types of hair steamers -- hooded and handheld. Everett prefers the former because she says all of your hair can receive the steam treatment at the same time, and it's awesome for reviving wash-and-go styles that are dry and stiff. The handheld version allows you to refresh smaller hair sections and then tuck the tool away when not in use. Word of caution: you should absolutely not use a regular clothing steamer on your hair.
Whether you have blonde, fine hair or brunette, coarse locks, all three professionals believe that all hair textures benefit from hair steaming. Wright advises doing a steam treatment every two weeks to build up moisture retention. If alternating between pre-shampoo oil and deep conditioning treatments, Everett suggests weekly or bi-weekly steaming. Just be sure not to overdo it, as Toth says over-steaming can actually over-moisturize the hair making it limp and weak. So he suggests using a hair steamer for no more than 20 to 30 minutes.
To get the most out of hair steaming at home, Wright recommends prepping hair with ultra-conditioning products like Amla Legend Rejuvenating Oil and Dark and Lovely Au Naturale Moisture L.O.C. Deep Conditioning Delight. Or you can add a few drops of your favorite hair oil to any deep conditioner for added hydration.
Place a cotton strip along your hairline and wrap a towel around your neck and shoulders so water does not drip onto your face or steam burns your skin. "Pinning the hair up with a hard plastic clamp will not only ensure moisture penetrates deeply into the ends, it will help you to avoid accidental burns," says Everett. Toth says to be sure there is at least six inches between your hair and the steamer (whether hooded or handheld) to prevent putting direct heat onto your scalp.
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