No matter what type of heat tool you use or how much heat protectant you apply, straightening and curling your hair inevitably causes damage. But for those of us who love changing our hair with the heat, we’re constantly fighting to make our routines as healthy as possible. One way to do this is with a steam iron, which uses humidity to help silk your locks, explains Shorter teepeea L’Oréal Professional artist.
“When you treat your hair, you want to think about it the same way you think about expensive fabric,” says Shorter. “You’re not going to iron a silk blouse; you are using a steamer. Adding steam to a traditional iron [allows it to] work more delicately on the fabric of your hair. It adds shine, keeps hair softer, smoother and smoother faster with less direct heat.”
The Ins and Outs of Using a Steam Iron
When using a steam iron, it sounds a bit like a flat iron – you can hear the hiss of steam as you glide the tool through your hair. Steam helps add moisture to hair, which is helpful because heat styling usually strips moisture. “The steam really softens the hair and rehydrates the hair follicles before they get compressed with the plaques,” says Shorter. By providing moisture, steam makes the process a little less damaging than dry straightening.
Plus, adding moisture makes the straightening process a bit easier, says Gregorio Ruggeri, a hairstylist and trichologist in New York City.
“If you can imagine the hair shaft being a bit frizzy, when you use a regular straightener on dry hair, you’re just burning it into shape,” he says. “But when you use an iron and there’s a bit of humidity, it will be easier to smooth that out.”
Even if you don’t have a steam iron, you can replicate this with any hot tool by making sure there is some moisture in your hair when styling. “Whenever I use a straightener I always make sure there is a little bit of moisture in the hair so when I use a flat iron it will set it in place at the steam,” says Ruggeri. He suggests making sure your hair is about 95% dry before using a standard heat styling tool.
If you want to invest in a steam iron, be aware that you cannot fill it with tap water. “You really want to use distilled water,” says Shorter. “If you need it, the next option would be to use bottled water, and the third would be filtered water, but never tap water. Tap water contains minerals and metals that. .. can ultimately ruin the styler mechanism.”
No matter what type of heat tool you use, remember that heat is heat and it’s not good for your hair. Just because steam makes the process a little healthier doesn’t mean you can ignore the golden rules of heat styling. Make sure you don’t hike the same section multiple times in a row, use hot tools multiple days in a row, or skip the thermal protector.
What it’s like to use the L’Oréal Professionnel Steam Pod
My first use of a steam flat iron was with the L’Oreal Professional Vapor Pod ($250). I went to the L’Oreal salon in New York, where Shorter straightened and curled my hair using the steamer, then I took one home to play with myself.
The water reservoir makes the tool bulky, but as someone who loves big, bouncy curls, it works in my favor: I can get the same kind of bouncy curls I always get with a 2-inch curling iron . However, this volume makes it difficult to style my whole head. Due to the location of the plates, I can’t reach my scalp to get my roots as straight as I would like (I imagine this also makes the Steam Pod difficult to use on short hair). That said, it works great for styling my lengths.
I also love that the Steam Pod has a removable row of fine plastic teeth along its edges, which comb through my locks as I style them. “The comb guides as the steam penetrates the hair, allowing you to use larger sections,” says Shorter. “It helps you style your hair in much less time but with more shine and shine.”
When using the comb, I have noticed that my hair is much more bouncy, smoother and shinier. I tried to mimic this using a fine-toothed comb and a regular flat iron, which works great for straightening, but is impossible to replicate when trying to create flat iron curls.
Overall, I notice my hair feels smoother when using the L’Oréal Professionnel Steam Pod, and the comb makes it easier to achieve a nice, sleek style. Plus, I like knowing it’s healthier for my locks than my standard styling routine.
Additional steam flat irons to shop
The Steam Pod isn’t the only steam flat iron out there. Check out two more options below.
The Angel Le Vapor — $199.00
This flat iron combines infrared heat and steam to hydrate hair and help reduce potential damage. It features rounded ceramic plates for smoothing and curling with equal ease. A digital LCD screen lets you adjust the temperature between 250℉ and 410℉ so you can customize your experience to suit your texture. Depending on the length and thickness of your hair, you may need to refill the reservoir every one to three styling sessions.
Solofish Steam Straightener — $39.00
This steam straightener features ceramic plates for even heat distribution and five steam vents to keep your hair wrapped in moisture. Set the steam to medium or high, or turn it off to use the straightener as a regular straightener. It heats between 300℉ and 450℉ and will reach 300℉ in 15 seconds.
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