How I Safely Steam My Curls At Home To Keep Them Perfectly Hydrated
One thing I've learned from a lifetime of having hair is that it seems to be a constantly evolving structure on my head. Whether it's age or a change in elements, my 4C hair seems to constantly need help maintaining its moisture, which I like to do with an at-home steam treatment. After steaming, my scalp and hair feel strong and moisturized, which makes my hair down for whatever the Weather Channel throws my way. The heat from a steam enables stretching, which makes a full detangle manageable after I rinse out the treatment. Unlike heat styling. the steam adds moisture without causing hygral fatigue or removing my natural oils.
Steaming caps and stand-up dryers are a great way to steam curls, but I'm a little thermophobic when it comes to my hair, so I prefer at-home hair steaming that doesn't involve heat tools. I know it's time for a steam treatment when I take the time to deep condition my hair and find my tresses still dry after rinsing out my treatment. Oudid, founder of Ouidad hair care, tells Bustle that the heat from steam treatments can actually improve the ability of the active ingredients in a conditioner to penetrate into the hair shaft and cuticle. This is a great way to make sure your hair treatments and conditioners are working to the best of their ability. Whether you're relaxed, transitioning, natural, or have fine-textured air, steam treatments are great for all hair textures that need a little help maintaining moisture.
This steam treatment doesn't require you to find the perfect steam cap for your hair type, it doesn't require a bulky hooded dryer, and you definitely won't need an appointment: Here's how I steam in the comfort of my own home.
1. Start With Clean Hair
Having performed steam treatments on both dirty and clean hair, I have drawn the conclusion that my treatment is more effective when my hair and scalp are freshly cleansed. I've found that adding product on top of oil build-up can be counter-productive. Rinsing my hair post-steam treatment keeps my hair shiny and moisturized.
2. Choose A Hearty Deep Conditioning Treatment
According to Ouidad, steam treatments actually help make your applied conditioning treatment of choice more effective, so I like to pick one suited for my hair needs. A hair mask rich in emollients like shea butter or coconut oil and a nutritious fruit like avocado plant the benefits of the natural oils directly into my scalp. While applying the mask after I've washed my hair, I section my hair and opt for finger-detangling over combing my hair because the strands are more fragile when wet. Before I go under the heat, I like to stimulate my scalp by massaging the root of my hair.
3. Grab Some Protection
I use plastic disposable caps that can be purchased at any beauty supply store. They are great for keeping the conditioner from dripping down your neck, but won't absorb any of it. I typically keep my hair in a protective style while I wash and condition to avoid tangles, but on the rare occasions that I've steamed with my hair loose, an extra large treatment cap is necessary to fully cover my long hair.
4. Use A Heated Towel
I use a heated towel to seal in moisture and create a steamy vibe. There are a couple of different ways to use a towel for steam treatments: You can place a towel in the microwave and heat it until it's super hot or you can soak a towel in hot water before putting it on. To be honest, I haven't experienced a noticeable different when using either method, but I will say that heating the towel in the microwave is easier and less messy. If you're really fancy, you can get a towel warmer like the one pictured above. I wrap the towel around my head on top of the cap. I like to use the cap underneath because, without the cap as a barrier, the towel can absorb product and moisture.
5. Keep Track of Steam Time
The duration of your steam will affect your treatment when using steaming caps and hooded dryers because of the heat is more powerful. For the towel method, I steam for about 20 minutes. The general rule of thumb seems to be between 15 and 30 minutes of steaming to safely apply heat without damaging hair.
7. Cool Down & Rinse Out
Before you rinse the conditioner out of your hair, wait for your tresses to cool down. Since I'm under so much protection, it usually doesn't take very long for my locks to cool down. I highly suggest removing the heating cap in the shower as water and product may spill everywhere when you remove it. According to sources at Curly Nikki, rinsing the product out with cool water is ideal. The heat has opened the pores for receiving treatment and the cold water will close the hair cuticle, keeping the moisture sealed in and fully benefiting from the steam treatment.
As you can see, the wind blowing through my curls is NBD — and this photo was taken about seven days after steaming my hair. If you're anything like me, you'll find this steam treatment totally addictive, but just like any good thing, too much of it will quickly be a bad thing. At the most, I steam twice a month because that's how often I'm cleansing my hair. Steaming hair weekly is more than enough steam for any type of strands.
Image: Kristin Collins Jackson (8)