The use of steam for therapeutic, health and beauty purposes is a practice that’s been going on since the ancient Greeks first donned togas and probably longer. I can totally see some cavewomen hanging out in a hot spring with their woolly mammoth fur towel turbans gossiping about who got clubbed the night before. Since then everyone’s been getting in on the action, from the Turks in their Turkish baths to Indians in their Ayurvedic sweat lodges, the Scandinavians with their saunas and the Japanese in their steam rooms.
For skincare, the benefits of steam have long been established. Amongst other benefits, it helps to increase blood circulation and flush toxins from the body. But since this post is about haircare, we are infinitely more interested in the benefits to hair. This is an area that is still very much in debate, with the science behind it a work in progress. That being said the reputed benefits of steam for hair are:
1. Added moisture
2. Increases hair shine
3. Softens hair making it more manageable
4. Decreasing de-tangling time by reducing tangles and knots
5. Reduces hair breakage
6. Reduces dandruff and helps with exfoliating the scalp by softening flaking skin making it easier to remove
As a user of steam myself and I can only ever speak from personal experience, steaming works for my hair. There is a definite difference in the look and feel of my hair after I’ve used steam in my wash routine. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, even if only half of the list above is true, I think it’s worth incorporating steam into your regimen and here are a few nifty ways of doing so.
Pre-pooing is simply using some sort of conditioning treatment on the hair prior to shampooing. This can be with oils, special treatment conditioners or even regular old instant conditioners. Adding steam at this stage can often increase the efficacy of the treatment. Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque for example, works twice as well if you add heat and I like to use steam when I use this product. It leaves my hair feeling super lush!
This is the point where most people incorporate steam as it’s the easiest and most obvious. The steam increases the absorption potential of the conditioning product used whilst providing additional moisture. Apply the deep conditioning product to the hair then add steam via whichever method you prefer. Steam should be used for 15-20 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes. I always recommend following the instructions on the back of a product so if you plan to leave a product on for extended periods, it’s better to use one that recommends this.
This involves covering the hair in a light layer of oil, leaving it to sit for a while then rinsing it out. This helps keep hair lubricated reducing tangles and single strand knots. It also adds shine and depending on the oil used, can add strength. I like coconut oil as it penetrates the hair shaft and help reduce hygral fatigue, my favourite product is Hairveda Vatika Frosting. Using a steamer can take this process to the next level by helping the oil absorb even more deeply. After applying the oil, leave it to sit under steam for 15-20 minutes then rinse with cold water. Proceed with styling.
At the gym/spa
Whenever I use the gym or go to a spa with a steam room, I always make sure to pack my deep conditioner. It’s a great way to get a full body steam session going. I slather the conditioner on my dry hair, add a shower cap and steam away.