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Curly Nikki

Hair Steamers and Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202113 Comments

Hair Steamers and Natural Hair
Hair Liberty’s Nicole Harmon, our Resident Curl Chemist, is answering your most urgent hair questions. Got one for her? Email me at using “Hair Liberty” in the subject line and she may answer your question right here on the blog.

Q: If heat isn’t required for deep conditioning, does that mean hair steamers are a waste of time too?

A: Not necessarily. Steamers are bonnet dryers that produce moist heat instead of dry heat. They basically create a humid environment similar to a hot shower or a hot day in Florida. The warm, moist air from a hair steamer gently lifts the hair’s cuticle layers to help reconstructing conditioners absorb faster than they would on their own. If you’ve invested in a hair steamer, try these tips to get the most out of your treatments:

Tip #1: Always use the steamer before you shampoo, not after. The point of the steamer is to gently lift the cuticle and make it easier for strengthening ingredients to penetrate into the strand. Once you fully wet your hair in the shower, each strand gets flooded with water which causes the hair shaft to swell. You’ll condition your hair at that time too, but the real benefit of the steamer is to allow penetrating ingredients to squeeze under the cuticle layers before water hits your hair directly.

Tip #2: For the best results, apply an overnight or pre-shampoo treatment to your dry hair then use the hair steamer. Just like with a bonnet dryer, it’s important not to sit with conditioner on your hair for long periods of time unless the instructions tell you it’s safe. To get the most out of your steamer use it with a professional pre-shampoo treatment like Kinky-Curly Midnight Miracle, Burt’s Bees Avocado Butter Pre-Shampoo Hair Treatment, L’Oreal Everstrong Overnight Hair Repair Treatment, or Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme. Pre-shampoo products balance strengthening ingredients with sealants so everything doesn’t get rinsed away when you wash your hair. They’re also usually formulated with non-irritating preservatives since they’re meant to be on your hair for 8 hours or more. You can also try this DIY recipe from British Trichologist, Philip Kingsley:

Pre-Shampoo recipe for Very Curly Hair

2 eggs
1/4 cup full-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream or double cream
1/8 cup castor oil
1/8 cup filtered tap water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

-Juice and pulp from 1/2 of a grapefruit
-Blend ingredients together. Refrigerate overnight and use as required. Massage into hair and scalp for five minutes then leave to penetrate for 20 minutes. Shampoo out and use conditioner for dry hair. Repeat weekly.

Recipe source:

If a hair steamer is out of your budget, don’t worry, you can still do extra things to deep condition and strengthen your hair. What always matters most is the quality of the product you use and how thoroughly you apply it. Try a pre-shampoo product (or the Philip Kingsley recipe), make sure you apply it to every strand from root to tip, and leave it on for the full recommended time before you wash your hair.

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  • Anonymous says:

    Steaming before you shampoo with a pre-poo is a great idea and one I've been doing for years. I use a mixture of essential oils and shea and apply it to my hair then sit under the steamer. Then I wash with wen and that's it. I don't deep condition and do anything else. But I do use Oyin Hair Dew as my leave in. I do the same for my daughters who have waist long natural hair just like their mom; but I'm relaxed. You can use a heating cap or a hood dryer to apply heat, just make sure your hair is damp.

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't have a steamer either, so I can achieve the same results using either a heat cap or a hot towel? That will be great!

  • Anonymous says:

    I do the homemade steam treatment on my hair microwaving a hand towel for about 4 min. And then placing it on top of my plastic cap right before getting under the hair dryer for about 30 min. Or so . You accomplish the same results with a hair steamer , viola ! ;-)

  • Anonymous says:

    Can you also do this even if you don't have a steamer? I have a heat cap will that suffice?
    Also have you used the recipe?

  • Anonymous says:

    This post is extremely helpful and equally beneficial. Thanks a bunch! I need a little clarification as well. Are you also applying heat when you deep condition after shampooing? For instance, do you sit under a hard hat dryer for 20 – 30 minutes with the deep conditioner?

  • Nicole - Hair Liberty says:

    Glad this was helpful for you guys!

    @L.Michelle – Yes, that's right. If the pre-poo you're using doesn't spread well, spray some water on your hair to make sure everything gets distributed thoroughly.

    @Felicia Murray – Yes, starting with dirty hair, steam with pre-poo on, rinse, shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse. :)

  • ShoeHOTLINE says:

    This was very helpful.

  • Felicia Murray says:

    I need a little more clarification too. Are you saying I should steam my hair first, then shampoo, then condition/deep condition?

  • Anonymous says:

    Steam before you shampoo not after?! I have NEVER heard that before. I'm totally confused.

  • NaturalArtMaven says:

    Great info! I am going to try steaming first the next time I wash. I had noticed that lately it didn't seem like steaming was doing much for my hair anymore…

  • Unknown says:

    This make perfect sense, but I need to clarify…I should start under the steamer with just some type of pre-poo and no other moisture (other than what's coming from the steamer?)

  • Anonymous says:

    I really want a steamer after hearing so many wonderful things about them! Thanks for the tips! Sorry but that hair recipe made me gag a little!

  • Thrifty curly says:

    That made a lot of sense,because I wondered why after washing then steaming my hair cuticles would feel lifted and my hair would feel dry. Great info Nikki Thanks.

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