Updated November 2022
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Buying guide for Best hair steamers

Are you looking for a better way to give your natural hair an intense, restorative treatment? While you could go the topical route and try products in or out of the shower, a hair steamer will offer far better results.

Hair steamers don’t just help you embrace your natural hair; they come with a wealth of other benefits. These beauty tools add moisture by introducing steam to hair in a controlled environment, particularly in the form of a shell-like apparatus. They also activate conditioners and other treatments by opening up the hair follicles so the product can penetrate. Dry hair becomes hydrated, and with regular treatments, your natural curl will become softer and bouncier.

Are you ready to embrace your natural hair with a hair steamer? We assembled this buying guide so curious consumers can learn more and discover some helpful tips for their new at-home treatment.

If you’re a busy professional who can’t always make it to the salon, a hair steamer is essential for home treatments. Besides saving time and money, you’ll enjoy a mini self-care session.

Key considerations

Perks of steaming hair

Scalp health improves. With exposure to steam, the pores in your scalp open up and have an opportunity to become unclogged. Given the shell design of a hair steamer, your face may also experience residual skin health benefits around your forehead.

Hair product benefits are maximized. Steaming opens the follicle to let conditioners, oils, or shine treatments seep into roots rather than stopping at your scalp. This means you can minimize other treatments you use on your hair, which sometimes result in product build-up.

A hair steamer is a cost-effective way to experience a salon treatment in the comfort of home. Not only can you truly relax and enjoy a bit of self-care, it’s also infinitely less expensive than visiting a salon for steaming.

Space for setup

If you’re familiar with hair steamer chairs at the salon, you know that these pieces of integrated furniture take up considerable space. Hair steamers for home use are on the smaller side and lack the attached chair, but you still need room for the base and hood.

You might get a tabletop hair steamer, a stand-mounted hair steamer, or a soft hood hair steamer. Most tabletop hair steamers are placed on a flat, stable surface and cover your head while you sit in a regular seat. They don’t take up much space compared to stand-mounted hair steamers, which must be maneuvered around a chair. The third option, the soft hood steamer, is the most compact choice. This product sits on your head like an oversized shower cap.

Recommended time for steam sessions

If you’re wondering how long you’ll need to steam your hair, keep in mind that moderation is key to a successful treatment. Hair experts recommend steaming hair for no more than 15 to 30 minutes. Leaving hair to steam much longer than that could result in damage or breakage.

Resist the urge to interrupt your steaming to answer the phone or get up for a few seconds. Prematurely exposing your hair to room temperature could compromise results.


Popular models of hair steamers

Hard hood

Hard hood hair steamers draw design inspiration from traditional salon steamers, which feature a wide, half-dome shape. These hoods range in diameter from 13 to 30 inches; you’ll need to buy one large enough to accommodate your hair.

Hard hood steamers can be tabletop or freestanding models. Tabletop steamers are compact and preferred by those with limited space. Freestanding models typically have adjustable height rods on a wheeled base, so you can set up next to any chair.

Soft hood

As we’ve mentioned, a soft hood hair steamer resembles an oversized shower cap. There is usually an elastic or drawstring to secure the cap to your head. More often than not, the hood diameter is smaller than hard styles.

Soft hood hair steamers are ideal for travel, as they fold up and can be stored in a carrying case. They’re typically smaller than hard hood steamers, but nonetheless, they can offer an exceptional steaming experience.

Be careful when touching certain parts of your hair steamer, such as the hood or reservoir. They heat up quickly and could burn your fingers.

Main features of hair steamers


The hood is the dome or shell that covers your head. Hard styles extend a few inches outside your head. Soft styles have ample space to accommodate hair, but depending on how thick or curly it is, you might feel hard-pressed for room. Some hoods come with bases that can be tilted for better coverage.


The base of the hair steam is where the magic happens. This area typically is home to the reservoir, power buttons, and steam controls. More often than not, they’re shaped like stout cylinders and hold around 300ml of water.  


You’ll need to fill the reservoir with water for each steam session.  Water is heated, and steam travels through to the hood for treatment. Be aware that the reservoir is harder to access in some models than others; shopping for a steamer with an easy-access reservoir may save you the hassle of spills.

Steam settings

Hair steamers are usually limited to off and on settings, though some models are equipped with timers and safety features. Certain steamers do have low, medium, and high steam settings, but this feature is usually seen only on soft hood models.

It’s important to stick to the recommended time for hair steaming. If your model doesn’t come with time settings, use your phone or a kitchen timer to keep track of time.


Hair steamer prices

Prices range from $20 to $300, depending on the appliance you choose.


Hair steamers priced $40 and below include mostly travel steamers and soft hood caps. You may find a few entry-level tabletop models here, too.


For $50 to $100, you’ll find tabletop hair steamers of superior quality. These products tend to have more settings, such as for time and temperature.


Hair steamers priced between $100 and $300 include many freestanding models and some salon-quality steamers. They’re far more reliable and provide a significantly better hair-steaming experience.


  • Ask your stylist for feedback. If you’re new to at-home steaming, ask your stylist for helpful tips to maximize the benefits. Knowing the amount of product you should use, as well as the recommended session length, can make a big difference in your treatment.
  • Invest in a comfortable chair. Since you need to sit still under your hair steamer for an extended period of time, make sure your chair is comfortable to avoid back pain or leg cramps.
While you’re sitting waiting for your steam treatment to finish, use that 15- to 30-minute window as screen-free time. Read a book or magazine, paint your nails, or do a crossword puzzle.


Q. Can I use a hair steamer when color treating my hair to speed up the process?

A. You could, though it’s best to leave this advanced treatment to a salon professional. Especially if you’re using box dye, which usually sets without heat, you might end up with warped color or worse — permanent damage to your hair.

Q. Should I invest in a hair steamer that doubles as a facial steamer?

A. Sure, and many people love these two-in-one models. Keep in mind that the skin on your face and neck is more sensitive than the skin on your scalp. This means you may need to reduce the amount of time you let your face steam. Owning a steamer with adjustable settings would be best.

Q. My scalp is sensitive, and I’m prone to breakouts. Is it safe for me to use a hair steamer?

A. While you can give it a try and see what happens, your best bet is to speak to your dermatologist before using a hair steamer. When sharing your concerns, also inform them which hair products you intend to use with your steamer, as ingredients in some can cause sensitive skin to react.

Q. Are hair steamers safe for kids to use?

A. Provided kids are supervised during use, it’s okay to let them use a hair steamer. It’s best to use them with older kids and teens who are more likely to sit still during the sessions than little ones. If you’re not sure whether your child could handle the treatment, give the hair steamer a trial run yourself to get a feel for it.

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