Tuesday, July 21, 2015

How to use steam in your every day routine to increase your hair's moisture.

When I experimented with frequent washing, my hair thrived.  Retaining moisture seemed much easier and I experienced the benefits from increasing the number of conditioning sessions per month.  But, since I fail miserably at air drying and must roller set after each wash, I couldn't keep up with frequent wash days due to lack of time.

Then I got to thinking, "what if there's a way to add deeper levels of moisture into the strand without having to do a full wash?"  After a few moments, the answer came to me. Steam!  Sure, we all do the LOC method of moisturization. But what if we replaced the "L" (liquid) with "S" (steam)?

Some possible benefits of using steam vs. liquid.
  • Steam is water in smaller particles which could mean deeper penetration into the strand.
  • Steam can cover the strands more evenly than spraying the hair manually with water.
  • Steam could open up the cuticles for better absorption of the other moisturizing products you wish to use.
That was enough for me to move to the next step in the experimentation process.  Next I contemplated what form of steam I should use.

MILD: This is where you just use hints of steam of boost moisture levels ever so slightly.  One of the simplest ways to use just a touch of steam to increase moisture is to test out the Greenhouse method.  Really, this method doesn't incorporate steam in the form that you're familiar with. The Greenhouse method is more about water and heat working together to fuse the hair with moisture.

Simply put, this method can be achieved by applying a plastic cap over the hair and allowing your own body heat to do the work.  Sometimes I'll tie a silk scarf over the cap to further trap in heat.  If I leave the cap on overnight, I wake up with very damp hair in the morning.  If I do it for several minutes, my hair feels softer and ready to receive moisturizer/oil.  

Some claim the heat generated from the Green House Effect stimulates the scalp and promotes healthy hair growth.  I liken it to when someone wears a cast find that their arm hairs are darker, thicker, and long, once the cast is removed.  The warmth and "irritation" to the scalp promotes blood flow which could increase hair growth.

MEDIUM: Sometimes, when my hair is feeling extra dry, I reach for my steam rollers.   Seemed like whenever I used my steam curlers, not only was the hair curly, it was a bit more moisturized.  Then I started to experiment by adding a couple drops of apple cider vinegar to the water to lower the acidity, which helps seal the hair (curbing frizz).   I'd love to experiment with using low pH water as an alternate option to see if the results are similar.

HIGH: On the higher end of the scale there we have steamers.  Steamers range from held held tools like the Q Redew to the steamers we use on wash day.  The last couple of days, I've been playing around with using brief 15 minute steam sessions (under the MicroMist) as a way of elevating moisture.

It went something like this:

Day 1:  My hair was feeling dry and was a bit tangled.  I wanted to see how much moisture the MicroMist would add to dry hair and if it would aid in detangling.  After setting the timer for 15 minutes, I sat under the hood and awaited the final result.  Once the timer went off, I assessed my hair realized that certain areas were damper than others.  The damp areas were really damp (but not wet enough to cause dripping).  Once I was done, I had no definite plan on what to do with the damp hair after the session was over.

Day 2:  After steaming the second day, I braided the damp hair and allowed it to air dry as I completed chores around the house.  When I took down the hair, the waves were defined and moisturized.  The outcome was good, but something was still missing.

Day 3: For my third 15 minute session, I sat on a cushion, to boost me up, so my hair could evenly receive the steam.  This time I decided to mist my hair with Biolage Leave-In (prior to steaming) to take things to the next level.  That was a great move.  Not only was my hair moist, it was conditioned.  This meant that it could better withstand manipulation,  Once the 15 minute session was over, I quickly roller set the damp hair and went to bed.

At this point in the experiment I've identified some clear pros and cons to using steam as part of a daily moisture routine.

PRO: Steam seems to put moisture in the strand vs. normal moisturizing and sealing when we add product directly on the strand.

CON: Steam opens up the cuticle layer of the hair, promoting frizz and volume (not good if you wear sleek hair styles).

CON: Using water alone can have negative effects on the hair, causing dryness and brittleness once the water evaporates.

PRO: My hair is more elastic, it can better sustain manipulation without easily breaking.

Final thoughts:
There are great benefits to using steam, but it requires a bit of thought and planning to make sure you achieve the outcome you want.  Steam is just water in different form.  Just putting water on your hair doesn't respond well. In fact, you might be promoting even more dryness as the water evaporates from the strand. (hydration does not equal moisturization)   You MUST moisturize and seal after you hydrate the hair with steam.  And beyond moisturizing, you have to seal the cuticle layer.  Steam is water + heat which opens the cuticle thereby creating the potential frizz.

The one thing to be mindful of is what you'll do with your hair after steaming.  The easiest way to prevent the frizz is to use steam curlers (correctly).  Or the GHE method for short, measured periods of time.  If you're afraid of sweating out your edges, avoid steam altogether.

The benefits, in my opinion, are worth experimenting until the process is perfected.  My hair went from feeling dry/brittle to moist/hydrated without having to do a full deep conditioning session.   I also experienced increased elasticity which can be quite elusive if you have chemically treated hair.

I'll keep experimenting and tweaking process to make it better. The results are worth it.

  1. Great idea, I had a similar one a while back but never followed through with it. This has encouraged me to get back on it!

  2. I'm currently transitioning from texlaxed to natural and have had GREAT results using steam for about a year and a half. I work out 4-5 mornings a week so I've been wearing wigs during the week since it's just easier, and I keep my hair in medium sized 2 strand twists under my wig. I use my face steamer (the one you recommended here a while ago :) and use it to help detangle prior to my weekly washes. Also, if I have the time mid-week, I'll detangle using the steamer and moisturizer, then seal with a dab of oil and retwist. It's made a world of difference, especially since I'm not manipulating my dry hair, and with the face steamer, I can concentrate the nozzle on each twist as I go, plus it's a lot easier to set up than the standing steamer.
    Also on wash days, I'll use the steamer as I apply my DC to each twist, which helps to penetrate the DC and saves time because once my DC is on, I just cover for a few minutes then rinse. I hope this helps :)

  3. Thanks for sharing Mallory! I'm definitely going to incorporate steam during pre-wash detangling.