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Bring New Life to Dry Hair with Steam Therapy

Restore body and bounce to your stressed tresses with this invigorating natural treatment

Hair is life—or it is to some people. A healthy head of hair well-groomed can make or break a day. There’s a reason the phrase “bad hair day” is a stand-in for a person’s overall mood.

But hair is more than a cosmetic concern. The integrity and thickness of hair can reflect the quality of your health. Poor nutrition and hygiene can thin hair or leave it limp. And excessive hair loss can indicate any number of serious health problems.       

Hair also reacts to its environment. Humidity, dry heat, wind, airborne pollutants—they can all affect how your hair lays on your head. It’s frustrating to put so much care into your hair only to have it all undone by barometric mayhem or poor air quality.  Of course, a lot of the integrity of your hair—its color, thickness, and shape—is largely a function of genetics. You have the hair your ancestors passed on to you.    

With so many factors regarding your hair’s health and appearance out of your control, it makes sense that so much time and money is invested in improving hair. It’s estimated that the average woman will spend as much as $55,000 dollars on hair products and maintenance over her lifetime, according to a survey by beauty site Look Fantastic.

The Clean Beauty Movement

The paradox that many women encounter is that the more they invest in hair products, the worse things seem to get. That’s because many hair-care products are heavy with chemicals that can damage hair in the long term (men are also affected by this, especially those concerned with thinning hair). What a lot of consumers don’t know is that beauty products do not have to be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) before they’re sold to the public.

According to a report in the New York Times, this can lead to some cosmetics and hair products causing serious problems. The Times’ article says that researchers have “traced reproductive health issues and mercury poisoning to hair and skin products used by many women of color.”

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With so little oversight, you can’t rely on labels. The group “Women’s Voices of the Earth” distribute an extensive fact sheet of chemicals used in salons that they feel are harmful to health but may not be listed on products. The site paleohacks.com says that “cosmetic store and salon products usually contain 30 or more synthetic ingredients—even those claiming to be natural and organic.” Even terms like “botanical” and “eco” on the label can’t be trusted.       

Concerns over toxic, under-regulated cosmetics and hair products have led to the “clean beauty” movement. Clean beauty favors natural, organic remedies that are consistent with a safe and healthy wellness lifestyle. An increasing amount of women converting to the clean beauty movement are choosing steam therapy as their go-to hair treatment.

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Steaming has long been a natural solution for dry and lifeless hair. Let’s look at why it may be so effective, and why the best way to steam is with a steam room.

How Steam Can Make Dry Hair More Vibrant and Full

Hair steamers for salon and home use have gained popularity in recent years. Steam’s combination of heat and water may rehabilitates dry hair, restoring elasticity and drawing out your hair’s vibrant color. And steam just might help make other natural hair products more effective. Steam lifts “the cuticle on the hair shaft and allows conditioners and treatments to penetrate each strand,” says hair expert Monae Everett.     

But hair steamers have limitations. When a person places their head in a bubble helmet for a steam application, they’re missing out on a more intensive and immersive experience. This is why some beauty companies also sell facial steamers as separate accessories to hair steamers. Localized application is just that: limited in intensity and scope.       

Hair, like so many other features of the human body, is greatly influenced by your overall health profile. That’s why medical professionals advocate diets specifically intended to improve hair quality (more on that below). Steam has so many potential full-body benefits that it makes sense to take advantage of them as you seek to improve your hair. Limiting a steam treatment to one part of the body is a missed opportunity.        

Steam Rooms: No Outdoor Toxins

So why do steam rooms work so well for hair? Your scalp has five layers and hundreds of blood vessels and glands. It’s a busy place with a complicated anatomy. Steam has the ability to penetrate into these sensitive areas to bring soothing therapeutic heat and moisture to sensitive tissue and hair follicles.       

Hair’s chemical structure reacts to hydrogen due to bundles of long keratin proteins. This forms hydrogen bonds that are sensitive to humidity, say scientists. This effect changes the length of hair. In fact, hair’s molecular structure is so susceptible to moisture that some hygrometers (devices that measure humidity) use hair as a measuring instrument.

Steam rehydrates dry hair, but unlike outdoors humidity, a steam room is a clean, enclosed environment. None of the airborne pollutants and impurities that attack hair on a regular basis are present in a steam room. (That includes indoor impurities from cleansers and aerosols.) You get all the benefits of the thermic moisture without the drawbacks.    

But even clean steam exerts different results depending on hair quality. Some people have more porous hair than others. If you’re somebody who finds that your hair becomes frizzy when exposed to moisture, try using a silicone-based smoothing serum to prevent that puffy look after a steam session.         

But whether you have porous or low-porosity hair, you can still benefit from steam therapy. Here’s how.

Steam nourishes hair by opening pores. If you have dry hair, you also have a dry scalp. A session in a steam room will change that. Steam opens the pores of the skin and cleanses your scalp, clearing impurities from your skin’s dermis and subcutaneous tissues. This helps clean out ducts and glands, rejuvenating hair follicles by increasing the flow of sebum. Sebum is your body’s natural moisturizer. It protects your scalp and hair by forming a barrier against oxidative damage.

Steam helps increase skin circulation, rejuvenating the scalp. While the hyperthermic effect of steam is opening your skin’s pores, it’s also increasing skin circulation. This “epidural blood perfusion” effect helps rejuvenate the scalp and hair follicles, which may help limit hair loss in those with thinning hair. While steam won’t prevent balding, it will help improve your overall hair integrity and rehabilitate the scalp.

Steam helps repair and nourish damaged hair. Taken together, improving scalp circulation and the purifying effects of opening and cleansing pores work together to help repair hair that’s been harmed by free radicals and outside toxins. By repairing keratin proteins and hydrogen bonds, your hair will retain more moisture and healing nutrients. These help increase collagen and overall hair porosity, leaving your hair shiny and full of body.

Other Natural Hair Solutions

Those with dry hair should utilize other natural treatments. These include:

Increase your intake of B vitamins, trace minerals, and essential fatty acids. Omega-3s from fatty fish (e.g., salmon, tuna, mackerel) and other vitamins and minerals can help your hair follicles stay healthy. According to research, micronutrients like folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc, and iron promotes hair integrity. In general, eat clean, get plenty of protein, and avoid processed foods for better overall health and stronger hair.

Try natural oils. Jojoba oil and essential oils like rosemary and pine can provide lipids and peptides that help protect and heal hair. One study found that coconut oil penetrates the shaft of the hair, which helps relieve dryness and reduce dandruff. When using oils, make sure to thoroughly wash after you apply the oil to your hair.

Try a honey and olive oil hair mask. Some hair-care authorities advocate a mix of honey and olive oil. Apply it for 30 minutes under a plastic wrap.

Avoid the bad stuff. As mentioned above, you don’t want to fry your hair with harsh chemicals, so do your homework and seek out organic and natural hair products.

Caring for Hair in a Steam Session

Before your steam bath: As mentioned above, if your hair has a tendency to get frizzy from humidity, use a smoothing serum with a silicone base or one with a light oil shine base. A little bit of steam goes a long way, so if your hair tends to react strongly to steam, wrap your hair in a towel for a portion of the steam session.

After your steam bath: Hair-care experts recommend a good acid-balanced conditioner and cool water rinse after time in a steam room.


You can join the clean beauty movement and restore color and vibrancy to your hair with a home steam unit. Residential steam rooms are more affordable than people assume, and installation can be a breeze with the right unit and contractor.   

MrSteam can help you find a home steam solution that’s right for your residence and your budget. Check out a few case studies, then visit a dealer showroom to get a closer look at the ideal steam room for your situation. Your hair and body will thank you.

Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Home Steam Shower

Topics: Benefits of Steam, Health & Wellness