Are Steam Straighteners Better for Your Hair? Salon Experts Weigh In

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Do you remember the first-generation steam straighteners on the market? Mine were Remington, released in the early 2000s and came with crimp and wave attachments. As you can imagine, my 18-year-old self was extremely excited to try out a tool that gave me those smooth, straight shiny locks that were all the rage on celebs in the Early Aughts.

It was my entry portal into the world of grown-up beauty products, and, while its plate tech has long been superseded, the use of steam in styling tools has seen a resurgence as of late, courtesy of products such as the L'Oreal Professionnel Steampod 3.0 as well as other models, like the Revamp Progloss.

How do steam straighteners work?

Generally speaking, steam straighteners use a combination of high-pressure steam (generated by a built-in water tank) and heated plates to straighten hair. What sets them apart is their claims to provide a gentler straightening experience that better respects the moisture balance of strands and, therefore, causes less damage. This is a slightly different approach to the straightening experience today's best straighteners offer, as the latter don't depend on steam and use advances in plate technology instead.

Are they better for hair than regular straighteners?

In theory, yes, I believe so, says renowned hairstylist and award-winning salon owner Michael Van Clarke. A key factor in hair condition is hydration. Healthy hair is 97% protein and 3% water. Loss of the natural water content causes a breakdown in the protein structure and then results in thinner, drier, and coarser hair. This can lead to split ends and breakage. Dry heat tools take a little of this moisture when styling, so they leave the hair vulnerable.

Stream straighteners aim to provide a less drying alternative. The steam opens the hair follicle and allows the moisture to penetrate while straightening or curling, explains Neil Moodie, international session artist and L'Oral Professionnel SteamPod 3.0 styler. This results in less damage and a softer, glossier finish. Steampod also smooths a lot faster, with only one or two passings needed on each section, he adds. Its three heat settings (ranging from 356F to 410F) can be adjusted, depending on your hair type. This means steam straighteners could be considered the best straighteners for curly hair for those with more delicate strands.

While overall kinder to hair, this isn't necessarily a green light to reach for the straighteners more frequently. As Michael highlights, If you find something less damaging, using it twice as often negates the benefit. Frequency, technique, and using heat protection products are still key hair health considerations.

How do steam straighteners compare with regular straighteners?

After hearing so much about the Steampod 3.0 and seeing so much buzz for it online, I was eager to try it out for myself to find out if it could give my go-to ghds a run for their money. I was also curious to see just how far the category had come since my last experience of them back in the day.

The pros

The results were really smooth, soft, and super shinyI was extremely impressed. The choice of three temperature settings was a welcome feature. I opted for the lowest 356F or 180Cwhich was perfect for smoothing my long, wavy hair (I personally don't think that anyone needs it to be any hotter than this), requiring on average just one glide per section.

Arrows on the body of the styler were helpful in showing which way to move its plates, and also proved particularly handy when using it to create curls and waves. The ceramic plates and 360 rotating cord were also helpful for this.

The cons

One tank lasted me two styling sessions, which was pretty good. However, refilling it proved slightly time-consuming, plus it also requires demineralized or filtered water to function at its best.

I also had mixed feelings about the integrated comb. While useful for keeping hair in place when creating waves, I did find that it snagged a few times despite having brushed my hair beforehandbut it is detachable. Size-wise, the styler was a little bulkier than regular straighteners too, which took some getting used to.

Our verdict on the L'Oreal Steampod 3.0 steam straighteners

For a smooth and high-shine finish, the Steampod 3.0 is one of the best heated stylers I've triedit's easy to see why it's amassed so many glowing reviews online. My hair felt surprisingly soft after using it, which is a revelation considering that it usually feels parched post-straightening. It was also great at creating curlsI loved how bouncy and healthy they looked.

Having said that, I wouldn't say the Steampod 3.0 is for everyone. If you have very short hair or consider speed and precision to be priorities during styling, slimmer and lighter traditional straighteners may be a better option (as Michael also found after trying). A further consideration is its price: at $360 on Amazon, it's definitely one of the pricier options out there. If straighteners are your go-to tool, though, and you're looking to minimize heat damage, the Steampod 3.0 could be worth the investment.

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