Steam straighteners have actually been around for a while, despite not getting a lot of notoriety. They’re a great counterpart to a typical flat iron, and can give you a healthier, shinier style.
If you’re looking for the best steam flat iron, here are our recommendations as well as some background information to help you decide if these devices are right for you.
How to Steam Hair
Most devices follow the same basic process for use, although it’s important to read the manual that comes with the device, because there will be variation.
The first step is to fill the water tank properly. They’ll likely have a fill line in the tank, or a specific measurement you need to use. Some may even come with a dropper bottle. From there, make sure you turn on the device and the steam function, and wait for the device to heat. When it comes to temperature, it’s ready to use!
If you’re worried, know that steam doesn’t just pour out continually. On most devices, the steam is triggered each time you clamp down on the arms, that way it’s only activated when you’re actually straightening.
And if you don’t want the steam, most devices also work as a regular flat iron. Just don’t activate the steam function.
When using this type of straightener, there’s a few things you want to make sure you follow through with in order to get the best experience.
Use Water Appropriately
Don’t use tap water in the device! (Unless, for some strange reason, the manual tells you to.) Tap water can cause build-up of lime and other minerals to clog up or otherwise ruin the device. Use distilled or whatever type of water is recommended in the user’s manual.
It may seem like a small matter, but it’s important to make sure that the water being used is appropriate for the device.
You also want to avoid leaving water in the device after you’re done using it, as this can be unsanitary.
With a regular device, you can get away with rushing it a little bit and straightening your hair before the device has come to temperature. With these steam ones, you need the water and plates to both be hot together. Typically, when the device is ready, you’ll see steam shoot out when you clamp the arms together. Just check it every so often.
Speaking of steam, don’t forget that steam is super heated water, so it’s also going to be hot.
The good news is that the steam coming out of these devices isn’t usually that bad. It doesn’t stay hot for long the same way that steam from a pot of boiling water will. But it still pays to be careful.
Make sure you’re not pointing it directly at your face, or keeping it close to the hand that’s holding your hair. You can also go with a protective glove for extra safety.
Keep the Teeth at the Top
A lot of steam devices double as flat irons with teeth. The teeth may line both sides of a the plates, however most devices have teeth along one plate, either at the top or the bottom.
These teeth should be placed on the side of the device that’s closest to your scalp. That way the teeth can help guide the hair into a flat, even layer as it goes through the plates.
You should also comb your hair beforehand, to make sure that the teeth don’t get caught on any tangles.
Benefits of Steaming Hair
There are quite a few benefits of using steam. Here are the ones that users typically experience.
- smoother usage, with the device tugging less on the hair.
- shinier hair
- more volume
- saves time, since there are two sources of heat.
- looks more natural and healthy
- helps keep the style better in humidity
- hair seems lighter and has more “flow” to it.
- hair feels softer, since you’re adding moisture instead of just drying it out.
Of course, with any device, there are downsides. Here are some issues that come up when using this type of straightener.
- hair won’t be as pin straight or perfectly styled as it would be with a traditional device.
- people with thick or coarse hair may have to make multiple passes over each section of hair.
- the amount of steam the device can generate on one water tank is finite. There is a possibility that you can run out of steam while styling if you’re using it too liberally, or for too long. (However, keep in mind, that the steam won’t be used unless you clamp the arms together.)
- Sometimes, when the device arrives, it still has water in the tank. This is a complaint I’ve seen on multiple devices. I can’t say what the issue is in every case, but I do know that this usually occurs because there may be left over water when the manufacturer tests the steam function. Either way, it’s still unpleasant to have your device arrive and appear used.
Here are the straighteners that we felt were good choices, based on the reviews and the device’s features.
- 265℉ to 450℉ temperature range
- Temperature dial with 5℉ increments
- You can turn off the steam function
- 30 minutes worth of steam
I’ve recommended this device previously, as well as others from this brand. Most of them have good reviews and a fair price, so they’re worth checking out.
For this particular device, I like the amount of temperature control you get. There’s plenty of range, and a lot of selections available, so you should be able to find a temperature that’s perfect for your hair. They’ve also increased the tank size on their device, which should give you plenty of steam.
Flat Iron with Teeth and Steam
- 1 1/4 inch ceramic plates
- 300℉-430℉ temperature range
- 5 heat settings
- LCD temperature display
- swivel cord
This option is good for anyone who prefers having wider plates. It’s definitely beneficial for people with thicker or longer hair, since you get more contact between the heated elements and whatever section of hair you’re working on.
One potential complaint is that this device doesn’t have a lot of temperature settings. For anyone who is as obsessive about the right temperature as me, or just has a preferred temperature, this may not work for you. That said, I think the temperature range that they provide will work for most hair types, so it should be fine. If you’re the sort of person who just likes to turn it on and start, no hassle, then this might actually be a better option.
Another notable point is that the device has teeth. I personally like the combination of teeth and steam. In my view, the teeth can help place the hair in an even layer, so that it all gets an equal amount of steam. This makes the device more effective overall. However, if you find that teeth are not for you, the ones on this device are removable. That’s also helpful for when you just want to use it as a normal straightener.
Steam Hair Straightener Brush
- Ceramic Teeth
- 300℉-450℉ temperature range
- 5 heat settings
- Temperature lock function
- LCD temperature display
- swivel cord
- accessories: two hair clips and a measuring bottle
I wanted to include this option as an alternative straightener. It’s more of a mix between a flat iron and a straightening brush, to which they added a steam option. That makes it worth checking out if just for the fact that it’s unique.
Plus, it’s well known that straightening brushes and steam devices can help you style your hair faster. (Although neither of them get your hair as flat and pin straight as a traditional straightener.) I assume having both in one device would make it that much more time-saving.
You can see a more detailed review for straightening brushes here, and here, if you’re interested. The main point for this device is that, with the right hair type, it can make styling more effective. People with fine hair, or hair that’s mostly wavy rather than curly, will get the most of out this device. If you have coarse, stubbornly curly hair though, I would stick to a more traditional option.
These types of devices promise quite a lot of benefits. They’re supposed to make styling faster and easier, while leaving your hair shinier and softer. And for the most part, they seem to deliver.
If you can’t decide, your focus should be on what type of style you want. If you want salon perfect hair, stick to a traditional straightener, without steam. If you want a heated style that looks natural and is easy to accomplish, then these devices are a great option.
From there, stick to a device that best compliments your styling needs. When you know what you want out of a device, and what works best for your hair type, it’s easy to find the best steam flat iron for you.