We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. For more information, see our disclosure.
Here is the information and product recommendations you need to decide between a steam straightener vs flat iron. Both devices use heat to style your hair, but there are some key differences in how your hair will look and feel once styled.
To help you decide on which device is better for you, check out our guide below.
Benefits of Steam Hair Tools
Since most of us are already familiar with how a regular device acts on hair, here are some points of comparison to help you decide if a steaming device is right for you.
The main styling benefit for this device is that it makes your hair look shiny, soft, and naturally straight.
With a regular device, your hair is mostly flattened between the plates. This is what gives you that bone straight look. Unfortunately, it can also leave your hair looking heavy and limp.
Alternatively, steaming devices give your hair a light and flowy look. The act of adding in moisture as you straighten helps keep you hair maintain it’s usual volume and movement. It also keeps your hair soft to the touch, rather than making it brittle as regular devices can.
The trade off is that steaming will not get your hair as pin straight as a regular device. You will have some areas that are still obviously wavy. You can certainly make multiple passes, but it’s best to avoid that as much as possible, so that your hair doesn’t sustain heat damage.
Another issue is that your hair may not hold it’s style as long as it will with a regular device. Some people may find that humidity and general wear actually impacts them less when using a a steam iron. However, there are also some users who complain that they experience the opposite.
Hair Health and Frizz
One of the main selling points of a steaming device is that it will make your styling less frizzy and more moisturized. Unfortunately, as you can see in the video reviews below, that doesn’t work in every case. Some hair types will experience far less frizz and static while styling, while others may see no difference, or perhaps more frizz.
One issue is that hair that naturally has tight curls isn’t going to react as well to the moisture. Hair that’s wavy or mostly straight will experience more of a benefit. With that hair type, the steaming should keep your hair smoother, longer.
Your hair’s porosity will also affect how useful this device is for you. Low porosity hair will probably get the most benefit from a device like this, since you’re combining both heat and moisture. The heat will help the moisture penetrate into the hair’s cuticle, and the hair’s porosity will help lock that moisture in.
People with high porosity hair will likely experience more frizz. This hair types reacts poorly to heat, and it won’t get any benefit from having heated vapor blown over it. In fact, you’ll probably see more negative effects than benefits.
So overall, this device can absolutely help your hair be less frizzy and maintain more moisture–assuming you have the right hair type. For more information about hair porosity, you can check out this helpful guide.
Ease of Use
Overall, steaming devices are easy to use and maintain, although they will take a little more work than a regular device.
With a steaming device, you have the added task of caring for the water module. Before you use the device, you have to make sure you’re filling it with the proper type of water. (Some devices will require either purified or deionized water. Make sure you check the manual before you dump regular tap water in there.) When you’re finished, you also need to dump the water out, and let the module dry. You cannot leave the water in there for long periods of time without risk.
Another issue that can complicate these devices, is that the vapor doesn’t come out as easily as it’s supposed to. In most device, the heated vapor comes out when you close the plates together. In theory, this should work well, because you close the plates whenever you want to straighten a section. The issue with this is when the trigger doesn’t work well. A good device will trigger the vapor when you close it lightly. On some of the other devices, you have to clamp the arms together pretty hard in order for it to start steaming, which can get inconvenient. If you want to avoid this problem, just double check the reviews for any mention of the vapor not coming out.
Another huge benefit of these devices is that they style quickly. Even with having to make additional passes, this device will probably take you less time to use overall. If you’re looking for something to use regularly for quick styling, this device is a good option.
Here are some great videos to watch before considering whether or not a steam straightener is for you.
This video is perfect for anyone who is unfamiliar with these devices. She unboxes the device on camera, so all her reactions are honest, and not unlike what most people might experience when trying to use one of these devices for the first time.
I also appreciate that she uses a regular device in the video, for comparison. You can see clearly the difference in how each devices styles. (Although, she doesn’t get a good pass with her regular device, so focus on the ends more than roots.)
Covering the same device as the last one, this tutorial gives a detailed answer to the question, do steam straighteners work on black hair. And if her hair type doesn’t match your own, don’t worry. There are plenty of other steam flat iron reviews natural hair. Just look up this brand or others on youtube to find more.
This tutorial provides a professional steam hair straightener review. The device she uses in this tutorial is different from the one in the previous two videos, however it’s a good representation of how this type of device works on thin, fine hair.
The product used in the first two videos is from Elfina. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, this device is no longer available. Luckily, the model is not that different from most of the steaming devices you can find online.
The third video is a L’Oreal steam pod review. While this is obviously an effective device, it’s at the higher end of most budgets. Before you invest in one, I recommend purchasing a cheaper device first, to see if steaming is going to be beneficial for your hair.
Our Product Recommendations
If you’re looking to buy one of these devices, here are our recommendations for great options for both types. Each of these products has similar materials and price points, which allows you to get the best comparison.
One thing that sets this device apart from some of the other steam-function options, is that it comes with different settings for the vapor. That’s unusual in this type of device.
You can change the amount of vapor from medium to high. It’s an added level of control that can help you achieve the perfect balance for your hair. You can also toggle the vapor, so if you find that you don’t like it, you can just turn it off and use the device as a regular device.
Even apart from the additional steaming features, this device is an good option. It’s got a PTC heater and ceramic coated plates, which should help the device maintain a steady temperature. The added tourmaline on the plates is another factor help make sure your hair stays moisturized and frizz free.
It’s also got floating plates, which can help the device glide through your hair without any extra tugging or pulling, especially when curling.
Overall, this option has a lot of great features that make it effective for just about any styling need.
HSI Ceramic Tourmaline
This device is a favorite of mine to recommend, since it’s got such great features and is so well-reviewed.
The best part of this device is the focus on hair health. For fine or damaged hair, this device is a good choice. It’s got eight different sensors, as well as ceramic plates to help regulate the heat. This means that, whatever temperature you set the device, it will maintain that temperature. You won’t have to worry about hot spots.
In addition to that, the plates contain tourmaline crystals. Tourmaline is great because it provides negative ions, which can help hair maintain it’s natural moisture, without any extra frizz.
If you’re looking for a regular device that can offer some of the same features and a similar results to a steam iron, this device is a great option. It’s not going to add moisture to your hair, but it will help your hair maintain it’s natural moisture. It’s also going to create that bone straight, perfectly styled look that a lot of users are looking for.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out some of our other reviews for more detailed guides and product recommendations.
And if you’re new to styling in general, you can visit our exhaustive guide to learn more about heated styling tools and how to use them.
Which device should you choose?
Steam-function devices are great because they work well with most hair types. Every hair texture and density, from fine thin hair, to coarse thick hair, can use this type of device. You may find the device less effective if you have high porosity hair, or stubborn curls, but it will still work as a quicker, less damaging alternative to a regular iron.
The main consideration with these devices, regardless of hair type, is the style you’re going for. If you want that perfectly straight and sleek look, you won’t get it without a regular device. You need the heat and uninterrupted contact with the plates in order to get that flawless finish.
If you want something for day-to-day styling that will help keep your hair healthier, get a steaming device. While your hair won’t be pin straight, it will be softer, shiner, and more moisturized.
Truthfully, it’s hard to go wrong with either type of device. When deciding between a steam straightener vs flat iron, choose the one that will work best for your hair type and styling needs.