Steam Processors and Hair Steamers—Pros and Cons

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Steam processors, or hair steamers, are not new to the salon industry, but you definitely don't see them in every salon. Yes, change is hard, and colorists are extra wary of making changes to their precious color formulas and processing times. Using new tools and machines can be scary, I completely understand. No one wants to turn their clients into guinea pigs. But change can also point to evolution, and steam processing just might be the way of the future.

A steam processor works with the use of vapor steam and heat, which opens up the cuticle and allows the color molecules to penetrate deeply and quickly, while still maintaining the integrity of the hair. Compared to conventional over-head dryers, hair steamers allow for shorter processing times, because the color does not take as long to penetrate the cuticle. Steam processors are extra handy for stubborn colors like red, that have a hard time getting into the hair due to their larger color molecule makeup. Hair steamers can also be used with conditioning and other hair treatments. The steam will drive the product deep into the hair, leaving it smooth and shiny. A hair steamer is also a great treatment for dandruff and itchy scalp. The steam will infuse moisture into the scalp and the heat will kill any fungus or bacteria that is causing the itching.

Steam processors are easy to use and the only regular maintenance they require is the water tank to be filled. They are lightweight and portable with adjustable steam levels, a low-water indicator light and an adjustable angled hood. They look very much like a regular hood dryer, except with a water tank and a fancier control pad on the back.

Steam processors can be used with all types of hair color, so no need to adjust what you're already using. Unlike over-head dryers, you will not cover the head with a plastic cap while processing. You can still wrap the hairline with cotton to avoid any drips, but the steam needs to reach the hair in order to work. Most stylists claim that their processing times are cut in half when using hair steamers. You'll obviously want to play around with it before using it on clients and determine what the best processing time will be for each. Less processing time means you can see more clients in a day, which leads to more money in your pocket.

That's a good thing because these things don't always come cheap—at least, not the fancy ones, which can be around $1800. There are cheaper versions on the market but I would at least go with a mid-range to high-end brand. The big sell is that you will save time and make more money by using a steam processor but this might not be true for all salons. Weigh the financial pros and cons before investing in a big ticket item like this. 

Important Things to Remember When Using a Hair Steamer

  • Use distilled water when filling up your hair steamer. Unfiltered water contains particles, chlorine and other damaging elements that can shorten the life of your hair steamer. Simply using water that has run through a Brita filter will do the trick.
  • Never turn the steamer on if there is not water in the tank. Running your hair steamer without water will damage your machine.
  • Steam is powerful and can be dangerous if not used properly. Check with your client regularly while they are under the steamer to make sure they are comfortable and not getting too hot.

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