Are steam straighteners better for your hair? Salon experts weigh in

Steam straighteners claim to seal moisture into strands - but will they still cause damage?

Steam straighteners
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you remember the first pairs of steam straighteners? 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 what were the best hair straighteners I could possibly imagine. 

It was my entry portal into the world of grown-up beauty products and, while its plate tech has long been superseded, the use of steam in styling tools has seen a resurgence as of late courtesy of the L’Oreal Professionnel Steampod 3.0 as well as other models like the Revamp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

Are they better for hair than regular straighteners?

“In theory, yes, I believe so,” says hairstylist 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 leave the hair vulnerable.” 

Stream straighteners look 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’Oréal Professionnel Steampod 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 180°C to 210°C) can be adjusted, depending on your hair type. This means steam straighteners could be the best straighteners for curly hair. 

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.

See our full L'Oréal Professionnel SteamPod 3.0 review

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 keen 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 as a teenager, so after blow drying with the best hair dryer, I gave these modern steam straighteners a go.

The pros

The results were really smooth, soft and super shiny – I was extremely impressed. The choice of three temperature settings was a welcome feature. I opted for the lowest – 180°C – which 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 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 demineralised 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 me having brushed my hair beforehand – but it is detachable. Size-wise, the styler was a little bulkier than regular straighteners, 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 tried – it’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 curls – I 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 speed and precision are your priorities, slimmer and lighter traditional straighteners may be a better option (as Michael also found after trying it). A further consideration is its price – at £235, it’s definitely one of the most expensive stylers out there. If straighteners are your go-to tool, though, and you’re looking to minimise heat damage, the Steampod 3.0 could be worth the investment.