What is scalp steaming, and could it be the secret to your best hair yet?

If they say our scalp deserves just as much attention as our face, then the question we want to know is: should we be scalp steaming? If the benefits are anything to go by, then yes, yes we should. After all, is there any better feeling than a freshly washed head of hair at the salon? Throw into the mix the added relaxation of a scalp steam and we can see why it’s so popular.

Scalp steaming is something that those with curly and afro hair have been doing for years. It’s also a common treatment in Korea, promising to remove dead skin cells and product build-up, as well as improving blood circulation — not to mention, it makes your scalp feel incredible afterwards. After sharing the results and benefits on TikTok, it seems that more people want to try the treatment.

What is scalp steaming?

First, let’s look into what it actually is. The name pretty much describes what it is, “Scalp steaming is a treatment that applies moist heat to the scalp (and hair) usually for about 20-30 mins,” says consultant dermatologist and hair specialist Dr Sharon Wong.

The steamer is directed towards your scalp, usually whilst your head is resting in the washbowl, and carefully gets rid of build-up and deep cleans the hair. Often a scalp massager is added into the treatment for maximum benefits.

What are the benefits of scalp steaming?

There are actually a bunch of benefits, besides just feeling great. “The combination of heat and water softens dead skin cells/scales, making it easier to wash off the scalp without having to use harsher methods to exfoliate,” explains Dr Wong. Think of it as a deep clean for your scalp without any harsh scrubbing necessary.

“Inevitably the hair will also be exposed to the steam which improves hydration of the hair, as well as the scalp skin. The moist heat swells and opens up the cuticle layer allowing water molecules into the hair shaft,” she adds.

“Curly hair types, which are inherently drier, especially benefit from steaming as a gentle yet effective conditioning method, particularly when combined with moisturising treatments that lock in the water content in the hair.”

It means the products you use afterwards can work more effectively, too. “By removing surface dead skin, it also means treatments applied to the scalp afterwards are able to work more effectively,” Dr Wong says. This type of treatment, when combined with the right products, can also help restore the curl pattern.

Is there anything you can do at home that has similar outcomes?

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to steam your scalp at home (unless you have a steam but that comes with its own potential dangers) but there are still things you can do to help shift the scalp build-up. “If the scaling is relatively milk, or you’re simply maintaining a healthy cell turnover, then this can be achieved using scalp exfoliants, which contains actives such as salicylic acid or glycolic,” Dr Wong says. Thanks to the increase in scalp care over the last 18 months, we’ve got plenty of scrubs to choose from. We particularly love the Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub and The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Purifying & Balancing Hair & Scalp Scrub for a physical exfoliation (though, go careful on overdoing it!) and The Inkey List’s Glycolic Acid- Exfoliating Scalp Scrub.


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