steam straightener vs flat iron

Steam Straightener Vs Flat Iron | Which One Is Better For Hair In 2024

 Which is better – steam straightener vs flat iron? What are the pros and cons of each? And which straightener is better for curly hair. Find out more here!

If there is one hair styling tool that is a favorite of many women out there it’s the hair straightener. But did you know that there are several different types of straighteners?

The most popular one of course is the flat iron which straightens hair by clamping down your strands between two hot plates to change their texture.

Related: Best Steam Hair Straightener

But there are others like hot brushes, steam hair straighteners and even blow dryers that help straighten hair. 

And choosing one among these can become a real dilemma. 

So today I will expand on the differences between a stream straightener and a flat iron and which one you should choose!

Steam Straightener Vs Flat Iron

At A Glance:

  • Steam hair straighteners simply refer to hair styling tools that have a barrel full of hot water that turns to steam while you use it on hair.
  • This makes straightening easier as it provides extra heat and moisture. Steam straighteners can be either hot styling brushes or flat irons. It’s just that these tools use steam as the primary source of heat. 
  • Flat irons can come in different materials too like ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium.
  • But the chief difference between a steam straightener and flat iron is that water is used in the former but a flat iron simply uses hot plates to straightener hair. 

What Is A Steam Straightener

A steam hair straightener can resemble a flat iron at first glance. But the main difference between the structure of both hot styling tools is that a steam straightener has a chamber where you need to fill in water and its plates have tiny ceramic bristles (that resemble a boar bristle brush).

Now the water chamber obviously needs to be filled up with fresh water every time you use the straightener on your hair. 

And the bristles help move the steam to the hair, so it’s not the plates that are straightening your hair. 

Steam straighteners are really effective on natural 4c hair!

Pros And Cons Of Steam Straightener

Advantages of Using a Steam Straightener 

  • A steam straightener is one of the best hairstyling tools for low porosity hair as it helps open hair cuticles and adds moisture to the shaft.
  • It also helps frizzy hair look shiny and smooth as dryness is one of the main causes of frizz. 
  • If you’re worried about direct heat causing damage to your hair, then a steam straightener is good for you. They don’t cause “hot spots” in hair as they don’t use plates. 
  • Steam straighteners are a much better option for curly/coily/4c hair types as they give high temperatures but don’t supply direct heat. And also because the steam helps control frizz. 

pros and cons of steam straightener

Disadvantages of Using a Steam Straightener 

  • The bristles on the steam straighteners make it difficult to straighten large sections of hair at one go. So using a steam straightener on very thick or long hair can get difficult.
  • You have to fill in the water chamber every time you use the steam iron. So that can get quite frustrating
  • As steam is the only source of heat in these types of straighteners, the tool won’t work if the water in the chamber dries out completely. So you can expect the steam straightener to work only for 15-20 minutes tops.
  • Steam is gentler on hair than direct heat from plates. However, the steam can stay on hair and increase the temperature. So it can actually cause damage to fine, thin hair.
  • You cannot control the temperature of a steam hair straightener. 

What Is A Flat Iron

Flat irons are what we call “regular hair straighteners”. They usually consist of two plates made of either ceramic, tourmaline or titanium that can straighten hair by passing it between them.

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These plates are smooth to prevent snagging or tugging of hair and certainly don’t come with bristles like the steam iron does. 

Pros And Cons Of A Flat Iron

Advantages of Using a Flat Iron

  • Flat irons do not require water to be filled every time before use. So it’s less cumbersome to use a flat iron, especially if you’re straightening hair on a busy morning.
  • Also, the lack of bristles and the variation in the width of flat iron plates means that you can straighten wider sections of hair and longer hair in one go. 
  • Flat irons are much better for high porosity hair as these hair types will not take kindly to excess moisture from the steam.
  • Ceramic flat irons get heated up slowly and distribute heat evenly so are much better for finer, damaged hair. 
  • The biggest advantage of a flat iron over a steam straightener is that you can control the temperature on this device and go low or high depending on your hair needs. 
  • Flat irons also come in different sizes and are generally lighter due to the lack of a water chamber. So these are much more convenient for travel. 

steam straightener vs ghd

Disadvantages of Using a Flat Iron

  • Some flat irons can create “hot pockets” where one area of the plate is more heated than the rest. This can lead to damage and uneven straightening. 
  • Unless the flat iron is equipped with negative ion technology it’s not very useful for controlling frizz. 
  • You might need to go over curly hair several times to get it right with a flat iron.
  • There are several different materials of flat irons and you’ll have to match one with your hair needs exactly to prevent damage and increase efficiency of straightening. For example, ceramic does better with thin, damaged hair while titanium is better for thick hair. 

Differences Between Steam Vs Flat Iron


are steam straighteners good for curly hair
DifferencesSteam StraightenerFlat Iron
BuildComes with bristles on the plates that release steam to straighten hair Designed with ceramic, tourmaline or titanium plates that get heated to straighten hair
Temperature SettingsNo temperature settings available as only steam is used Multiple temperature settings available and you can change the amount of heat on hair
Travel FriendlinessWater barrel makes the steam straightener bulkier Comes in different sizes and generally more lightweight
Ease of StraighteningBristles make it hard to go over wider sections or multiple sections at onePlates width differ and larger ones can easily straighten thick, long sections of hair
Quickness of StraighteningNeeds time for water to get heated up and you can do only small sections of a timeQuicker as you can select larger sections of hair and some irons with 30 second heat up feature
Frizz ControlAdds moisture to hair so good for controlling frizz and suited for low porosity hairNot very effective at unless they contain negative ion technology
Suitability For Damaged HairSuits damaged hair as steam doesn’t directly apply heat to hairCan suit damaged hair if ceramic plates are used at low heat. 

Is Flat Iron Or Steam Straightener Better For Straightening Natural 4c Hair

When it comes to straightening natural 4C hair, both flat irons and steam straighteners can be used, but they have different characteristics and considerations. Here’s a breakdown of each option:

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Flat Iron:

  1. Heat: Flat irons use direct heat to straighten the hair. They typically have heating plates made of materials like ceramic, tourmaline, or titanium, which provide even heat distribution and reduce heat damage.
  2. Control: Flat irons offer precise temperature control, allowing you to adjust the heat according to your hair’s needs. This is especially important for 4C hair, which can be more fragile and prone to heat damage.
  3. Straightening Ability: Flat irons are known for their ability to create sleek, straight styles. They provide a smooth, polished finish and can effectively straighten even tightly coiled 4C hair. However, it may require multiple passes and higher heat settings, which can increase the risk of heat damage if not used properly.
  4. Versatility: Flat irons are versatile styling tools that can be used for various hairstyles, including straightening, curling, and creating waves. They offer flexibility in achieving different looks with a single tool.

Steam Straightener:

  1. Moisture: Steam straighteners use steam technology to straighten the hair. The steam helps to infuse moisture into the hair, minimizing the drying effects of heat and reducing the risk of heat damage.
  2. Hair Health: Steam straighteners are considered gentler on the hair compared to traditional flat irons because they help to hydrate the hair while straightening. This can be beneficial for 4C hair, which tends to be drier and more prone to moisture loss.
  3. Straightening Ability: While steam straighteners can straighten the hair, they may not provide the same level of sleekness and smoothness as flat irons. They are better suited for achieving a more natural, voluminous straight look rather than an ultra-sleek finish.
  4. Usage Considerations: Steam straighteners require the use of distilled water to generate steam. This means you need to ensure the water reservoir is filled and maintained during use, which can add an extra step to the straightening process.

Ultimately, the choice between a flat iron and a steam straightener depends on your hair’s specific needs and your desired outcome.

Flat irons provide precise heat control and a sleek finish, while steam straighteners offer added moisture and a more natural straight look.

Whichever tool you choose, it’s crucial to prioritize hair protection, use heat protectant products, and apply proper heat styling techniques to minimize damage and maintain hair health.

Benefits of Using Stream Hair Straightener For Damaged Hair

Using a steam hair straightener can offer several benefits for damaged hair. Here are five advantages of using a steam hair straightener:

  1. Moisture Infusion: Steam hair straighteners work by emitting steam along with heat, which helps to infuse moisture into the hair strands. This is particularly beneficial for damaged hair, which often lacks moisture and can be prone to dryness and breakage. The added moisture from the steam can help restore hydration to the hair, making it look healthier and more nourished.
  2. Reduced Heat Damage: Traditional flat irons can cause heat damage to the hair, especially when used at high temperatures or with frequent styling. Steam hair straighteners, on the other hand, use steam to help protect the hair from excessive heat. The steam acts as a barrier, reducing the direct contact of heat on the hair and minimizing the risk of heat-induced damage.
  3. Enhanced Hair Smoothness: The steam emitted by these straighteners helps to smooth the hair cuticles and reduce frizz. This results in a smoother and sleeker appearance for the hair, even in cases of damaged and frizzy hair. The steam also aids in taming flyaways and promoting a more polished finish.
  4. Gentle Straightening: Steam hair straighteners are generally considered gentler on the hair compared to traditional flat irons. The combination of steam and heat allows for a more gentle and gradual straightening process. This is particularly beneficial for damaged hair that may be more delicate and prone to breakage. The gentler approach helps to minimize stress on the hair strands while still achieving a straightened look.
  5. Improved Hair Texture: Using a steam hair straightener can lead to an improved hair texture, especially for damaged hair. The added moisture and steam can help to soften and smoothen the hair, making it more manageable and easier to style. This can be particularly advantageous for damaged hair that tends to be coarse, brittle, or lacking in elasticity.
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It’s important to note that while steam hair straighteners offer these benefits, proper usage and hair care practices are still essential to maintain hair health. This includes using heat protectant products, avoiding excessive heat exposure, and incorporating regular deep conditioning treatments into your hair care routine.

FAQs About Steam Hair Straightener Vs Flat Iron

Are steam straighteners good for curly hair?

Yes, absolutely. Curly hair needs a lot more heat than regular hair textures to get perfectly straightened. Yet at the same time, they are more fragile and prone to damage. So these are perfect for straightening curly hair as the steam doesn’t directly heat the curls yet the moisture removes frizz to give you perfect straight locks. 

Do steam straighteners make hair frizzy?

No, not at all. On the contrary steam straighteners are your best bet if you’re going to straighten frizzy hair! Dry hair is one of the biggest reasons for frizz. So a steam straightener that helps open up cuticles and adds moisture to your strands can help control frizz to a certain degree. 

Do flat irons ruin your hair?

The correct answer here is… it depends. Any sort of heat applied to hair whether from the different types of flat iron or any other heat source will damage hair to a certain degree. However, the amount of heat and the fragility of your hair is what determines if a flat iron will ruin your hair. 
A ceramic flat iron which doesn’t get too hot and heats up evenly will not cause much damage. But a titanium flat iron might be safe on thick, curly hair but end up ruining fine, thin hair as it gets too hot. 

Final Thoughts on Steam Straightener Vs Flat Iron

To sum it all up, steam straighteners are the better match for coarse, frizzy hair as they provide extra heat and the moisture from the steam can control frizz to a certain degree.

However, if you have straighter, finer hair textures than I’d suggest going for a flat iron, especially one with a ceramic coating as they help distribute heat evenly and don’t get too hot. 

Additionally you should also consider hair porosity while using these products. 

A steam straightener can do low porosity hair much better as it opens up hair cuticles and provides a sort of conditioning treatment by allowing moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. 

On the other hand, high porosity hair which is already prone to hygral fatigue might not appreciate all that steam.

So choose wisely!

Why You Should Trust Haireveryday?

The author of this article, Leah Marie Priest has a degree in Cosmetology with years of experience in dealing with hair care, scalp care, and hairstyling. As someone who extensively deals with all kinds of hair textures, products, styling methods and more, hair Leah Marie knows what kind of products and procedures suit each hair type and person. We have also tested these hair products and processes ourselves to provide you an unbiased review about every product. Each of our articles are also reviewed by a team of medical professionals so that you get the most accurate and expert-reviewed information.

Also Read:

Best Hair Straightener for Short Hair

Best Wet To Dry Flat Iron

Best Flat Irons For Curly Hair

How To Straighten Hair With Flat Iron

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