Is Your Steaming Flat Iron Giving You Bubble Hair?


Is Your Steaming Flat Iron Giving You Bubble Hair?

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If you want your hair to lock in moisture and smoothness all day, there’s no better tool than a steaming flat iron.

Raise your hand if you’re using one. ?

With revolutionary products like the L’Oreal Steampod, steam hair straighteners have changed the way we feed moisture into our hair.

Call me lazy – but I don’t have time to faff around every day with washing, conditioning, and detangling.

A few shots of steam in my hair does it nicely.

What’s more …

I can add my choice of essential oil to customize the continuous flow of vaporized air. For example, I use argan oil for a sleek finish or petitgrain for its uplifting scent.

At the crux of it all, a steaming flat iron nestles moisture deep into your hair at the click of a switch to prevent frizz attacks and split ends.

But there’s one big problem: Bubble hair.

That is if you’re not using yours correctly or worse, using a cheap steam flat iron.

In case you’re wondering …

No. This is not a new hip hairstyle trending on Instagram.

It’s hair damage that happens from excessive heat applied to damp or wet hair.

So are you overdoing it with steam in your hair with the wrong tool?

What Is Bubble Hair, Exactly?

To explain this in simple terms:

It’s air bubbles that creep into your hair shaft from evaporating water. Also known as Bubble Hair Deformity (Wikipedia).

It’s a type of thermal injury that deforms your hair shafts with bubble-like areas to cause internal cavities.

Although you can’t see it with your naked eyes, a microscopic view will reveal node-like formations with fraying and distal splitting of your hair.

If you’re using a substandard steaming hair straightener at high temperatures, you’re essentially boiling your hair to form air bubbles inside every strand.

Like this:

bubble hair symptom
Bubble hair explained

Once the air bubbles are in, they make your hair strands feel bumpy.

That’s because too much heat forces vaporized water into your hair fibers to expand them raggedly with air-filled spaces.

The problem?

  • Rough hair won’t slide off each other
  • They cause friction and frizz
  • Your hair becomes hard to detangle
  • The bubbles snap, crackle, and break your hair

Now, If you’ve been using a steam hair straightener lately …

Thread your fingers through your hair and have a feel. Does it feel rough and bumpy?

How To Tell If You Have Bubble Hair?

how to choose the best steam flat iron for hair
Are steam flat irons bad for your hair?

You can tell if you have bubble hair syndrome by the following signs:

  • Your hair feels fragile
  • You have patchy hair loss due to fragile hair
  • Your hair appears dry and wiry
  • Your hair looks uneven
  • You have too much split ends
  • You always wake up with the biggest tangled rats
  • And your hair sheds more than usual

According to research published in the International Journal of Trichology, when analyzing the cause of dry and brittle hair on a 22-year-old female, her hair showed multiple air-filled spaces within the shaft.

She reportedly used a hot styling tool on wet hair for only twice a month which was enough to cause the condition.

Here’s the case study: Steaming flat irons and bubble hair anomalies

Now, I know this may put you off from using a steaming iron on your hair. But you don’t have to worry if you’re doing it right and using the right tool.

I am still using mine, and I don’t have bubbles in my hair.

All you have to do is listen to your hair and use the correct temperature.

Keep reading; I will tell you more about the right tools and temperatures.

But first, let’s fix the problem.

How To Fix Bubble Hair

Although your hair may seem to have a mind of its own, it’s important to understand that it’s not a living thing.

Therefore, human hair cannot repair itself.

The bad news:

If your hair feels severely damaged from heat styling, chop it off and let it grow out again. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a fortune trying to keep up with maintenance.

“One of the most common misconceptions about hair is that it is alive, when in fact hair is nonliving and does not heal itself once it is injured. For this reason, once the hair is damaged, it cannot heal itself except through new hair growth at the scalp.”

Dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.

In severe cases, bubble hair destroys the cortex and weakens the surrounding cuticle. So there’s no need to hang on to such type of damaged hair.

The good news:

If your hair doesn’t feel terribly damaged yet, a keratin hair treatment is your savior.


The treatment seeks out damaged parts, cracks, and holes in your hair to replenish them with keratin and collagen. The 2 most important building blocks in your hair.

While keratin rebuilds the hair fibers, collagen keeps your hair supple and even with elasticity.

And the best part …

After a hair botox treatment:

  • Your hair dries faster (No blow drying)
  • Your hair stays frizz-free
  • Your hair retains moisture (No need for steam hair straightening)

Essentially, you get hassle-free ready-to-go hair that looks put together every day with minimal effort.

Other than on the days where you want to go extreme with your hairstyle, you may not even need a heat styling tool.

When you do … Follow my tips below to keep your hair in good shape.

How To Stop Bubbles From The Start

Prevention is better than cure.

Sounds cliché, but this is the best way to go.

Use Less Heat

Experiment with different ways to style your hair without relying on hair straighteners or blow dryers.

For example:

Instead of curling your hair with a straightener or curling iron, alternate with heatless hair curlers like Spoolies.

If you love to keep your hair straight and formal, invest in a good keratin treatment that keeps your hair sleek, frizz-free, and smooth for at least 3 months.

Want more ideas?

Search Pinterest or Instagram for heatless hairstyles. I am sure you’ll be overwhelmed with creativity tips.

Know Your Hair’s Heat Tolerance

You wouldn’t press your silk blouse at max. It’s the same with your hair.

Scorching your hair does not get you faster and better results!

If your hair straightener has adjustable settings, great! Use it.

If it doesn’t – Throw it in the bin now.

Temperature control allows you to use your flat iron without damaging your hair.

Use Heat Protection

Clamping hot ceramic on your hair without applying a heat protection cream first is like walking into a war zone without protective gear.

Make a habit of applying heat protection before using your steam flat iron or any heat styler. It makes an invisible shield around your hair to prevent damaging bubble hair conditions.

I know this may tack on some unwanted time to your routine, but in the long term, it’s worth it.

Product I Recommend:

Moisturize Like Crazy

Swap out your current shampoo with a moisture-replenishing one, then do the same with your conditioner.

To avoid making your hair greasy and weighed down:

Instead of applying your conditioner all over, simply thread it through your ends with your fingers.

The tips of your hair are the most susceptible to becoming brittle. So treat them with plenty of moisture.

You’ll want to look for anything containing sunflower, soybean, argan or sweet almond oils. These natural hair softeners enhance shine and also encourage healthy hair growth.

Keep The Frizz Away To Avoid Heat Styling

The main reason you reach out for your heat styling tools is to tame frizz or your bushy bedhead.

But what if you could wake up with frizz-free hair?

Well, here’s a sweet little trick I use.

I sleep on a silk pillowcase, and this helps me enormously.


Let me explain …

Most pillowcases are made of cotton, and cotton draws in moisture. This means throughout the night, the fabric is sucking moisture out of your hair and your skin. No wonder why when you wake up, your hair feels out of sorts, and you have a lot of crease on your face.

Plus cotton accumulates dust which can clog your pores if you are not changing them on a regular basis.

Silk, on the other hand, is a friction-free material.

steam flat iron natural hair

It allows your hair to glide smoothly, so you have less breakage and tangles.

And when it comes to moisture retention, silk can only absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture and still remains dry. So it cannot deplete moisture from your hair and skin.

Read: Can silk pillows REALLY make your skin and hair better?

So yes, if you wake up with hair sticking all over the place, get a Mulberry Silk pillowcase now.

And to help you along on your merry frizz-free hair care journey, I have a few more useful tips which you can read here:

How to get rid of frizzy hair. 15 tricks that work »

Bubble hair happens to more women than you might think, so don’t beat yourself up about it.

I still use my steaming hair straightener, and it does a brilliant job.

So let me tell you how I go about it safely.

A Steaming Flat Iron Without The Bubbles

First of all, it’s all about getting the right steam hairstyling tool.

Because not all steaming flat irons are created equal. If you look on Amazon or eBay, you can even find some for $30.

But let me warn you here …

If you’re going to put heat on your hair, you don’t want cheap products from bargain basements.

You need to look for well designed and safe products.

A well-designed steaming flat iron should have these features:

  • Variable temperature
  • Multi-level steam
  • Conditioning ionic steam
  • Flexible floating plates
  • An integrated comb to spread your hair evenly
  • A removable reservoir
  • And ceramic plates
  • It’s own line of care products
  • Protective handles that won’t let steam burn your hands
  • And can lock in your style for longer

If yours is pretty basic and lack the fundamental features that a steaming flat iron should have, then it’s high time for an upgrade.

Or you risk causing more thermal damage to your hair and even your scalp.

If you want a good recommendation, here it is:

The L’Oreal SteamPod

Yes, I am a proud owner of a L’Oreal Steampod, and I cannot stop singing its praises. I even had the first version that came out in 2012.

No other steam hair straightener comes close to beating the effectiveness and safety of the New Steampod.

After all, why wouldn’t you trust L’Oreal?

Here’s another interesting fact about the Steampod:

This product is a collaboration between L’Oreal Professionnel and Rowenta (the popular makers of your garment steam flat irons).

Rowenta was the first company to build steam flat irons in 1957 – (Wikipedia).

It’s fair to say, with so many decades of experience in steam technology, these guys know a thing or two about it.

After using mine for a few years, here are the things I love about it:

  • It has a calculated continuous stream of pressurized steam
  • You can set the temperature to suit your hair (5 heat settings)
  • It’s smart enough to remember my heat settings
  • It straightens my hair in 3 minutes max
  • The style holds until the next wash
  • It has a water purification system to filter hard water limescale
  • I don’t feel the steam burning my hand. It’s well designed
  • It has a retractable comb that spreads my hair evenly
  • The plates are flexibility depending on the thickness of your hair

The L’Oreal Steampod is definitely a worthy splurge, and it’s designed from the ground up to prevent steam hair damage.

Beat The bubbles

Don’t let heat damage your hair with bubbles.

  • Alternate your heat styling habits
  • Know the right temperature for your hair
  • Keep your hair frizz free with a smart hair care routine
  • Do not use a cheap steaming flat iron

And yes, if you love the smoothness and shine of conditioning steam straightening, invest in a L’Oreal SteamPod.

References & Citations

  1. Bubble hair: Case caused by an overheating hair dryer and reproducibility in normal hair with heat. Source
  2. Bubble Hair and Other Acquired Hair Shaft Anomalies due to Hot Ironing on Wet Hair. Source
Charlene Latreuille
Charlene Latreuille
Writer and Editor

Charlene has been blogging for over 10 years and has a background in digital marketing. She's also a certified yoga teacher and loves to travel.

When she's not working on her next article, she can be found spending time with her two young daughters or planning her next big travel adventure.