How your hair looks and behaves in winter may seem akin to what’s happening in nature—plants holding on through the cold months go limp, what tree leaves remain turn brittle. Though the elements may seem to be against your look too, leaving your locks dry, static-filled and flat, making some adjustments to your styling routine and environment can help you have the kind of hair in the winter that you enjoy the rest of the year. Evolve your hair care approach with the season:
Crank Up the Humidifier
When the air lacks humidity, it can sap moisture from your hair and scalp, leaving strands static-y, frizzy and susceptible to breakage and other damage. Use a humidifier to boost moisture levels so your thirsty hair has plenty to drink in.
Making sure that you are hydrating from the inside out can also help. Though you may not be noticeably sweating like you do in the summer months, a good deal of moisture may still be evaporating from your skin, drying out your scalp and, therefore, depriving your hair of nourishing natural oils. Aim for at least eight glasses of water a day; eating fruits and vegetables with a high water content can also help.
Get Your Omega-3s
These fatty acids play a role in the production of sebum—the oily substance that keeps your scalp lubricated and hair shiny. Since the harsh winter can make it challenging to keep hair well-oiled and healthy, make sure to especially reach for foods high in the nutrient during these months. Try ground flaxseed, mackerel, nuts, salmon and soybeans.
Take Lukewarm Showers
A hot shower may soothe you on a cold morning, but it can also break down and wash away your scalp and hair’s natural oils. Result: a dry, flaky, itchy scalp, plus frizzier, damage-prone hair. Dial down the temperature (helpful not only in winter, but year-round); try not to go past your faucet’s midway point.
Change Up Your Shampoo…
Though using the same suds as always won’t harm your hair in the winter, of course, formulations that are more hydrating may help keep your hair healthier looking and less dry. Look for the word “moisturizing” on labels.
…and Always Use Conditioner
Concentrate on the ends—they are the oldest, most weathered parts of your strands and the farthest away from your scalp’s oil glands. Doing this also helps ensure that fine hair isn’t weighed down by rich product. If your scalp feels especially dry, try a deep-conditioning mask or hot oil treatment (you may want to style your hair in a ponytail, braid or bun on these days, as these products may make hair harder to manage for a day or so).
Use Heat-Styling Tools Sparingly
The intense heat that blow-dryers and styling irons produce can steam out what moisture your hair has left in the winter and create nicks in the cuticle (the outer, protective layer of each strand). This weakens your hair shaft and can leave you with a dull, damaged look. Try going at least one or two days before restyling. Dry shampoos can help absorb excess oil and refresh your hair in between wash-and-drys and an updo can easily disguise day-old styles. When you do blow-dry, consider using a heat-protecting spray for extra defense. Start on a cool setting, then gradually turn up the heat as more moisture evaporates. Hair should be completely dry before using a styling device.
Try Products with Dimethicone
Look for this silicone-based ingredient in shampoos, conditioners, styling sprays and creams. Like a lightweight sealant, it coats hairs, allowing them to smoothly slip by each other and keeping the cuticle flat and smooth. Less friction between strands increases shine while helping hair retain moisture and combat static and flyaways—top complaints many people have about winter hair.
Hold Off on Your Hat (For a Bit)
Similar to clay, warm hair is easily manipulated and sets as it cools. Wait a few minutes to put on your cap until heat-styled hair completely cools to help prevent extra-flat roots and kinked strands. But don’t pass on a hat altogether—not only do hats help keep body heat in, they shield hair from winter’s damaging, tangle-causing wind and cold. Just be sure to choose a style that isn’t too tight-fitting. (Running a dryer sheet along the inside of your hat or over your hair can also help cut down on hair static.)