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5 Ways to Prevent Winter Hair Damage

Winter weather can wreak havoc on hair. Outdoor cold combined with indoor heat can cause breakage, split ends, and serious dryness. It is important to take care of your hair all year and make sure you are visiting a haircare professional regularly for routine trims. However, it is especially important to be aware of winter hair hazards due to increased risk of damage. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to keep your hair healthy and moisturized and prevent scalp dryness.

Maintain your hair’s moisture


A single strand of hair is 25% water. Proper hydration is necessary year-round, but especially important for encouraging hair growth. It also prevents common scalp issues, such as dryness, dandruff, or itchiness. Drinking enough water will prevent split ends and brittleness, which are common effects of cold weather. The same way your skin appears duller when you are dehydrated, your hair will be more lackluster and visibly dry if it is not receiving adequate hydration.

Condition frequently

Conditioning your hair regularly and using leave-in conditioner is critical in the winter. Many people switch up their regular conditioning products for ones more focused on restoring and maintaining moisture. Your hair needs extra help staying moisturized in the cold weather. Try an oil-based moisturizer, especially if your hair is natural, wavy, realized, or coiled.  When you condition, make sure you are doing the following:

  • Shampoo and rinse thoroughly
  • Apply conditioner from mid-length to hair ends
  • Concentrate on the end to prevent dryness
  • Leave the conditioner in for a few minutes
  • Wash with cold water

While it may seem a little unpleasant, especially during the winter, using cold water to rinse your hair is an important step. Cold water seals in the moisture from your conditioner and prevents frizz.

Commit to weekly treatments

Regardless of your hair type, there are lots of hair masks, deep conditioners, and oil treatments available. You can even easily mix one up yourself at home using common kitchen staples. The following oils and supplements are especially helpful for keeping hair hydrated and combatting dryness and dandruff in the winter:

  • Omega-3 fatty acid
  • Coconut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Almond oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Argan oil

If a dry scalp is a major issue for you, try a heavier oil treatment applied directly to the scalp. Leave it on for 20-30 minutes before washing as usual. You can also invest in a humidifier, which will keep your hair from getting too dry while you sleep.

Of course, it is entirely possible for hair to feel weighed down with excess oil. This is especially true if the hair is thin in diameter. Make sure to use small amounts moisturizers, especially oil-based ones, and try to focus on dry ends.

Avoid heat styling

Heat styling can be damaging when done to excess at any time of year. It is important to use heat-protectant products due to the drying effect of heat. Hair is already in a fragile state during the winter, and heat styling tends to amplify the problem, extracting moisture from the strands. Winter is the best time of year to embrace your natural texture and opt to air dry rather than blow-dry whenever possible. There are plenty of products available that work to amplify all different types of hair, from straight and thin to frizzy and curly. Hair strands lifting from the head is a major sign that your hair is suffering from winter dryness. If your hair tends to get staticky, you can use a dryer sheet to smooth it out instead of a flattening iron.

Even keeping your home at too hot a temperature can irritate your scalp and contribute to dryness. Try keeping incident temperatures closer to warm than hot, and avoid using super-hot water in the shower as much as you can, as it actually dehydrates your hair.

Wear a hat

Keeping your hair covered with a hat or scalp can help to protect it from the elements. Just make sure it isn’t too tight, which can cause restricted scalp circulation. A satin-lined hat or pillowcase can help reduce frizz if your hair is experiencing dryness. Silk is preferable to cotton or wool, which can cause breakage and static. Silk is naturally hypoallergenic, and is known to prevent thinning, knotted hair, and split ends, all of which are winter hair concerns. A silk scarf worn under a hat can add an extra layer of protection if you do want to wear a cotton or wool hat.

Keep up with haircuts

It’s important to make sure you’re visiting your hairstylist regularly at least for a trim every six to eight weeks, especially if you are trying to grow it out. Split ends are much more common during the winter due to increased dryness and brittleness. If you are noticing the following issues with your hair, it is time for a trim:

  • Lack of elasticity
  • Hardness or unusual texture
  • Excessive breakage or shedding
  • Limpness
  • Dryness
  • Excessive knots and tangles

If you are having some trouble with hair growth, consult with a professional about hair system or hair restoration options.

Cut back on shampooing

Shampoo cleanses your hair of dirt and product buildup and is an important part of anyone’s hygiene routine. However, it can also strip the hair of the natural oils your hair needs to stay soft and healthy. Try changing your routine to shampooing only one or two times per week. If your hair is naturally oily, you can try to supplement with dry shampoo. The more time you can wait between shampooing, the better.

When you do wash, make sure not to leave your home with wet hair. Although you should cut back on heat styling, it is better to give your hair a blow-dry than expose it to the cold. Hold the blow-dryer at least 6 inches away from your scalp if you do need to use it. Cold air expands the hair shaft, making the hair prone to breakage and fading color faster. Hair can freeze when exposed to cold weather, which can cause serious damage and breakage.

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