When thinking through your winter skin and hair routines, it may seem there’s a lot less to consider compared to other seasons. Just slather on a heavy moisturizer, throw on a warm hat and keep it moving, right? Well, not exactly. When deciding how to take care of hair in the winter, it’s actually a time when you need to give your strands extra love and attention instead of settling for the “less is more” strategy.
In fact, it’s the smallest, often overlooked tactics that could ultimately have a major impact on how you approach achieving your inevitable summer hair and skin goals over the next few months. Plus, some hair habits that you think are beneficial may actually be doing more harm than good. Here’s a guide to avoiding them.
Too Much Turn-Up
Winter calls for us to turn up the heat in the house, car and office. Even though it feels great, it can wreak havoc on our hair by depleting it of hydration, which results in breakage. “The last thing you should do to your hair in the winter is contribute to that dehydration with excessive heat appliance,” says celebrity hairstylist Michelle Cleveland.
There are other ways to fight frizz (keep reading), so cranking up the flat iron for a super-sleek style isn’t necessary or safe. Turn the tool down a bit — below 400 degrees should do.
Not Taking Time Off
While you’re in full-on relaxation mode or on a vacation, consider giving your hair time to rest or recoup too. Instead of heat styling, try a braid or other protective style that’ll give you some body and shape when you take it out. “If you want to build volume, you can use a dry shampoo. I also really like to add volume by building in extensions,” says Chris Appleton, celebrity hairstylist and global artistic director for Glam Seamless.
Packing on Too Much Protein
When your strands are brittle and breaking, an extra dose of a protein treatment is good fix. Where it can go wrong is by doing it too often (several times a week) or even leaving it on your hair for longer than suggested. Since hair is already heavy on natural protein, going overboard by adding more can have a reverse effect and instead of restoring strength, will actually make it weaker.
A good moisture mask can be left on overnight or even during the day while you run errands, but if you’re using a product that is protein-infused, follow the exact timing and instructions on the package.
Going Outside with Wet Hair
It may seem like a no-brainer, but avoid exposing your wet hair to freezing temperatures for a long period of time. “Running from the house to the car is one thing, but extended exposure to frigid temps can essentially freeze your strands and stress them out,” says Cleveland.
If you have to go out with wet hair, apply the appropriate products first, like a mask or leave-in, then tuck it under a hat or scarf until you can dry it properly.
Forgetting to Fight Frizz
Although the air isn’t humid like it is in the dead of summer, friction from your cold weather gear can cause a case of frizz and even breakage if there’s too much rubbing. Appleton says that keeping moisture in the hair through regular deep conditioning treatments and using an anti-humidity spray is a solve for preventing static.
Washing Too Often
Your hair is just as sensitive as your skin, and doing too much too often can cause your hair and scalp to dry out — resulting in a flaky scalp and split ends. Try using a dry shampoo spray at your roots in between wash days. Cleveland also adds that skipping just one wash a week can help tremendously.
“Believe it or not, our winter wardrobe choices can affect our hair more than we realize. Hats, scarves and the hoods in our coats are meant to keep us warm, but in reality, they are sucking the moisture right out of our hair,” says Cleveland. What’s key is prepping your hair prior to accessorizing with a light leave-in conditioner or heat-protectant spray to help lock in the moisture. Also try wearing a silk scarf under your hat to keep snagging on rough materials to a minimum.
Using the Wrong Products
Any alcohol-based products such as gels or volumizers can strip the hair of its natural oils. If you’re already battling dehydrated winter hair, don’t emphasize it with these types of products. Skip the sulfates when choosing your shampoo and conditioners and swap in stylers with lightweight oils, shea, jojoba and other ingredients that will replenish what’s inevitably going to be lost to the elements.
Fine hair can be especially tricky to take care of during the winter. Too much hydration makes hair greasy and flat and not enough hydration causes static. Finding the right product balance may take some trial and error. Cleveland says that you’d benefit most from a spray-on version of a lighter leave-in conditioner like LabelM Diamond Dust Creme ($20). “It evenly disperses the product in the hair as opposed to over-saturating, which can work against you,” Cleveland notes. Apply it prior to blow-drying and then again after if needed.
Someone with thicker textured hair can use a slightly heavier version of the same type of product. Trissola Leave-In Conditioner ($24) is Cleveland’s favorite. Finally, naturally curly hair can turn to frizz when exposed to the forced hot air we turn on in winter. In addition to using a leave-in, curly girls should add dry oils and hair serums throughout the day as needed to for added hydration.