The weather we’re experiencing in November 2020 can be described as nothing other than a catfish. Although it looks sunny and beautiful outside some days, it’s full of deceit, because I’m freezing my butt off even though it looks like another gorgeous fall day. Winter hit us pretty quick, with temperatures falling below the 30s right away and other days looking reminiscent of the weather we expect to experience in September.
The worst part of all is that although I can’t live in the cheery holiday joy of streets lined with snow, the effects of winter are already hitting my skin and hair pretty hard. As the seasons change, we all have a pretty good handle on how our lives need to shift in order to keep up with the ways in which our bodies and mind shift for the new weather: we pile on moisturizer day and night, we wake up earlier to get a little bit more time with the sun, and we fill our days with blissful cozy blankets and scarves and slippers to feel at peace right at home. But my hairdresser would be remiss if I didn’t bring up all that I’ve done to keep my hair in tip-top shape this winter too.
Especially as we’ll be likely heading into more time spent at home again and fewer opportunities to see a stylist, our haircare routines will need to reflect that. I’ve focused on growing longer, stronger, healthier hair in the last year, and I won’t dare let a little cold weather come between me and a good hair day anytime soon. Here’s how I’m tackling winter’s biggest hair woes and what changes I’m making for winter.
1. Using less dry shampoo
In my last hair appointment, my stylist practically scolded me (in the best way) for overusing dry shampoo. My scalp is already irritated and flaky in the winter, and she explained that dry shampoo is one of the biggest aggravators of an irritated scalp. Of course, we don’t have to give up our beloved hair savior entirely, but using it a little less is recommended. I won’t be going out and about as often, and it’s easy to pull my greasy hair back in a clip or under a hat on Zoom calls when I don’t feel like washing.
2. Swapping for a silk pillowcase
I didn’t believe these worked until I finally tried one, and I am actually noticing a difference in my hair. I am a really hard sleeper, tossing and turning practically all night, rubbing the poor crown of my head into a pillowcase for hours on end. The back of my head is super prone to breakage for this reason, and it’s taken me about the last year to finally grow that part of my hair out. I only recently added a silk pillowcase, but I’ve already noticed it’s made a huge difference. If I do my hair the night before, my style stays, and I wake up with bedhead that is ever-so-slightly less abrasive.
3. Increasing deep conditioning treatments
I have fine, thin hair that typically needs cleansing way more than it needs moisture, but in the dryness of winter, I like to up my conditioning treatments to make up for any of the hydration loss I experience on my ends. Instead of only once a week, I use my deep conditioner more like two or three times (which sometimes is the same amount I wash my hair!). If I notice my hair feels a little weighed down, I’ll skip it and opt for my daily conditioner the next time, but overall, it’s made my hair extra soft and silky.
4. Opting for clips instead of hair ties
My hairdresser (hi Krystal, ilysm) recently posted about the havoc putting your hair up in a bun all the time can do on your hair. I have extra fine hair too, which makes it even harder to keep my hair from breaking off all the time. Since winter started, I’ve been noticing a lot more dryness in my hair, so to prevent any damage of breakage in my hair, I’m opting for claw clips instead of hair ties to keep my hair as loose as possible and avoid pulling it back too much. And when I do use a hair tie, I’m choosing materials that are really soft on the hair like silk and microfiber.
5. Mixing a hair oil with my conditioner
To make my daily conditioner even more effective, I’ve been adding a drop of hair oil. For starters, it makes the styling process so much easier, as my hair already has a bit of a leave-in product in it. But it also makes my daily conditioner just a bit more moisturizing and nourishing for my hair without needing to add another step into my routine.
It also prevents the wretched static I experience when my hair goes under a turtleneck or coat, which might even make it the #1 reason why I love this trick.
6. Add a multivitamin
Adding a hair vitamin into my supplement routine is much newer to my routine, but I’m excited to see how it impacts the health of my hair throughout the next few months. Simply put, when you’re healthy on the inside, your scalp and hair are healthy; we all know that. In the winter, especially around the holidays, I often get too busy or bogged down and focus on my health much less than normal, so taking a few vitamins like vitamin D, a pre and probiotic, evening primrose oil (to balance hormones—it’s been so helpful for my endometriosis!), and iron might help to preemptively make up for any times I slip up and order Postmates one too many nights in a row. Make sure to always consult your doctor before adding in any new vitamins or supplements to your healthcare regimen; you don’t want to waste your money on a supplement you might not need, hence proving the “expensive pee” notion once again.
7. Exfoliating my scalp once a week
While moisturizing your scalp and hair is definitely part of getting rid of flakes and itchiness, doing a good scalp exfoliation once a week is going to help the issue ten-fold. My hairdresser actually recommends I don’t exfoliate my scalp too often because I’m prone to irritation, but in the winter, it’s OK to increase a little bit to make up for the various issues my hair is dealing with at once (my scalp isn’t a lovely place this time of year TBH). I use both a scalp scrubber (one of the best inventions on Earth) and a physical exfoliant like a scalp scrub. I’ll do a little massage while I work this into my scalp, and it’s honestly self-care to the max. Tip: when I don’t have an exfoliator on hand or want to customize the granules in my scrub, I mix a little bit of baking soda (as much as I want—some days I want to feel my scalp tingle, and others I only want a light wisp of a scrub) with my shampoo.
8. Adding a dandruff shampoo once a week
My hair gets both flaky from dryness and causes some dandruff here and there in the wintertime. When my scalp is dry, it’s mostly just dry patches flaking off, and I’ll combat that with a scalp oil and a massage. However, when my scalp is suffering with dandruff, my scalp is inflamed, oily, and red. When this happens, the only way to find relief is sucking it up and opting for a dandruff shampoo once or twice a week. I always make sure I give myself a little massage with it too to really get it in there and remove any flakes while treating the scalp.
9. Swapping my shampoo for something gentle
Just in the same way you probably swapped for an oil or milky facial cleanser for the winter, you’ll want to do the same for your hair. Say goodbye to those drying volume shampoos and clarifying shampoos for a little bit just to add some extra moisture into your hair if you’re dealing with dryness.
And when I feel like there’s a lot of buildup on my scalp, instead of reaching for a really harsh, drying shampoo, I opt for the oil-cleansing method instead. It keeps the moisture on my scalp balanced while cleaning my scalp and hair thoroughly.
10. Doing an oil or aloe massage before every shampoo
This is perhaps overkill, and there will be days that I don’t have time, but if I can, I’ve been using aloe gel to massage into my scalp every night before I know I’ll be washing my hair the next day and sleeping in it. This has made a huge difference in my hair, especially because the aloe is so calming on the scalp. If your scalp is really dry, you could also use an oil to add some extra moisture, and since you’ll leave it on overnight, it will really absorb.
11. Use extra leave-in products to combat frizz
If you deal with tons of frizz in the winter (one of the most common winter hair problems), a really easy way to reduce it is using even more leave-in products, especially leave-in conditioner. Don’t overload your hair with product, but use just enough to keep your style intact and add enough grit to your hair to keep it from puffing up. A good leave-in conditioner should keep your hair smooth and shiny all day.
12. Reduce my blow-drying time
My hair is already taking a beating from the weather, I might as well do it some good by limiting my heat-styling. Blow drying can absolutely kill the hair if you do it too much, but I also hate leaving the house with wet hair—see Grandma, I listened all those years! I’m getting the best of both worlds by using products to reduce the time I have to spend blow drying, like mists and creams that help your hair dry on its own. I also use a microfiber hair towel as soon as I get out of the shower which rings out a lot of the excess water and helps my hair to start drying as much as possible before I put heat on it. Less time with the blow dryer = less damage = happy hair.