With freezing temperatures outside, and dry, overheated air indoors – not to mention blasts of rain and snow to contend with – no wonder our tresses are stressed at this time of year.
So, is there anything you can do about winter wreaking havoc on your hair?
We asked experts to explain why our locks suffer so much during the colder months, and how you can counteract common issues.
The frizz factor
“Frizzy hair isn’t just a problem for the summer – 80% of us have frizzy hair which is also exacerbated by cold weather and central heating,” says Anabel Kingsley, trichologist and brand president at Philip Kingsley (philipkingsley.co.uk).
Hair turns frizzy due to moisture changes in the air, she explains: “This causes the protein bonds within the hair to expand and contract – and this can happen numerous times throughout the day, depending on how often you go outside.”
The best way to prevent frizz is to ensure your tresses are thoroughly hydrated, so moisture can’t re-enter the hair shaft.
“Hydrate your hair with a weekly pre-shampoo conditioning treatment,” Kingsley says. “Smoothing creams and weatherproof hairsprays that provide a barrier against humidity are very helpful here as well.”
Natalia Vera, hair stylist at Live True London (livetruelondon.com), recommends adjusting your shampooing schedule in winter.
“Washing your hair too often can strip it of its natural oils,” she says. “Switch to a more moisturising shampoo and conditioner or cut back on how often you wash your hair in the week.”
If your hair is curly or coiled, it might feel more dry than usual when temperatures drop.
“Afro textured hair can experience heightened moisture loss in winter, making the hair fibre less malleable and more susceptible to breakage,” says Titi Bello, founder of Ori Lifestyle (orilifestyle.com).
“To counter this, rich leave-in-conditioners should be used for added strength. Hair mists or spritz can also be used in between washes for added hydration and conditioning of both the hair and scalp.
“The harsh winter elements, such as wind and rain, can cause your hair to become tangled and damaged,” says Vera.
“Especially for longer hair, when combined with wearing scarves. You can counteract this by covering your hair with a hat, or by tying it up.”
A beanie, beret or fluffy bucket hat can help, says hairdresser Michael Van Clarke (vanclarke.com): “Choose natural fibres in headwear and make sure they have a soft lining that won’t cause breakages in your hair.”
When it comes to Afro textured hair, Bello advises: “Lubricating oils should be added to the ends of hair, to prevent knotting and tangling.”
Turn down the heat
While long, hot showers are great for warming you up on chilly days, they’re not good news for your locks.
“Hot water can dry hair out and leave it lacking moisture,” says Vera. “I recommend a lukewarm water temperature while rinsing your hair, or even better, treat hair to a burst of cold water at the very end of your shower, to close the hair cuticles and minimise frizz.”
Similarly, because it’s too cold to let your hair dry naturally in winter, you might be blow-drying it more often, and using straighteners or curling tongs to create party-season styles.
“Such tools use extremely high temperatures and can dry out the hair, leading to further breakage and split-ends,” Kingsley says.
Van Clarke agrees: “Set yourself a challenge and embrace your natural hair at least a few times a week. Use the opportunity to try exciting new styles and give your hair some welcome relief from too much heat.”
At the same time, it’s important not to go in icy weather with wet hair, he adds: “Your hair could freeze and lead to breakages. If your hair won’t dry naturally in time, use the warm setting on your hairdryer with a diffuser, and let the last 5% dry naturally.”
Soothe your scalp
“Many individuals with Afro textured hair often complain about dry scalps, which can be exacerbated in winter,” says Bello.
“Cold air, dry indoor heat, low humidity levels, harsh winter wind and even drinking less water in the colder months can all lead to moisture loss on the scalp, causing it to become tight, itchy and flaky.”
She recommends using a cleansing clay or a sulphate-free shampoo once a week to “strike the right balance between keeping the scalp clean without excessively stripping the hair fibre of its much-needed oils”.
Combine this with an exfoliating or clarifying shampoo with sulphates once a month to “thoroughly lift away flakes and any accumulation of dead skin cells”.
And avoid very hot water when rinsing: “This can damage and dry out the scalp, and disrupt hair growth – lukewarm water is about right.”