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Your complete guide to hair and scalp care in winter

Don't let winter ruin your hair care routine

man in turtleneck outside
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

The season is winter, but you see flakes in your hair that aren’t snow. Alternatively (or additionally), you may notice breakage, thinner locks, redness, and dryness.

No, you’re not simply self-conscious. The cold weather outside and the dry air from the heat we turn up indoors can be harsh on the skin — the scalp included. Because of proximity, what happens on the scalp can appear in the hair (flakes).

However, there are several remedies for perpetual bad hair days in the winter — some of which don’t require standing in the hair care aisle (and others do). While switching up a hair care routine may be the last item on your to-do list, especially during the holiday season, a few minor tweaks can go a long way in treating dry scalp, breakage, and other issues.

Try these tips if you’re having cold feelings toward your hair.

man standing in cold with scarf. and hair blowing in wind
Sebastian Voortman / Pexels

Why is my hair so bad in the winter?

The cold weather can do a frightful number on the scalp and hair. Like all skin parts, the scalp can become dry and irritated by the frigid outdoor temperature and dry air from indoor heat. While high humidity in the summer may lead to frizziness, low humidity isn’t a friend to your mane. Dry scalp and hair can become more frequent under these conditions, hence the term “winter itch.”

The cold weather can even affect the hair’s cuticle, triggering breakage.

Remedying a dry scalp and engaging in hair care isn’t simply about aesthetics. The skin is a barrier, protecting us from outside invaders like viruses and bacteria that increase during the winter. Dry skin is damaged skin, which can affect our overall health.

a close up of a man in a beanie
omar Basly / Pexels

How can you keep your hair healthy in the winter?

Preventing unhealthy hair, like breakage and dry scalp, is the best strategy. A few common-sense approaches and skin and hair care routine tweaks can help.

  • Wear a hat. Wearing a hat can shield your hair and scalp from the cold. Opt for one that isn’t too snug, as a tight-fitting head topper can reduce blood circulation in the scalp and worsen matters. The good news is that you have plenty of options, from beanies to fur trappers to refined newsboy caps; you’ll find a style to fit your outfit.
  • Avoid hot showers. Hot showers on a cold day may sound like a blissful plan. Your hair and scalp kindly disagree. Hot showers strip the hair of natural oils, creating a drying effect. Scorching water can also burn the scalp.
  • Don’t overwash. You may be tempted to wash hair more frequently if you notice issues, hoping that the ingredients in your shampoo will improve issues like dry scalp, brittleness, and flaking. However, the opposite is typically true. Like hot showers, overwashing can remove natural oils needed to keep hair and scalp strong and well-hydrated.
  • Don’t overstyle with heat products. While we’re on the topic of heat, keep styling with irons, dryers, straighteners, and the like to a minimum. They only exacerbate brittle mane. If you use these tools, use a heat-protectant spray that protects hair up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Never leave the house with wet hair. If you are going to use a hair dryer one time, do so before leaving the house with damp hair. Frozen hair is more likely to break.
  • Schedule regular haircuts. Regular trims can nix dead ends, leaving you with a full, healthy-looking mane.
black and gold hair care products
Alexandra Tran / Unsplash

How do I keep my hair moisturized in the winter?

Prevention may be the best medicine and all, but bad winter hair days happen. What can you do if the dryness has already set in? Spring into action.

  • Condition your hair. Are you skipping conditioner? Don’t. It’s essential to condition every time you shampoo. If dry hair is an issue, consider a thick, creamy conditioner with soothing ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, honey, and avocado oil. A weekly deep conditioner or leave-in conditioner may provide faster results. Pro tip: Conditioner is for the hair, not the scalp. Use a coin-sized dollop and massage from the mid-shaft to the ends.
  • Try a hair mask. Hair masks can be just what the doctor ordered for dry hair, and the process of using one can feel blissful. Opt for conditioners with ingredients similar to the ones mentioned for the most significant benefits.
  • Use a scalp scrub. If the scalp is the more significant issue than the hair, a scrub may be in order. Scalp scrubs may help remove dry, dead skin cells that a standard shampoo cannot, reducing flaking and irritation.
  • Try a humidifier. Combat dry air (and hair and scalp) and low humidity with a humidifier. The vapor steam from the humidifier increases the moisture levels in the air, which can trickle into the skin and hair.

If you’re concerned about your hair and skin health in the winter — or ever — speaking to a dermatologist can help you sort out issues and develop customized solutions. A provider can help you rule out other problems that may be in play, such as diet, allergies, or hair or skin conditions like eczema that may be bigger culprits than Mother Nature.

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BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on healthline.com and parents.com. In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
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