Winter can leave hair dry and prone to breakage. Here, a trichologist explains how to keep your hair protected and the best ways to nourish it after cold and heat damage.
As we continue to see out the cold days of winter (and crank up the central heating at home as a result), you may be noticing that your hair feels a bit… dry.
If that’s the case, it’s completely normal. Contrasting cold weather and harsh central heating can strip the hair of its moisture, leaving it limp, brittle and prone to breakage. So what’s the best way to counteract the damaging effects during this time of year? And what are the best ingredients to nourish your hair?
We put the most-asked winter haircare questions to trichologist and celebrity hair colourist Hannah Gaboardi. Plus, the Stylist team shares their favourite products for this time of year.
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What effect does winter have on hair?
“The cold weather outside contrasting with central heating take their toll on all hair types and often leads to split ends, breakage and a dehydrated scalp. Therefore, you need to adjust your haircare and treat your scalp in order to counteract the environmental changes.
“Even hot showers can strip away moisture and during this time in lockdown, we can’t get regular hair trims to keep our hair healthy. The lack of vitamin D in winter can also stunt hair growth or a deficiency can even cause hair loss.
Does central heating have an impact on hair, too?
“Yes, the warm dry air can cause our hair to ‘dry’ out and become brittle. If you’re susceptible to dandruff, it can get worse or the scalp can become itchy in these conditions due to the loss of moisture in the air causing dehydration. Having a humidifier in your house can really help hydration levels of the scalp and prevent hair from becoming too dry and breaking.”
Which haircare ingredients help to nourish hair?
“Look out for harmful sulphates and chemicals as these can strip the hair’s natural oils. Fatty acids in products can help nourish and retain moisture so look for a really rich conditioner with these and use a deep conditioning treatment or mask a couple of times a week.
“There are also some great oils which can treat the ends, add a little boost of shine and even be left as a nourishing mask overnight. As well as looking closely at the ingredients in haircare products, treat your hair and scalp from the inside out by making sure you are eating enough protein, vitamin C, omega-3, vitamin A and E.
“During winter you can even take a biotin supplement to stop the hair from becoming brittle. Vitamin A is needed by the body to produce sebum so it’ll stop the hair from drying out and make sure your scalp stays healthy.”
Is there anything you should switch up in your shower routine?
Cut down on hair washes: “Try to wash your hair less, as washing too often strips it of its natural oils, which are so important to keep the hair hydrated and nourished in this weather.”
Make sure your shower isn’t too hot: “Turn the temperature down in the shower and keep them to 10 minutes maximum. Even though it’s tempting to warm up with a hot shower, this can weaken your hair’s roots, which causes breakage.”
Try to avoid washing your hair while it’s wet: “After showering, allow the hair to dry naturally before brushing as this can cause harsh friction on the hair and don’t go outside with damp hair – damp hair shafts can expand in cold weather which could make your colour fade and ends break.”
Use a hair treatment once a week: “I like to use the Philip Kingsley Elasticizer in winter pre-shampooing once a week as a deep conditioning treatment. It’s full of nourishing oils such as olive oil and castor oil to lock in moisture, while the elastin in the product protect it from breakage, keeping our lengths strong.”
Give yourself a scalp massage: “Massaging the scalp in the shower really boosts the circulation to keep the scalp healthy and encourage hair growth.”
How can you protect your hair against the cold during your daily walks?
“If you need to tie your hair up, use a silk hair tie to prevent breakage; even a silk hair wrap or scarf can be more gentle on the hair. When you pull your hats on and off, avoid tugging at the hair as this could cause static and breakage. I like to put a little oil in the ends of my hair. Something as simple as a slick of castor oil can seal the cuticle and keep the ends moisturised.”
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Best products to protect your hair in winter, picked by the Stylist team
Gallinée Prebiotic Scalp and Hair Serum
This clever serum contains lactic acid and prebiotics that have a physiological pH to match the scalp its microbiome. It’s also formulated with fermented rice water to promote healthier hair.
Philip Kingsley Elasticizer Extreme
Philip Kingsley has given its cult Elasticizer hair treatment an upgrade. Suitable for all hair types, this formula has been specifically formulated to treat over-processed, damaged and very dry hair.
Bread Beauty Supply hair-oil: everyday gloss
If your hair is feeling parched, we recommend this nourishing hair treatment. Packed with a long list of hydrating oils, the ingredients line-up includes kakadu plum, for its high concentration of vitamin C, and starflower oil to prevent breakage.
Davines Solu Shampoo
From hair products to pollution, dirt and grime can accumulate on our scalps. To really shift the dirt and refresh your hair and scalp, opt for a clarifying shampoo, like this Davines formula. It gently gives your hair and scalp a deep cleanse, leaving it clean but not squeaky.
Shop Davines Solu Shampoo at Cult Beauty, £17.50
Kitsch Microfiber Hair Towel
Letting your hair dry naturally can take a very, very long time. Speed up the process this Kitsch hair towel. It’s made from microfibers that soak up moisturise quickly and leaves hair feeling soft.
Shop Kitsch Microfiber Hair Towel at Cult Beauty, £15.50
Jamaican Mango & Lime Jamaican Black Castor Oil Original
This bestseller is packed with nourishing oils that work to strengthen and revive dry, brittle hair. Massage it on the scalp and take it down the lengths of your hair to let it work its magic.
Dizziak Hydration Wash and Deep Conditioner
A hair favourite on the Stylist beauty desk, this Dizziak duo (which is available to buy separately) leaves hair soft, sleek and hydrated. Created for all hair types, both formulas contain quinoa protein to repair and strengthen the hair’s barriers, while a cocktail of oils boosts shine, regulates oil production and locks in moisture. The conditioner can be used as a hair mask, too.
Wetbrush Flex Dry
While Gaboardi recommends avoiding brushing your hair if it’s wet, we know that sometimes this may not be an option. Wetbrush’s tools are specially designed to gently work through your hair. Plus, the open vents on help encourage moisture to leave your hair and if you use it while blow drying, heat can escape rather than getting trapped between your hair and the brush.
Shop Wetbrush Flex Dry at Cult Beauty, £13.99
Mason Pearson Rake Comb C7
Combs are a much gentler option for those with thicker, tangle-prone hair. This Mason Pearson’s option is an extra-wide tooth comb that glides through thick, afro, curly and tightly permed hair with snagging. You can also use it for a gentle scalp massage.
Shop Mason Pearson Rake Comb C7 at Liberty London, £13.50
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo
Yes, dry shampoos are usually associated with leaving a heavy, powdery cast on scalps and clogging pores but Living Proof’s cult formula is different. The silicone-free spray actually absorbs oil, sweat and odour, meaning it freshens and slightly cleans your hair after a few spritzes.
Main image: courtesy of brands