Healthy hair: Four tips for winter care

Bad hair days getting you down this season? Not to worry! It is possible to achieve and maintain healthy, shiny and manageable hair during the winter.

By Dr. Jeff Donovan 

Everyone wants great-looking hair, but maintaining healthy, shiny hair always seems harder in the winter. The main causes of dry, breakable hair at this time of the year are related to the combination of cold outside temperatures and indoor heating that leads to the over-drying of hair. Interestingly, attempts to protect the hair from cold weather with winter hats can further contribute to the hair drying out. Wool hats often cause static-related hair drying and breakage. 

Fortunately, there are several specific hair care strategies that can help most individuals achieve healthy looking hair during the winter.

1. LIMIT direct heat 

You can successfully counteract wintertime’s moisture-reducing effects by limiting excess heat from hair dryers and reducing how often you flat iron your hair. When blow-drying hair, towel or air dry the hair first, and blow dry to style once the hair is at least 70 per cent dry. Maintain at least six inches of distance between the hair and the scalp to limit overly rapid drying. For those who use a flat iron, I strongly recommend protecting the hair with a heat protector spray before flat ironing.  

2. ADD deep and leave-in conditioners 

Conditioners are important to help protect the cuticle and, in turn, maintain healthy-looking and manageable hair. I advise patients to regularly use a conditioner, and to consider alternating their regular product with a leave-in conditioner during winter. Most types of shampoos are fine to use during winter, but if hair dryness becomes a real problem, I tell my patients to use a less-drying sulfate-free shampoo. 

3. CHOOSE a silk or satin-lined hat

Static electricity and ‘frizz’ are particularly problematic with certain types of winter hats. I recommend wearing hats with a silk or satin lining as much as possible. Fabrics like wool or cotton not only absorb moisture, but also increase hair damage from constant rubbing. A variety of ‘anti-frizz’ products are widely available, and I highly recommend these products. In addition, I also advise individuals to limit their use of alcohol-based styling products as they further promote static and damage susceptible hair.   

4. SCHEDULE regular trims 

Split ends are common during winter. Despite the myths, the only definitive solution to dealing with split ends is to trim them. I recommend trimming hair every six weeks over the winter to help maintain shiny, healthy-looking and manageable hair.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Toronto dermatologist and hair transplant specialist. He is a medical director at Donovan Hair Restoration and an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto.


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