4 Ways to Keep Hair Strong and Healthy This Winter

Instead of metaphorically packing your hair away for the winter like you literally do with your bathing suits, take the right steps to maintain the strong, healthy hair you worked so hard to recoup back in September.

When it comes to keeping our hair healthy, it seems like we can’t catch a break weather-wise. Summer months? Chlorine-filled pools, salty oceans and the beating sun ravage our manes. So we take the fall to recover and get back to normal, only to be hit by hair-hating winter. It’s a vicious cycle of damage, repair, damage, repair that only seems to be avoidable if you inflict a self-imposed hibernation on your mane.

But if history and fairy tales (and mainstream advertising) have taught us anything, it’s that hair was meant to flow! So instead of metaphorically packing your hair away for the winter like you literally do with your bathing suits, take the right steps to maintain the strong, healthy hair you worked so hard to recoup back in September. (Ahh, September! Remember the times you only needed a light jacket?)

Think of it this way: As temperatures drop, you add more layers of clothing to protect yourself against the weather. The same should be true of your hair. Whereas in the spring and fall you can shower, walk outside with a head of wet hair and trust that the season would work its magic on your mane (cute birds and other woodland creatures gently braid your hair in the spring too, right?), the winter is…not so kind. For the sake of your hair, you need to work a bit harder and rely on a few more things when it’s snowing and freezing. Trust me when I say that simply hoping it’ll warm up isn’t going to do the trick. And since the white salt lines on my black boots have only made their way up to my toes, so we’re definitely in for several more weeks of winter.

Rethink your shampoo routine.

Not into hair that feels like hay? Cool, me neither. A really easy way to make your hair’s life a little easier is to cut down on shampooing. Unless you really need to, consider shampooing every few days instead of every day. Less frequent washing means the oil your body naturally produces to condition and protect your hair will have a longer window to do its job, thereby infusing hair with much-needed moisture. When you do shampoo, be sure to pick a product that will leave hair clean but not stripped.

Amp up your conditioner.

Once you’ve shampooed, conditioner is essential for restoring moisture to dry hair. The main reason winter is so hard on hair is because of the drastic changes in temperature we experience throughout the day: cold air outside, dry heat inside…the cycle is incredibly dehydrating. You absolutely do not want to skip the conditioner portion of your shower but, if you find your standard conditioner lacking, zhuzh it up with oil.

Using your regular conditioner as a base, mix in a heavy oil like olive or jojoba and apply the whole thing to your freshly-shampooed hair. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it all out like normal. Conditioner is innately moisturizing, packed with moisturizing, protective hair-friendly ingredients. But a lot of that goodness can get lost in the steamy environment of a shower (i.e. evaporate). By adding a heavy oil, you’re basically trapping the hydrating ingredients by creating an air- and watertight barrier, forcing the conditioner to stay put and get to work.

And if you’re really committed to the cause, try leaving a tiny bit of conditioner behind. Wash like, 95% of it out in the shower, and let the remaining 5% fight dryness. For thin hair, the leftover conditioner acts as a not-as-heavy alternative for oil that can weigh strands down when applied post-shower. And for thick hair, it’s like a long term, leave-in conditioning mask. Which brings us to…

Consider the mask.

Hair masks or treatments are probably the easiest way to deal with and heal winter-damaged hair. Are your Sunday evenings dedicated to an extensive spa-like skincare routine that takes hours? Throw on a hair mask before you start and let it do its thing. Planning to binge an entire season of a TV show from your couch tomorrow? Do it in a hair mask. Sleeping for eight hours tonight? Apply a conditioning treatment, pop on that plastic shower cap you took from a hotel bathroom, and dream of silky hair. Leaving something in for this long is the hair equivalent of meal prepping: you do all the work in one lengthy go and then you’re set for the week.

Embrace moisture in all forms.

You condition, you mask, you drink a ton of water, but have you ever considered steaming your hair? Seriously. The moist heat hydrates hair, making it soft and strong, and if you steam your hair while masking, the treatment will penetrate even further into the hair shaft since the steam helps lift the hair cuticle, much in the same way a facial steam opens pores so serums can get in and get to work.

If you sleep with a humidifier, saviour of all winter-related dry throats and itchy skin, it’s already doing work on your hair. For a low-tech option, simply hang out in the bathroom after you shower. Keep the door closed and the fan off, grab a magazine and chill in the steam for 20 minutes.

Now go run your fingers through your strong, soft, hydrated hair and laugh in the face of winter!

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