Keep Your Locks Luscious

12 tips and tricks to combat problematic hair

Have your once-luscious locks been dampened by winter’s wrathful cold and wind?

If so, you are not the only one to feel the harsh effects of winter. As we round out the season and enter the spring solstice, here are a number of tips you can use to bring back that bounce and rid yourself of dry and brittle hair.

Winter wreaks havoc

For most, winter is loathsome: The weather is cold, the roads are snowy, and it’s hard on the body.

Vitamin D (also lovingly known as the “sunshine vitamin”) provides the body with an array of health benefits, including benefits for our hair. But most people who live in North America see their vitamin D levels plummet during the winter as it is impossible to get enough of the right type of sunlight for your body to make vitamin D. Supplementation is necessary in this case.

Another problem is the lack of moisture in the air. Hair is left dried, brittle, and full of static and flyaways when the weather is cold because the cold extracts moisture from your hair. Also, the cold weather affects your habits: Think thick hats and heated rooms. Breakage occurs when these two elements mix.

Part of the reason hair gets dried out in the cold air is due to the sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands produce an oil known as sebum that add moisture to both hair and skin—but with every degree the temperature drops, our sebaceous glands reduce output until production is stopped completely at around 17 degrees.

If your region is still plagued with cool, dry air, take some advice from Robert Dorin, DO, ACOFP, a hair restoration surgeon in New York City.

Use a sodium lauryl sulfate-free shampoo

Not only is sodium laurel sulfate listed as an environmental toxin on the Environmental Working Group’s website, it is also an ingredient in engine degreasers and car wash detergents. The sulfate strips the hair of oil, which causes it to become more dry and brittle.

Wash your hair two to three times per week

Washing your hair too frequently during the winter can cause dandruff and excess oil. When you do wash your hair, use a moisturizing conditioner.

Wash hair in warm (not hot) water, followed by a cool rinse

This method of showering will strengthen your hair and allow it to shine more.

Use a spray-on conditioner or mist

Because static electricity is more common in the winter months, using a spray-on conditioner can help decrease friction and insulate static flyaway hair.

Blot hair with towel

Rubbing your hair back and forth lifts your hair’s cuticle layer, making your hair dull, rough, and frizzy. Your hair also becomes easier to tangle, breaks more, and has less volume.

Brush hair more often

Brushing your hair stimulates blood circulation and allows the oils from the sebaceous glands to spread throughout your hair, keeping it from being too dry.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy isn’t just good for your inside, it’s good for your outside as well. A diet rich in omega-3s; protein; vitamins A, C, D, and E; zinc; and copper will help your hair regrow properly and stay hydrated.

Spring awakening

Even though spring is in bloom, Dorin says there is still plenty to worry about when it comes to your tresses. For starters, even though heat and humidity indexes are on the rise, many people’s hair is now frizzy, brittle, and flat. “As the temperature rises, the heat causes the protective cuticle layer to rise up and open up,” Dorin says. “This allows the moisture in the air to get through the cuticle layer reaching the cortex and adding too much moisture. Causing the hair shaft to swell further jeopardizes its integrity, and gives the hair shaft its frizzy characteristics.”

To fix this major hair malfunction, Dorin says you need to take out heat and moisture. When using a heated styling tool, use the lowest heat setting possible. As most of us already know, our hair sometimes needs a bit more power (aka, more heat) to get the job done. If that’s the case, use some sort of heat protectant or a light spray to help minimize the damage. After you have finished using your hot tool, cool your hair down with your hair dryer on the cool setting. This will help clamp down the cuticle layer of the hair shaft.

Another way to avoid frizzy hair is to use a high-quality conditioner. Avoid conditioners that contain silicone products. Hair products that use silicone are tempting because of their ability to smooth your hair and make it shinier and less frizzy, but these silicone-based products cause buildup and actually hurt the recovery process of your hair. Not to mention that silicones like cyclomethicone and any silicones with the prefix PEG are on our “no-no list” for our annual Beauty With a Conscience Awards (BWAC).

The sun is also something to be mindful of with the coming of spring. Overexposure can cause your hair to further dry out and change your hair color, which is a bummer for those who color-treat their locks. There are a few organic shampoos and conditioners out there that will help keep hair protected, like Nature’s Gate and Desert Essence.

A final idea is to look for a good hair mask, or make your own. These masks can restore and rehydrate your hair with just one use. Masks with omega-3 and marine botanicals help bind water to the hair, helping it retain moisture.

Don’t let the weather change what your hair looks like. Your hair will improve noticeably if you take even a few of these steps as the climate changes from winter to spring. And now take a sigh of relief as the temperature rises.