Winter can be tough on your hair. The air outside is freezing cold. The air inside is dry. You’re dealing daily with static electricity and hat hair.
The harsh winter weather can give your hair such a beating that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends spacing out chemical services like color, a perm or straightening to eight to 10 weeks or longer during the dry winter months to help avoid hair damage.
But shiny, healthy-looking locks are within reach regardless of the season – it just takes a little extra effort and some tender loving care.
“You should treat your hair like a cashmere sweater,” says dermatologist Wilma Bergfeld, MD. “Don’t beat it up by scorching it with an iron, overheating it with a dryer or using a caustic chemical on it. Remember, hair is a fiber.”
Everyone’s hair types differ, Dr. Bergfeld says, and while it’s important that everyone treat their hair gently — particularly in the winter — this is especially important if you have fragile hair. Fragile hair requires extra-careful treatment.
For example, take it easy when brushing your hair, especially when it’s wet, Dr. Bergfeld says. Wet hair is more fragile, so wait to comb it through after washing until it’s damp, she says.
Dr. Bergfeld recommends a wide-tooth brush with smooth-coated prongs that are spaced wide apart.
When it comes to washing your hair, how often you wash should depend on how much oil your scalp produces.
Oily hair may need to be washed daily to keep the scalp clean, while chemically treated hair can be washed less frequently.
After you wash your hair, be sure to apply a conditioner that’s specific to your hair type, Dr. Bergfeld says. The conditioner will help bind the hair fiber together to make it stronger, and in the winter can help deter static electricity.
Other products, such as a hydrating shampoo, leave-in conditioner and hot oil treatment, also can help fight the static electricity that hats and dry, warm air cause.
What you eat also can play a role in hair health. For example, if your diet restricts certain food groups, that may affect your hair.
In certain cases, supplements may help, Dr. Bergfeld says.
“Adding back iron, vitamin D, vitamin C and, sometimes, vitamin A is very important,” she says. “We also frequently use an H vitamin, which is called biotin, because it seems to help hair and nails.”
Winter brings its own kind of stress, from a harrowing morning commute to worry over loved ones far away. If you’re feeling continually stressed out, it could have an effect on your hair as well and could result in hair loss, Dr. Bergfeld says.
“Stress elevates your adrenal gland’s activity and also activates some of the receptors at the hair follicle level. This induces a shed, which is hair falling out by the roots,” she says.
Can stress give you gray hair? This is a myth, Dr. Bergfeld says.
Hair turns gray when pigment-producing cells die. Most people naturally gray as they age, Dr. Bergfeld says, and the time at which you’ll go gray is hereditary. So if you have family members who turned gray in their teens or in their 50s, it’s likely you will too.
Some people fear if you pluck one gray hair, it results in two growing back. But Dr. Bergfeld says that’s a myth, too.
“When you pluck the gray hair, it generally returns gray,” she says. “It doesn’t return in multiples, though.”
Other than coloring your hair, there’s nothing you can do to prevent graying, she says.
Dr. Bergfeld adds that aging is beautiful and encourages women to embrace it by keeping their skin and hair healthy.