We’ll forgive you for thinking that your biggest enemy when it comes to your hair is the summer season. A combo of heat, humidity, swimming, and wearing a hair-pulling topknot day-after-day seems like the ultimate recipe for hair disaster – and so we tend to put in extra efforts to protect it with hats, UV protectors, hair masks, professional treatments and the like.
We hate to be party poopers, but the winter months are not going to do you any hair favours, either.
“In winter, scalps dry out and hair texture becomes coarser,” says Jayne Wild, Dyson Styling Ambassador and Creative Director of Wild Life Hair.
“[Hair] will feel a bit drier, a bit rougher, coarser, harder to style, harder to manage. Cuticle layers will be more raised, which means [hair]’s not going to be as shiny or look as healthy than what it previously maybe did. With the scalp, there’s dryness, which can then cause other problems to happen like higher levels of dandruff, little bit of scaly-ness, itching, tightness, sometimes redness to the scalp,” adds Simone Lee, Trichologist, Educator and Creative Director for Asean Fashion Week.
Are all those bad hair days in winter suddenly making sense? Same. So why is winter doing us so dirty? “The air is a lot drier, so there’s not as much humidity and therefore the hair loses hydration. So, all of these factors contribute to multiple conditions and problems with not only the hair but also the scalp,” says Lee.
So, here's the game plan: A few *tiny* changes to your hair routine, some haircare products added into the mix, plus a few key styling products and you'll have the dry hair, itchy scalp and white flakes sorted.
How to ditch the dry scalp and flakes
If you think of a flaky scalp less like dandruff and more like a skin care issue on your head, it might be easier to wrap your, um, head around tackling it. The biggest thing that causes a dry (and sometimes itchy) scalp is dehydration and a lack of moisture. And you definitely know how to deal with dry skin - top up those hydration levels.
"Low-level flakiness is a dry scalp situation, so look for natural oils and natural lubricants that are going to help replenish moisture levels. You can apply topical oils when your hair and your scalp are dry, but also [try] treatment masks; your very nourishing, moisturising, conditioning masks will help you in that area just to maintain the hydration," says Lee. As far as hair products that will treat scalp dryness, we like the Sachajuan Scalp Treatment, Aesop Rose Hair & Scalp Moisturising Masque and Moroccanoil Dry Scalp Treatment.
Lee also recommends a little incidental self-care in the form of a scalp massage. "Make sure you give yourself a nice [scalp] massage, not too much friction on the scalp but more so a pressure massage particularly in the occipital area; what that will do is help with the blood flow and circulation through the scalp, which enables the vital nutrients needed to maintain a healthy scalp environment," she says.
And if you want to go one step up from improving circulation and dealing with some of those dead skin cells that lead to flakiness, start exfoliating your scalp a bit more regularly. Frank Body's Caffeinated Scalp Scrub contains natural ingredients like coffee and rosemary to help invigorate the skin and deal with any product build-up, and then Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub has ingredients like sea salt to help stimulate blood flow and improve scalp health (which can also help improve hair growth!). Another goodie is R+Co Crown Scalp Scrub, which has salicylic acid and kaolin clay to help loosen dandruff flakes and keep the skin clear and fresh.
What to do about dry, coarse hair
The good news is that once you've got some scalp care going on, the benefits will extend to your hair follicles after a while. But that doesn't mean there aren't some changes you can make to ensure your hair is as healthy and shiny as possible.
"Be mindful of your haircare regimen - you have to switch it up to accommodate the winter climate," says Lee. Besides upping the ante on hydration and moisture for both your scalp and hair (Davines The Let it Go Circle Mask ticks the nourishment box for both), Lee wants you to remember that what you do when you style your hair can make a big difference to your hair health. "Make sure that when you are drying your hair, you don’t use too-hot temperatures to try and get it dried quickly, and try not to over-style your hair using hot styling tools. Those sorts of things can burn the hair and I think a lot of women do that because they’re in a hurry or they just, you know, might be cold and all of a sudden they’ve burnt their hair and also the scalp." Lee’s a big advocate for the Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer here. Given that one of its biggest features is the intelligent heat control that ensures the temperatures never get to the point where it's causing extreme damage, it's pretty much a safe bet in maintaining your hair health during styling.
And here's something we bet you *never* thought of when it comes to your winter hair routine: UV protection.
"UV rays still exist in winter, and they can play a big part in cellular ageing on the scalp, but also UVA and UVB make a big impact on the hair cuticle and the cortex. So make sure you’re mindful of the UV radiation," says Lee. We like the Hair Rituel by Sisley Protective Hair Fluid - not only will it protect all hair types from both UVA and UVB rays, but it helps nourish and repair the hair fibres. A double whammy that we can definitely get on board with.
And hey, if all else fails and your winter hair just does not want to play ball, here are some really excellent upstyles you can turn to.
Do you have any go-to winter hair remedies? Please share in the comments section below.
Main image credit: Getty
Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.