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Winter Curly Hair Care

Winter Curly Hair Care

The famous author John Steinbeck once said, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” Sure enough, people all around the world look forward to those magical days of winter, curling up in front of a fire with marshmallows floating in cups of steaming hot chocolate. 

However, winter is also the time when our curls need some extra tender loving care. Just as curls can frizz out on hot and humid days, the cold air can wreak havoc on curly hair. 

Here are some potential challenges winter weather can bring for your curls:

  • Frizzy, undefined hair
  • Dry, itchy, flaky scalp 
  • Brittle hair prone to breakage and split ends

Why does the cold weather have this effect on curly hair?  

Cold air is generally drier and holds less moisture. This draws out the moisture in our hair to balance the surroundings. Less moisture leads to drier hair and scalp, dull and brittle strands, itchy and flaky scalp, and split ends.

The extreme temperature fluctuations of harsh cold winds, dry heated air indoors, and hot showers make matters worse.

Additionally, winter hair accessories such as hats, caps, and scarves may cause additional friction leading to enhanced damage.

Environmental FactorEffect on Curly Hair
Relative Humidity
Water concentration in the air (in %)

Changes in humidity (from humid to dry or vice-versa) have a detrimental effect on hair texture. The humidity of the environment can draw moisture in or out of the hair through osmosis. In winter, when the air is drier, moisture in the hair will be drawn out, which can lead to dry and brittle hair.    
Dew Point
The temperature at which dew begins to form

This is more of an absolute value than humidity. The higher the dew point, the more moisture in the air (and vice-versa). Best dew points for curls range from 40-60 degrees F. 
Temperature
Extreme weather temperature conditions can also have a negative impact on hair. Cold winter weather draws moisture out of the hair.


Static electricity

Electrons may build up on the hair due to winter accessories (e.g. polyester/nylon) rubbing against hair strands. This static electricity can cause frizz and flyaways.  

Winter typically has low dew points and once the weather goes below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, certain humectants in our styling products start drawing moisture out of the hair. This causes the loss of a defined curl pattern, frizz, and hair that breaks easily. 

It is not all bad news. Scientific studies have shown that women actually lose less hair during winter when compared to the other seasons. Also, during winter our body produces more melatonin that helps to regulate hair growth cycles and is beneficial for hair health.

  

Does hair porosity impact winter hair regimen? 

Hair porosity is defined as the ability of hair strands to absorb and retain moisture. High-porosity curly hair tends to allow for increased movement of moisture into and out of hair strands.

Hair porosity is an important factor when deciding your winter hair care regimen – use this table:

High Porosity HairLow Porosity Hair
-Increase use of oil/butter/cream to help seal in moisture (shea butter, olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil)

-LOC/LCO method – add liquid, oil, and cream to retain moisture

-Protein treatment – to increase hair strength and fight hair fall

-Hydrate with silicone-free and hydrolyzed protein-rich deep conditioners 

-Use gentle conditioners with larger protein such as keratin to seal holes and gaps in high porosity hair

-Always sleep with a silk cap or pillowcase to reduce frizz and preserve hair moisture
-Thoroughly moisturize hair using light-weight conditioners and creams

-Apply conditioner/ moisturizer to wet hair for better moisture absorption

-Regularly deep condition with steam or gentle heat for at least 30 mins

-LCO/ LOC method – use liquid, light oil, light cream to seal in moisture 

-Always sleep with a silk cap or pillowcase to reduce frizz and preserve hair moisture




Here are some further guidelines for selecting your hair products during winter:

Hair Product Selection

Cleansers 

During winter, use a cleanser with plenty of heavy nourishing oils. Be sure to clarify regularly if you use more oils and butters on your hair during winter.

Add a Co-wash 

If you do not typically use one, alternating shampoo with a co-wash during winter adds a boost of moisture when your hair may be less dirty and drier. 

Conditioners

Use enough conditioner, and check to make sure it contains plenty of good fatty alcohols such as cetyl stearyl, cetearyl, myristyl, behenyl and lauryl to retain hair moisture. Use your fingers to gently rake the conditioner through the hair.

Deep conditioners

Curlies should already have a deep conditioning routine. During winter, take it up a notch and double the number of deep conditioning routines, or deep condition a bit longer than usual, for example once or twice a week for 1 hour instead of 30 minutes. And if you have low porosity hair, use gentle heat or steam for deep penetration.

Optimize Your Curly Hair Care Routine

Seal hair with some extra protection: 

During winter, your curly hair could do with the extra protection of oil. Since oil and water do not mix, apply oil after washing the hair. The application of oil locks the moisture in and serves as a protective barrier. Indulge in some jojoba or argan oil – put a few drops of oil in your palms and gently apply to wet hair using the praying hands technique.

Use moisturizing humectants

Humectants have a natural tendency to absorb moisture from the surrounding environment and deliver these water molecules to hair. Use conditioning products that rely on strong moisturizers rather than traditional humectants.

Use gentle heat 

Excessive heat treatments from blow dryers can cause more harm than usual during the winter season. At the same time, walking around with wet hair is not feasible in winter. Use low heat settings as much as possible. 

Good time for protective hairstyles

Since your curls will be inevitably exposed to the cold or crushed under the weight of those winter hats, protective styling can go a long way. Check out the post on protective hairstyles

Short and sweet 

Winter is a good time for that much-needed trim. Cutting a few inches off your hair can make it easier to care for your curls when wintertime frizziness and dryness peak.

Avoid hair products with high glycerin content

Glycerine is a traditional humectant and water absorber and is generally added to hair products as it pulls moisture from the surroundings into the hair. However, during winter, the low dew point actually causes the reverse, where glycerin pulls moisture out of the hair and diffuses it into the surroundings.  

Softer after-shower hair routine

Curly hair does not react well to excessive friction at the best of times, so avoid rubbing your hair after washing/showering.  Always use a microfiber towel (or soft cotton t-shirt) to gently squeeze the excess moisture out.

Life-style adjustments

Relaxing humidifiers

Consider investing in a humidifier that will keep the indoor air from becoming too dry. There are several health benefits to humidifiers, as well as more manageable curls. 

Switch to silk hair accessories

Consider investing in silk-lined caps, hats, or beanies that will cause less friction and protect your curls.  

Give your hair the silky treatment

Switching to silk pillowcases will not only help prevent wrinkles in your face but also reduce friction on hair to reduce frizz and breakage. Cotton pillowcases tend to absorb moisture and should be avoided especially during the already dry winter nights.  

Follow a healthy diet and drink lots of water

A healthy diet is essential for strong and moisturized curls. During the cold winter months, it is essential that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, get your recommended dosage of vitamins (especially vitamin D), minerals (such as zinc), and nutrients. Also, drink plenty of water.

Incorporating a winter hair care routine can help your curls stay hydrated and beautiful through the winter. So, follow our tips, be consistently kind to your tresses and enjoy the magical winter season.

If you do not know your hair porosity, please take the Curly Hair Quiz.

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