How to Have a Good Hair Day Even When It’s Effing Cold Outside

Winter can inflict some serious damage on your skin but it doesn’t end there; bitterly cold winds aren’t doing your hair any favours either. Once humidity levels in the air drop to 60% and lower, dryness and static in your hair start to rear their ugly heads, says Dr. Jeni Thomas, principal scientist for Pantene. Between split ends, static frizz and hat head, the winter hair struggle is real.

Here, Thomas and New York and Toronto-based hairstylist Jason Lee break down how to conquer even the most frustrating of winter hair dilemmas.

Mind Your Moisture

“Most winter hair concerns boil down to the moisture level in your hair,” says Thomas. “That moisture depends a lot on the temperature and humidity around your hair.” Whether you’re sitting inside with dry, hot air pumping out of heaters or outside in sub-zero temps, your mane is constantly trying to balance itself with the temperature and humidity (or lack thereof) surrounding it. To minimize how your hair reacts to its environment, the best defense is stocking up on conditioner to keep moisture levels up. “Conditioners help your hair be less at the whim of the environment by keeping the moisture in your hair more balanced,” says Thomas. She suggests reaching for an ultra-hydrating formula while super parched strands should use a weekly hair mask to amp up hydration even more. “Masks are more potent and they can penetrate the hair a bit deeper,” she says.

Curb Static

One of the most common winter hair complaints is static-ridden strands. These sparks occur when you introduce friction (often from hats, scarves, etc.) to a moisture-parched mane. Friction throws off the protein structure of your hair causing each strand to act like magnets and repel each other, but there are a few easy hacks to fight this. According to Thomas, again using conditioner boosts your hair’s moisture level and reduces friction, shielding it from unwanted flyaways. Lee recommends giving your locks an extra hit of hydration with a rich, moisturizing shampoo and applying a clear glaze treatment to add shine and moisture back to dull, lacklustre strands. For an on-the-go fix, he suggests stashing a few dryer sheets in your purse to swipe over your head if it gets hit with the frizzies. “They will help to reduce the static in your hair when you’re in a bind.” If your long hair is always fighting off static frizz, Lee recommends keeping your hair in a loose braid while wearing big coats and scarves to minimize friction and to avoid the tangled mess that can happen at the back of your neck.

Step Away From The Hot Tools

In line with keeping your hair happy and hydrated is how often you’re heat styling. “Stay away from flat irons and excessive use of other heated tools as it will just dry out the hair even further,” says Lee. He specifically calls out flat irons as public enemy number one for causing dryness and upping static. If cutting out hot tools altogether isn’t realistic, Lee says that it’s key to arm yourself with hydrating creams and oils like coconut and argan to minimize dryness. Another way to limit heat styling is to cut back on how often you’re washing your hair in the winter. “The less times you have to dry your hair the better,” he says. Prolong your blow outs a few days longer by spritzing on an oil-absorbing dry shampoo.

Wave Goodbye to Hat Hair

Having a cozy toque is essential to surviving a long, cold Canadian winter but wearing one can bring with it the dreaded hat hair. “When you’re wearing a hat, the hair underneath it, for all it knows, could be in the Bahamas as it’s nice and toasty and humid under there, while the bottom part of your hair is seeing Antarctica,” says Thomas. There’s a battle between the two different environments happening and it’s that imbalance that creates the crease where those two ecosystems are meeting. The drawbacks of hat head aren’t universal — sometimes hair gets flat under there while other times it might get frizzy depending on your hair texture— but the outcome is inevitable: that blowout you worked so hard on that morning is now all messed up. If you fall victim to messy hat head, Lee advises keeping products on hand that will freshen up your hair, add volume or tame unruly strands like a styling mist or a dry shampoo.

 

Stay on Top of Split Ends

Split ends are a pain year-round, but with the low levels of moisture in the winter air, they’re more likely to pop up once the temperature drops. Decreased humidity and dry air exacerbate fragile hair, causing the ends to split apart. The problem is that once they’re split, they can’t be fixed; they can only be temporarily sealed back together. Lee says that regular trims is the best prevention against raggedy ends and to use a lightweight split end cream or serum in-between salon visits to keep your hair smooth and shiny despite the ravages of the winter.