Winter time is a game changer for curly hair. The minute the weather drops to below freezing (typically around mid-October to early November in the Northern Hemisphere), you may notice drier hair, more split ends, and a decline in the overall health in your hair – if you don’t change your routine accordingly.
For most, you cannot (and should not) maintain the same curly hair routine from the summertime if you want healthy, moisturized hair. Here are seven do’s and seven don’ts for keeping your hair moisturized, shiny, and healthy all winter 2018:
Shampoo is great to remove build-up and clarify your hair in the summer when we perspire. It’s also great to remove build-up from dirt and hair products. Your wash day routine should include a shampoo-session at least once a month.
But when you over-shampoo, you strip your hair of the natural oils it needs to keep the moisture sealed. You know you are over-shampooing when your hair is extra dry after you apply products right after your wash. Essentially, your wash day routine should be balanced between shampooing and other means of clarifying (more on that later).
2. Have your fingers in your hair
We all do it – we absentmindedly play with our hair when we are bored or not paying attention. Your hair is already dry in the wintertime, why rob it of its moisture? Your fingers will absorb the moisture from your strands when you play with it. As such, you are leaving your hair more vulnerable to split ends. Learn to keep your hands to yourself!
3. Overuse protein treatments/products
If you’re on your Ps and Qs when it comes to curly hair, you’ll know that protein is essential for curly hair. And in winter, that still holds true. But too much can leave your hair stiff and unmanageable. Stick to a light protein treatment bi-weekly, and a more intensive one every 10-12 weeks. My suggestions are the Aphogee Intensive Two-Minute Keratin Reconstructor and the Aphogee Two-Step Protein Treatment, respectively. Follow instructions carefully when using protein-rich products.
4. Forget about your ends
There’s a famous curly hair saying: your ends are your hair’s elders. They are literally the oldest part of your hair. They have been weathered down by the environment and, as such, they are the most fragile and sensitive part of your hair. You may get away with this in the summer, but in the winter, you MUST focus your products on the ends and seal your ends with oil (see below for which oils to use).
5. Forget to use satin
You might be thinking: “I sleep with a satin pillowcase every night so I’m fine.” WRONG. Is your jacket hood, hat/tuque/cap satin lined? Didn’t think so. You can keep warm and keep your hair protected by using a satin-lined hat. You can find many of these caps online (popular examples include the Slap Cap), but you can also go to a local tailor to sew satin in your already owned hats.
6. Use humectant products
What are humectants? In layman’s terms, they are molecules used in products to promote moisture retention. They work on a diffusion gradient effect – if there is a lot of moisture in the air, they draw water particles from the air and into your strands.
This translates into: summertime=bless, wintertime=death.
They work against us during the winter. There is more moisture in your hair than in the dry, winter air – guess where the moisture goes? The result is extremely dry curls.
Examples of humectants common in curly hair products include honey, glycerin, agave nectar, fructose and panthenol. Look at the ingredients of the product to determine the humectant’s relative concentration in the formula. A general rule is if it’s in the top ten products, shelf it for the winter.
7. Overuse flatirons and other heat tools
If there are so many rules surrounding wintertime curly hair maintenance, why not just flat iron your hair all winter? You could do that. The problem is that when you actually want to have your hair curly (i.e. by spring), you’ll have unhealthy, heat damaged hair, with curls that just won’t curl. Use this time to give your hair a break and treat it right to both meet and maintain your #curlgoals.
1. Deep condition weekly using natural products
This is a given. Your curls need a regular, intensive treatment to remain moisturized and thriving in winter. And by deep conditioning, I don’t just mean leaving your Suave or Tresemme conditioner in your hair for 2 minutes while you soap down your body. I mean a sit-down, 15-45-minute session.
Use natural products that work best for your hair. Coconut oil is typically avoided in the winter because of its protein-like structure. DIY DCs are great in the summer, but food items typically have large molecules that your body can absorb easily, but not suitable for your smaller hair cuticles. Smaller molecules that will readily absorb in your strands (such as the ones found in over the shelf products) will ensure you get the most out of your DC session.
2. Use steam when deep conditioning
While we’re on the subject of deep conditioning, hair steamers are great for ensuring that the product gets absorbed into your strands. Have you ever put your DC on your hair, and after your allotted time the product is just sitting on top your hair? What a waste of effort, time and money!
That’s where steam and heat comes into play. When you use heat, your hair cuticles are forced to open (like the pores on your skin). When this happens, DCs can be absorbed and retained. The result is bouncy, shiny and moisturized curls! If you don’t have a hair steamer nor have the budget/space for one, an attachable heat cap for your hair dryer will do the trick. Coupled with your favourite DC, there will be no wasted product lingering on your hair after your session.
3. Regular scalp massages
Scalp health is real, yo. If you are on a hair growth journey, your ends and your scalp must be your focus. Scalp massages stimulate follicle action, which will then initiate hair growth. It’s all about your technique here. Gently use the pads of your fingers (not your nails!) to massage your scalp in a circular motion. Use in combination with follicle stimulating oils. Examples include tea tree, peppermint oil, Jamaican Black Castor Oil.
4. Protective style
Who got time to walk out with wet hair in below freezing weather? Protective styling is the best way to ensure your hair will be at its healthiest by spring. This protects your hair from the elements and ensures minimal breakage on your ends to retain your length. Braids, bantu knots, wigs, buns, and twists are the most common protective styles.
However, please note the following:
- Ensure your protective style is not tight or pulling on your ends. This will cause tension and result in breakage around the perimeter of your head.
- Do not leave your style in for too long if you are looking to promote moisturized hair. Take down your regularly and clarify/DC your hair before you put it in another style.
- Keep your scalp hydrated and moisturized.
5. Use heavier oils and products
The products you use are crucial to keep your hair happy. Now is not the time to experiment with those light-weight, watery sprays you see all over the gram. Stick with tried and true butters, oils, and creams. Oils to use include castor oil and olive oil. For finer hair, use almond oil and grapeseed oil.
6. Try co-washing
Remember when I said shampoo less often? That does NOT mean wash your hair less. The co wash method is the act of using conditioners to wash your hair. Conditioners contain some cleaning agents that can be used to wash your hair in between shampoo washes. The bonus is that you can detangle at the same time! There are also some cleaning conditioners that act as shampoos, but feel like conditioners. My favourite is the As I Am Coconut Co-Wash Cleansing Conditioner.
7. Up your diet + vitamin game (responsibly)
Why not use hibernation season to work on your health? It’s difficult to consume all the foods necessary to ensure you get all your vitamins and minerals. Supplements are an efficient way to make sure your health is on point. When you have nutrient deficiencies, one of the first places it is noticed is in your hair, skin, and nails. For example, iron deficiencies are notorious for resulting in dry, brittle hair. Use this time to eat right and consult a doctor to know what vitamins are right for you.
What are your curly hair winter tips?