Beating The Winter Hair Blues – Part 1: Five Key Hair Care Routine Changes

The smell of cold, crisp mornings, the dew on tree branches and early sunsets signal the imminent arrival of winter. It is one of my favorite times of the year; pretty lights everywhere, delicious holiday food and the excitement of trying to master ice-skating once again. Winter is also the ideal season to curl up with a fantastic book and a cup of creamy hot cocoa.

Yet, since I turned 40, winter is no longer a wonderland when it comes to my beauty regimen. I have noticed that the winter weather has become harder on my skin, and also on my hair. My scalp is drier, sometimes even marked by dreaded small white flakes, and they are not snow! My hair is frizzy, breaks more easily, and looks dull and lifeless.

From my passion for reading beauty articles, I was already aware that hair strands are more prone to breakage and dryness with age. As I learned, this is because the shaft becomes thinner and the hair cuticle more fragile over time. So I have been careful, particularly during summertime, to protect my hair from the heat, sun, and salt or chlorine water. But it was only recently that I discovered that winter can also have some of the most damaging effects on hair, especially after 40, and clearly my current hair regimen wasn’t up to the task.

Determined to keep my mane looking fabulous all year long, I asked my dear, long-time stylist, Mark, to help me adapt my hair care routine to one that would let me beat the “Winter Hair Blues”. First of all, he explained to me the key changes that happen to our hair and scalp during winter.

The Winter Hair Woes

Winter can take its toll on our hair and scalp in many different ways. Cold winter air takes away the hair surface water and indoor heating dries out the hair moisture. These elements, together with the stress caused by the extreme temperature changes of going from cold to hot and back, and the static electricity in the air, can all make your hair dry, dull, brittle and frizzy.

In addition, we are likely to lose the most hair during both winter and summer, though for different reasons. In the summertime, people have higher rates of telogen, a resting phase for the hair follicle, and therefore hair falls out more. In winter, the environmental changes result in aggravated scalp irritation and hair dehydration, leading to more breakage, split ends and hair loss.

“Winterizing” Our Hair Care Routine

On the bright side, we can diminish or avoid these problems with the right hair care routine for winter.

Below are the key protective and replenishing steps my stylist recommends for keeping our hair and scalp healthy and looking great all winter long. He also advises to start before the season arrives for best results, no need to wait for the first snowflake to fall!


Washing Frequently & with Hot Water

Cut down on the times you wash your hair to keep it moisturized. Shampoo cleanses hair, but it also washes away natural oils on the scalp. On the days you don't wash it, you can rinse your hair with water to absorb some of the oils. Always use cool or warm water to avoid the damage hot water can cause.


Keep coloring jobs to a minimum. If you still want to keep up with grey coverage or change your look with minimal damage, go for shades close to your base that don’t require bleach or opt for the less intense "low lights" or a for a color closer to your base color.


Nurturing the Scalp

A dry scalp tends to be more common in winter and can lead to dandruff and hair loss. The scalp needs to be clean and properly nourished for our hair to grow strong and healthy. For this, it is recommended to use scalp-targeted products. A scalp cleanser that gently exfoliates and cleanses the scalp to remove build-up and unclog pores is essential. Add a daily dosage of a scalp serum, applying it with a massage and leaving it overnight to stimulate the scalp, improve circulation and reduce stress.


Hair moisture gets stripped away by the chilly winter air, leaving it dry and brittle. This makes maintaining hair hydrated one of the key challenges of the season and conditioning it a vital part of our hair care routine.

Besides following every shampoo with the best conditioner for your hair type, using a hydrating mask, ideally twice a week, is a must in the wintertime. Look for masks containing fatty acids and humectants, such as seed and nut butter, panthenol and glycerin, as these are the best for retaining moisture and leaving hair smooth and lustrous. Additional tip: apply starting 2 inches away from the scalp and pull it through the hair, concentrating on the ends, as they are the most damaged and oldest parts of your hair.

Drying Smartly - and Fully!

Allow your hair to air dry as much as possible.

Hair dryers and styling tools dry out our hair at anytime, but in winter, when our hair is craving moisture, heat will make this problem much worse! If you don’t have time to air dry or you must heat style for a special do, use a protective spray and keep tools on the lowest heat setting.

Whichever drying route you take, NEVER go out with wet or even damp hair. Your hair will be cold, and since cold things expand, it can weaken the hair shaft and cause damage. And if your hair ends up freezing, you risk breakage.

If you want more ideas to keep your hair healthy and beautiful this winter, stick around! In a few days, I will be sharing some more useful tips from my stylist to help us beat the winter hair blues.