How to protect your hair this winter
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
Winter has its charms. You get to break out your range of jackets, scarfs and hats (nice), and we might even see some snow. But winter can be a tough time of year too, particularly for your hair.
Cold and dry winter weather can damage your hair and make it thin and fall out. If you already have male pattern baldness this isn’t exactly great news. We’ve got you though. We’ve put together these simple winter weather haircare tips to show you how to protect your hair and reduce any hair loss in winter.
What happens to your hair and scalp in the winter?
Cold winter weather can wreak havoc on your hair and scalp in a couple of ways.
The air around you contains water. The colder the air becomes the less water it can hold. If the air becomes cold and dry enough it can cause you to lose water from your skin and hair. This process is called trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). It can dry your skin and hair out, making your skin rougher and your hair more brittle. TEWL gets worse in windy weather too, so cold winter storms are a double punch to your hair and scalp.
Cold weather also makes the blood vessels in your skin contract. Your skin and hair follicles will then receive less blood – that means less oxygen and fewer nutrients. This can make it harder for your scalp to produce and maintain healthy strands of hair.
All of this can make your hair look less healthy. It can also worsen skin conditions on your scalp and give you dandruff. It can even make your hair fall out.
Can winter weather make your hair fall out?
The drying and stress that winter weather can cause to your scalp can make you lose hair. Your hair becomes more brittle in winter, meaning strands can break and fall out more easily. If your scalp dries and receives fewer nutrients it can shed more hair too.
Hair loss caused by winter weather won’t be permanent though. Your hair will return once winter comes to an end or once you take care of your hair (see our winter haircare tips below). However, if you’re already losing hair to male pattern baldness, losing even more hair to winter weather isn’t going to do you any favors. It can make your hair look thinner and make balding more pronounced.
Can wearing a hat make your hair fall out?
It can. If wearing a hat makes your head too warm it can make you sweat. This can dry your scalp out even more. Sweat can irritate your scalp too, causing you to shed hair. The action of taking a hat on and off or a hat moving on your head can also damage your hair by rubbing it, causing mechanical damage that can make hair break and fall out. Wearing a hat in winter weather won’t cause permanent hair loss. But if you’re already losing hair to male pattern baldness it can make existing hair loss look worse.
How to take care of your hair and scalp in the winter
If you take care of your scalp and hair in the winter you can keep your hair looking its best, reduce dandruff and minimize any hair loss. And the good news is you don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive products or stick to time-consuming routines. Just follow these simple tips to keep your scalp healthy and reduce hair loss.
- Drink plenty of water: The best way to keep your scalp hydrated is to keep your whole body hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You’ll see loads of advice online about how much water you should drink each day, but don’t pay too much attention to this as it varies by person and day. The best way to tell how hydrated you are is by the color of your urine. If it’s pale yellow, you’re good. If it’s darker, go and drink some water.
- Eat a hair and skin friendly diet: Winter is often a time when we indulge in drink and rich food. But during winter your skin and hair need even more of the nutrients that keep it healthy. Try to eat plenty of good stuff too. Focus on a range of fruits and vegetables, plus nuts and fatty fish. You can also help your hair by taking a daily multivitamin and an omega oil supplement.
- Cover your head: We mentioned above that wearing a hat can make matters worse if the hat is tight and makes your head too hot. However, if the hat isn’t too tight and is made of a material that allows your skin to breathe, covering your head can successfully reduce drying and damage.
- Don’t spend too much time under a hot shower: This can be tempting in colder weather, but hot water can make your hair and scalp lose even more moisture. Take shorter and/or cooler showers.
- Don’t over-style your hair: Styling products can irritate a dry scalp. A hairdryer can cause more stress to your hair and running your hands through your hair can make you shed more of it. Try to keep any styling to a minimum during the winter months.
- Keep your hair short: The ends of your hair usually show more damage, while shorter hair is easier to take care of. Having your hair cut regularly can keep it in better condition and looking healthier.
- Don’t leave the house with wet hair: Wet hair is more vulnerable to the cold and is more likely to be damaged by winter weather. Make sure your hair has dried before going outside. Ideally, you should let your hair dry naturally rather than towel drying or using a hairdryer, both of which can cause damage.
- Use a gentle shampoo and give conditioners a try: You don’t need to use a special winter shampoo when you wash your hair. A gentle shampoo that doesn’t irritate your scalp will suffice. You can try using a conditioner too to keep your hair smooth and to stop it from getting brittle.
- Try a proven hair loss treatment: If you have male pattern baldness losing hair in winter can make your thinning and balding more pronounced. If you haven’t already done so, consider using a scientifically proven hair loss treatment like finasteride, also sold under the brand name Propecia.
How can I hydrate my hair in winter?
The best way to hydrate your hair is to do it from the inside. Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and your scalp and hair will benefit too. There’s plenty of advice about how much water you need to drink, but the truth is it varies by person. You can tell if you’re properly hydrated by the color of your urine – aim for pale yellow and you’re good.
Which shampoo is best for hair in winter?
There isn’t one best shampoo for winter weather, but a mild shampoo that doesn’t irritate your scalp is sensible. A conditioner can also help with brittle and damaged hair. If cold weather gives you dandruff or makes it worse an anti-dandruff shampoo can help. It’s time to enjoy the best of winter while keeping your hair looking great too.