As much as I like cold weather (and I do, unapologetically so), I have learned that it's not the best for my hair. For one thing, did you know that warm temps are far better at holding in moisture than cold ones are? Another problem is freezing weather and wind can cause the cuticles of our hair to lift which can result in hair strand damage and/or hair not being able to hold conditioning products in for very long. Also, when it's cold, that can lead to more frizzing and dryness; especially because we tend to be indoors more often with our HVAC units set to warmer temps.
All of these reasons are why it's so important to be proactive when it comes to caring for your hair during the fall and winter seasons. So, if you're looking for a few ways to do just that right about now, I've got 10 tips that will safely carry your tresses right on past Valentine's Day — and then some.
1. Do Some Pre-Pooing
Even if you use a sulfate-free shampoo (and I hope that you do because other than clarifying your hair, sulfates can be extremely drying), when you're a Black woman, it's still a good idea to pre-poo your hair on every wash day. Since it can be difficult for the natural sebum from your hair follicles and scalp to run down the entire shaft of your strands (due to your super curly texture), that's why your hair tends to be drier than other ethnicities. Then, when you bring shampoo into that mix, that can dry your locks out even more. One way to head that off is by pre-pooing — applying an oil to your hair, before shampooing. This works well because it softens your hair, makes your conditioner more effective and it significantly reduces the detangling process, so that there's far less breakage (which is a great thing because wet hair is pretty fragile).
As far as the best oils to use, I like avocado a lot because it's got a great reputation for containing properties that detangle, deeply moisturize, and even heal dandruff. Still, pretty much any oil of your choice (argan, coconut, grapeseed, olive, almond, etc.) will work. Just split your hair up into four sections, generously apply the oil, let it sit for 20-30 minutes, and wash and rinse as usual. You will immediately notice a difference.
2. Give Your Hair Herb-Infused Hot Oil Treatments
Something that I've been doing this year that I enjoy so much is making my own herb-infused oils. If you check out the article, "12 Natural Ways To Get Your Skin To Glow All The Way Up This Summer" that I wrote for this platform, #5 breaks it down for you. For now, I'll just say that this kind of oil is bomb because you can customize the herbs and oil(s) that you want in order to pamper your skin or, in this case, your hair.
Anyway, remember how I said that cold air can cause cuticles to take quite a beating? One way to avoid this is treating your hair to a hot oil treatment because it helps to seal your cuticles. Not only that but the heat of the oil will stimulate blood flow to your hair follicles which will strengthen your hair over time. Plus, hot oil treatments are great at reducing split ends and alleviating dry scalp. Applying a hot oil treatment every other wash day is cool. For tips on how to do it properly, check out YouTuber's Mia Nicole's video here, Leilani Iman's video here, and tatenda's video here.
3. Apply a Leave-In Conditioner
Even though I am big on deep conditioning (especially over the past couple of years), something that I wish I had been doing for even longer than that is applying a leave-in conditioner. Because my hair soaks up moisture with the quickness (no matter what the season may be), applying a leave-in (usually on freshly washed hair and right before I blow it out) has helped my hair to retain moisture for days on end. As far as if you should apply it every day, honestly, I think it depends on if you go with a cream or a spray (a spray is usually much lighter). Also, it's important to keep in mind that "too much of a good thing" can result in a lot of build-up and residue on your hair. Personally, on wash day and maybe once a week is more than enough in my opinion. The bottom line here is to use some, especially during the cooler seasons of the year. For tips on choosing the right leave-in for your hair and its needs, check out Naturally Curly's "Top 20 Leave-in Conditioners."
4. Use a Cream-Based Thermal Heat Protectant
Listen, I would audibly scream it in your ear if I could — ANY TIME YOU APPLY HEAT TO YOUR HAIR, YOU NEED TO USE A THERMAL HEAT PROTECTANT FIRST! It adds and seals in moisture. It reduces frizz. It provides a layer of protection from the heat. Just make sure during this time of the year that, unless you have very fine hair, you go with a cream rather than a spray base. While I can't recall her name, shout-out to the sales associate at one of my local Sally's Beauty Supply stores who told me that cream gives better and longer-lasting coverage than a spray. She's exactly right. I can totally notice a difference between the two since switching over to creams.
5. (Temporarily) Ditch Serums
As with most things in life, hair serums come with pros and cons. On one hand, they help to control frizz, reduce detangling and create an unbelievable amount of shine. On the flip side, they can create a significant amount of build-up, can weigh your styles down and, because of the chemicals in them, cold weather can actually cause serums to make your hair feel really stiff. The solution? Well, just like it's best to go with a cream-based thermal heat protectant when it's cold outside, it's a good idea to style your hair altogether with something that is more of a cream-base so that your hair feels softer and is easier to manage. That said if you absolutely must go with a serum, use one that is oil-based instead of silicone-based. You will be able to avoid the "stiffness" easier that way.
6. Shower in Warm (Not Hot) Water
I'll agree with anyone who feels like nothing feels better than a long hot shower after coming in from the freezing cold. Here's the problem, though — because your hair is pretty porous, if hot water hits it, that can result in it dehydrating your scalp and stripping your strands of the natural oils that they need in order to thrive. So, if "hot you must", avoid shampooing in the shower. And wherever you wash your hair, go with warm for the washing and cool for the final rinse. Cool water is something else that is great when it comes to sealing your cuticles right on up.
7. Protect Your Ends
A lot of the Black women I know will actually put their hair into a protective style during the summertime either because they are traveling a lot or they simply don't want to be bothered with thinking about it. But you know what? Fall and winter are ideal for braids, twists, wigs, and weaves because they are so good at protecting your hair — especially your ends — from inclement weather. Speaking of your ends, because you won't be able to retain any inches (check out "Let's Gain An Inch A Month Of Hair Growth 'Til December, Shall We?", "This Is The Way To Properly Care For Your Hair While Rockin' A Wig" and "If Your Hair Keeps Breaking Off, You're Probably Doing This.") unless they are able to remain healthy and intact, definitely make sure that you seal them on every wash day. All this means is you plan to apply some extra oil to them (after conditioning your hair), so they won't get dry and brittle as quickly. For tips on how to properly seal your ends, check out Simply Julia Lauren's YT video (here) and ulovemeg's video (here).
8. Make Vitamin E Your Hair’s Best Friend
Something that will definitely support your hair's health on all fronts is Vitamin E. The potent antioxidants in it will help to moisturize your scalp and soothe it if it's irritated or itching. It's the kind of oil that is extremely hydrating. If you're looking for an oil that will help to restore hair loss, there are studies to support its ability to do that. Vitamin E can also give your hair a lot of shine.
For all of these reasons and more, it's a good idea to make sure your diet contains foods that are high in Vitamin E (like almonds, broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds, butternut squash, avocado, and kiwi), that you use hair products that contain Vitamin E and that you massage your scalp with some 100 percent pure Vitamin E oil, once a week, too.
9. Drink Herbal Teas
A couple of years ago, I penned "These Foods Will Give Your Skin & Hair The Moisture They Crave" for xoNecole because, it's important to remember that, when it comes to keeping moisture in your hair, it needs to happen from the inside out, just as much as it does from the outside in. One of the things I mentioned on this list is herbal teas because 1) teas are a great way to hydrate your hair and scalp and 2) teas are very popular around this time of year. As far as the kind of herbal teas that are especially good for hair health, some of those include rosemary (it increases blood circulation to your scalp); lavender (it reduces dandruff and soothes an itchy scalp); ginger (it reduces hair fall); peppermint (it encourages hair growth) and red clover tea (it adds additional moisture).
10. Use a Humidifier at Night
I've been saying, on repeat, that since it appears that COVID isn't going anywhere, any time soon, it's really important to invest in a humidifier. You can read all about why by checking out "10 Really Good Reasons To Get Yourself A Humidifier This Fall." As it relates to your hair, specifically, sleeping with a humidifier at night is an effective way to restore the moisture that your HVAC unit may be zapping from your hair. Since I've been using one, it's kind of wild how my scalp has been itching less and my hair has been feeling less dry. It's one of the best hair (and skin) investments that I've made in a long time as I prepare for all that fall and winter have in store. If you don't have one, treat yourself. You — and your hair — won't regret it at all.
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