How to Combat the Effects of Winter On Your Scalp
As the temps drop, a new crop of hair and scalp issues arise. Here’s your guide to beating the damage that cold weather inflicts.
Your scalp is constantly trying to adjust to accommodate the artificial heat indoors and the cold outside, says Justine Marjan, a celeb hairstylist and a GHD brand ambassador. That yo-yoing can cause itchiness, dandruff, dried-out strands, and lots of static. Get a handle on the situations; otherwise, they might quickly turn into more pressing dermatological issues, like dermatitis or folliculitis, says Lars Skjoth, the founder of and the head of research and development at Harklinikken. Luckily, there are quick fixes. (Related: How to Adjust Your Life to Winter, According to Science)
Itchy, Dry Scalp
In addition to extreme temperature changes, hormonal shifts and holiday travel and stress can contribute to a dry scalp. "It's the result of dead skin cells constantly replacing themselves because your pH levels are off," Marjan says.
The solution? Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Look for a conditioner with hydrating oils, like OGX Damage Remedy + Coconut Miracle Oil Conditioner ($9, ulta.com) or Garnier Whole Blends Smoothing Conditioner with Coconut Oil & Cocoa Butter Extracts ($5, amazon.com). Apply the product directly onto the scalp, not just your strands. Marjan also suggests dabbing aloe vera or cider vinegar onto your scalp with a cotton pad to help balance pH levels.
Arid indoor heat is likely responsible for a spike in flakiness, says Francesca Fusco, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. You may think those tiny white flakes are simply a result of dryness, but they are actually an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp.
"If you look at dandruff under the microscope, it appears as a thick fungal layer that flakes off; dry skin simply looks cracked," Dr. Fusco says. To kill the fungus, use shampoo and conditioner that contain zinc pyrithione. (We like Head & Shoulders Deep Moisture collection, ($6, amazon.com) "Zinc pyrithione hydrates a dry scalp and treats dandruff at the same time," Dr. Fusco says. She recommends massaging the dandruff shampoo and the conditioner into your scalp as well as the strands. You may even want to leave it on for a few minutes to really give it a chance to work. (Related: 5 Women with Different Hair Types Share Their Hair-Care Routines)
"Your hair is parched when it lacks luster and feels dry and brittle to the touch," says Skjoth.
The remedy: Swap the order of your shampoo and conditioner. Before shampooing, apply a good bit of conditioner to the lengths and ends of your hair. Then massage only shampoo into your scalp. Shampoo can be too drying for weak hair, so the conditioner acts as a shield. After rinsing the shampoo, apply a hydrating mask. Try Tresemmé Repair & Protect 7 Instant Recovery Mask Sachet ($1.50, tresemme.com) and Not Your Mother's Naturals Matcha Green Tea & Wild Apple Blossom Nutrient Rich Butter Mask ($9, ulta.com).
"Cold air and low humidity create the perfect storm for static," celeb hairstylist Michael Silva says.
Before stepping foot outdoors, spritz on an alcohol-free hair spray, like Healthy Sexy Hair Pure Addiction hair spray ($19, ulta.com). Alcohol-free is key because it won't further dry out your hair. If you need more moisture, look for a hairspray that contains smoothing ingredients as well, like Kenra Platinum Voluminous Touch Spray Lotion 14 ($22, ulta.com). (Related: We Got 6 Dermatologists to Reveal Their Winter Skin-Care Routines)