The cold snap: keep your ends from breaking off in winter weather
If you've noticed the ends of your hair snapping a lot more easily this winter, you're not alone. But you do need to be on your guard: don't let the cold snap snip away the inches you've gained in length over the past year.
Cold weather brings with it icy temperatures that can sometimes cause the moisture in your hair to freeze. When this happens, your strands expand, leaving little microscopic cracks in your hair that form a serrated edge, allowing the hair beneath it to fall easily away whenever you style, wash, moisturise or even touch your hair. The harsh winter wind is also drying to strands, making them more vulnerable to damage. And to top it all off, the heat we turn on in our homes to counteract this cold also plays a central role in drying out our hair, leaving it more prone to breakage.
If you've been successfully growing your hair out for the past several months or longer, there is something you might have noticed: growing long hair has a lot more to do with retaining length (i.e., making sure you keep the strands intact once they've grown out) than how fast or how slow your hair grows. In short, the less your hair breaks, the longer it gets. So if your eye is on the long-term prize of longer hair, your immediate focus needs to be on preventing breakage. With that in mind, here's how to stop this icy onslaught before it puts a season-long halt to your goal for longer hair.
Cover up in the cold
If you have to go outside in freezing temperatures, keep your hair covered to keep it from expanding and cracking in the cold, or from being blown dry by cold winds. Whether you choose a headwrap or hat, make sure your strands are snug and safe inside, wrapped in a satiny fabric.
Get enough protein
Not just in your diet, but protein treatments (or other strengthening treatments, which include natural polysaccharides like those in aloe vera, and the starches in many fruits and vegetables) help fragile, dried out strands to keep going. Not only do they temporarily piece broken strands back together, they also help insure against breakage on hair that is still in good condition, but which could be compromised by the cold. How much you need will vary, try for 1-2 protein treatments a month and see whether your hair needs more or less. Always follow with a moisturizing one, of course.
Get more moisture
Increasing the moisture in your hair can add up to 3x as much strength. This far outstrips even the best protein treatments. Though it might be tempting to skimp on the treatments in winter, as you're probably not washing your hair as much as in the hotter months, do make an effort to treat your hair every time you wash it. Choose treatments that deeply hydrate your hair and infuse it with flexibility – if your elasticity is at the right level, then your hair will be less likely to break. Need even more hydration? Try steaming your hair at least twice a month to get an extra deep conditioning treatment.
Pretreat your hair
Treating your dry, breaking hair works wonders if you do it before a wash. If you have severe breakage, then you will still need to deep treat your hair after you cleanse and condition for best results. Try products with coconut oil – or, even better, pure coconut oil itself. Applied on dry hair and left to soak in overnight, it radically reduces your hair's snap quotient.
Insulate your hair
After all these treatments, it would be a waste if you simply let your hair dry out. You need to make sure that all the moisture and emollients are sealed into your strands for as long as possible; this means applying the right products in the right order. Follow this simple formula to ensure your hair holds onto just the right balance of moisture to keep it intact.
Cut your ends
If the tips are breaking, it might be time to do some damage control. Snip off the offending ends. Next, deep treat your hair for strength, then for moisture. Follow it up with a leave in conditioner and sealant. Follow the rest of the good practices in this guide to ensure you don't have to cut your tips again for a long time – and hopefully not by that much when you do.
Protect your ends
Don't leave the tips of your hair exposed, even at home. Wear updos and tucked in styles like cute buns, or ponytails with the ends gently clipped up. If you are wearing your hair in twists or braids, coil and seal the ends with a small amount of sealing leave in like Brillantina or atrActiva (dampen the hair first to make sure that the strands are hydrated before you insulate them.) If you are wearing your hair loose, opt for defining your natural curl or select sets where there is not that much separation of curl; when your strands are together, they are more protected against the elements.
Style your hair less often
If you notice you are losing ends whenever you style, then clearly manipulation has something to do with the breakage. By simply handling your hair less, you skip the inevitable damage (if you are handling your hair as gently as it needs to be handled, the levels of damage should be very low, but some damage is always inevitable with manipulation).
Use a humidifier
Available from most electrical goods retailers, these devices release vapour, infusing the air with moisture, and helping to alleviate the drying effects central heating can have on your hair and skin. Alternatively, you can try the old fashioned version, which you simply fill with water and hang on your radiator – less powerful than the electronic version, it's a lot less expensive, too. Either way, you'll be maintaining a more comfortable atmosphere for both your hair and skin.
Don't forget the satin
Last but by no means least, remember the satin! At night, protect your hair by sleeping on this ultra smooth fabric. Its slippery surface prevents friction from wreaking havoc on the hair as a whole, but especially on those delicate ends that are so much more vulnerable in the winter weather.
DHA Hair Care Experts