One of the simplest, most-restorative joys in winter is stepping into a steamy, hot shower to recover from the bone-chilling temperatures outside. But if you’re thawing out this way, it begs the questions: should you be washing your hair every time to turn on the faucets?
It all boils down to learning how often to wash your hair in winter. With that in mind, keep reading to learn how to adjust your shower routine during the colder months of the year, according to hair stylists.
Wash your hair 1 to 4 times per week, depending on hair type
Sarah Lund, a master hairdresser, session artist, and educator for KEVIN.MURPHY, says that it’s a good practice to reduce the number of times you wash your hair in the winter for two reasons. First, hair is more prone to drying out in winter, so you want to avoid exposing it to other drying conditions that you can control (ie: hot water). Second, if you don’t wash your hair, you won’t have to heat style it, which she says can be particularly drying, especially on already susceptible strands.
That said, Lund doesn’t believe that there’s a single magic number for how often to wash hair in winter. “Every head of hair is different just as every person has different tastes,” she says. “Ideally, thick, coarse, or curly hair should be washed one to two times per week (maybe even less!) and fine, [thin] hair textures can stretch washings to two to four times per week.”
Lund says it’s important to not only reduce how often you wash your hair but to tailor the in-shower process, as well. “It is best to avoid very hot water,” she says, noting to stick to water that is lukewarm when rinsing out shampoo and conditioner. Additionally, she says to choose the appropriate products. “Look for hydration and moisture (this may be different from your summer haircare routine),” she advises. “Always use sulfate-free shampoos—sulfates can be too harsh for the hair, particularly in the winter.”
Subtract another day or two of washing per week if you live in colder climates
Howard McLaren, celebrity men’s stylist and co-founder of R+Co, says that the climate you live in plays a role, too. After all, not everyone experiences winter the same way as those in, say, the Northeast or along the Great Lakes. With that in mind, he says that if your skin regularly becomes dry in the winter, it’s safe to assume that your hair does, too. As such, he recommends cutting back your hair-washing regimen by a day or two. And when you do wash, stick to a hydrating regimen. “For those in colder climates, it’s important to remember to add moisture to your hair in the winter months in the same way that you treat your skin-care regimen differently in different seasons.”
While selecting a hydrating shampoo is an important step, McLaren says that adding a deep conditioner to your winter hair-care routine is a must. “Deep conditioners or hair masks tend to be more intensive and provide richer moisturizing ingredients,” he explains. “It is important to work a mask into your regimen and replace conditioner with a deep conditioner or mask weekly or every three to four washings. Plus, the self-care benefits of doing a mask and taking a bit of extra time for yourself can be comforting on cold winter days.”
Use a leave-in conditioner after every wash during winter
“During the winter, the cold air slightly lifts the hair cuticle, so moisture doesn’t stay locked in,” explains Chase Kusero, celebrity stylist and co-founder of IGK Hair Care. “As a result, your hair gets thicker, frizzier, and more brittle since it’s losing hydration. Because of this, it’s very important to replenish it with a good dose of extra moisture.”
If you’ve got an oily scalp, don’t skip washes, but do use a sulfate-free shampoo
While washing your hair less frequently in winter is the common answer, it’s not always possible, admits Iris Rubin, MD, dermatologist and founder of SEEN Hair Care. “In theory, washing your hair less frequently during the winter could be beneficial since there’s less moisture in the air and you want to hang on to as much of your hair and scalp’s natural oils (and their moisturizing benefits) as possible,” she explains. “However, in reality, washing less often isn’t always an option, especially for those with an oily scalp.”
In that case, the trick to maintaining moisture, while still managing an oily scal,p is to always use a sulfate-free shampoo, Dr. Rubin says. “They won’t strip the hair of its essential moisture regardless of the season,” she explains.
Only wash your hair when absolutely necessary—not matter the season
Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri, celebrity hairstylists and co-founders of IN COMMON Beauty both believe that you should wash your hair less year-round—not just in winter. “Washing your hair daily is very harsh,” Lee warns. “Water in our pipe systems has a ton of chemicals that dry out your hair and skin.”
As such, she and Capri recommend washing your hair as infrequently as you can. And, when you do wash your hair, make it a ritual (in other words, invest and immerse yourself in it). “Always keep in mind that hair care is like skin care, so invest in some great products, be consistent and feel the difference it does for your hair,” Capri says.
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