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Three Easily Avoidable Winter Hair Mistakes

12/04/2013 05:21 EST | Updated 02/04/2014 05:59 EST

Most of us remember to take extra care of our skin during winter, but unfortunately, we often forget to do this with our hair. Your hair, like your skin, reacts differently to the cold and changes in humidity, so you need to adapt and redefine your hair care regimen from summer to fall and again in the winter to keep your locks feeling and looking luscious and healthy. Dry, cold air outside and dry heat inside can quickly become a dull, static-y, frizzy nightmare if you don't prepare for and take care of your hair through the harsh winter months.

Here are three all-too-common winter hair mistakes. Thankfully for your hair, these mistakes are easy to avoid!

  1. Over-Drying Your Hair: Not only does your skin dry out when the weather turns cold, but so does your hair. Because the air is dry during the winter months, our hair is naturally weakened by the depletion of its natural moisture, leaving it vulnerable to damage and breakage. In addition to the dry air, blow dryers and heated styling tools can add insult to injury because we tend to use them more during the cooler months when it isn't practical or safe to let our hair air-dry.

    Walking outdoors in icy weather with wet hair can cause hair fibres to literally freeze and break like icicles. However, using blow dryers, straighteners, and curlers without any kind of heat protectant will lead to dry, damaged hair. It's important to pay special attention to the changing needs of your hair and do damage control with a deep conditioner when necessary. Conditioners put back the moisture that can be lost during shampooing and styling. They can also protect against frizz and UV rays, which (according to many ski bunnies) is not just a summertime concern!

  2. Washing Your Hair Too Much/Not Enough: It is the classic hair conundrum, how often should I wash my hair? This answer would depend on whether you are prone to have oily or dry hair and scalp and what kind of hair you have (curly vs. straight, thick vs. thin). Certain ethnicities, for example those of African descent, may find their hair particularly prone to dryness. Culturally, most Europeans wash their hair only a few times a week, while many Americans wash their hair twice a day -- so there is a lot of room to find the right balance for your hair.

    However keep in mind, excessive washing can mean more time styling, putting your hair at increased risk of damage. Shampooing can also remove the natural oils, like sebum, from our hair, which can lead to dull-looking strands and make your hair more prone to breakage. Unless you have a lot of styling products weighing your hair down, you should be OK to skip the daily shampoo. Winter is also a great time to evaluate the hair products you are using, make sure your shampoos/conditioners have strong, long-lasting deep conditioners containing ingredients like polyquats, dimethicone and panthenol to help protect your follicles from winter's wrath. You may also want to consider swapping out your regular shampoo for a 2-in-1 and follow your regular conditioner with some leave-in at the tips.

  3. Taking Too Many Hot Showers: Few things are better than a hot shower on a cold morning, but unfortunately, that steamy heat has the potential to hurt your hair! Hot water tends to cleanse better, but it can also strip more of the natural moisture from your hair and scalp. A 30-minute long, hot shower can have damaging effects on your hair, and may result in a dry head of hair and a dry scalp. And to make matters worse, if you are showering in scalding hot water, you run the risk of burning your scalp. The good news is, this one has an easy fix, keep the dial on warm instead of hot and cut down on the time in the shower. You'll be surprised what a difference 15 minutes can make!

If you find your hair feeling dry, weak and brittle this winter, you may also want to look at what's on your dinner plate. Make sure you're eating a healthy diet filled with "healthy hair foods." These include salmon (loaded with omega-3 fatty acid), dark green vegetables (vitamins A and C), and nuts (a great source of zinc). Another way to boost your hair, or to treat more serious problems like 'thinning,' is to use medical-grade treatments like professional-grade nutritional supplements, low-level laser therapy or prescription-strength compounded minoxidil.

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