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Winterize Your Hair with These Tips

Jan 25, 2012 11:11AM ● By Tony Gordon

Chicago winters are hard on hair. Cold outside air and the heated air inside our homes and offices are very dry. Humidifiers have a nominal effect on parched winter hair, and styling routines often make things worse. Fortunately, there are actions can you take to re-moisturize your hair and give it back the luster and shine it sports in the summertime.

In the science of tricology (the study of hair and the scalp), hair is broken into three portions: the cuticle, cortex and medulla. The cuticle is the top, scaly layer that resembles shingles on a roof. Unlike a roof though, the cuticles are meant to keep moisture in, instead of out.

On your hair, these shingles are known as cuticle imbrications and may sit flat or become lifted. Flat cuticle imbrications make for a smoother surface and many factors impact their position. If they become raised, moisture is allowed to flow in and out of the hair, while closed imbrications allow the hair to seal itself and retain moisture.

Use a deep conditioner at least once a week. The pH balance of your hair, which runs from highly alkaline to extremely acidic, greatly affects the cuticle. All hair products have a specific pH balance, and the right pH will close the cuticle.

Brush your hair when it is dry. This will help disperse the natural oils from the scalp to the ends. The cuticle imbrications are also affected by physical action or lack thereof. If you do nothing else for your hair this winter, start brushing it daily. Using a boar bristle brush or equivalent, brush your dry hair from scalp to the ends to lay down the cuticle. The boar bristle brush disperses natural oils across the hair strand without ripping the hair. If your hair feels like it has no oil, just add a drop or two to your brush.

In the shower, finish your hair with a cool blast of water. As difficult as it may be in the winter, rinse your hair with cool water after applying conditioner. Hot water opens up the cuticle, while cool or cold water will help close it.

Shampoo less. Although shampooing is good for your hair, some people may be shampooing too much, especially during the depths of winter. Shampooing opens up the cuticle, so try spacing out applications during the winter months to every other time you shower. Continue to condition the hair every time, though.

Use a leave-in conditioner in combination with other conditioners. If you are blow-drying or ironing your hair, many leave-in conditioners serve as thermal protectants. Apply them when your hair is damp or towel dried and it will protect the hair throughout the day. Conditioners can be combined with other styling products, as well.

Don’t use heat while chemical processing. When chemically treating your hair (coloring or perming), avoid heat while processing. Tell your stylist you do not want heat applied to your hair while the color is on. Applying heat to your hair during processing time causes moisture in the hair to evaporate. If your colorist insists on using a dryer during the coloring process it might be necessary, but your cuticle and final color will suffer.

Trim your ends every six weeks. Split ends accelerate the loss of moisture and will cause normally healthy hair to look dry. It is also possible for split ends to work their way up the strand, which means that more hair will need to be cut off. If you are trying to grow out your hair, dusting or grazing the ends is very important. This takes a minimal amount of hair off the head and allows it to grow.

Winter is a special time of year in cold, dry climates such as Chicago. Hair is sensitive and will lose and gain elements, wanted and unwanted, from the air. Adopting these methods will help your hair avoid the winter blues.

Tony Gordon is the co-owner of Gordon’s Aveda Salon & Spas, with locations in Highland Park, Wilmette and Lakeview (Chicago). For more information, call 847-266-7777 or visit