Crucial Products Your Hair Type Needs This Winter

Face it: Your hair is needy right now. We’re not judging. Every single one of us should coddle our strands in the winter months. Just as you layer on the cashmere and down to survive cold weather, you need a hair-care wardrobe to battle the elements.
The reason is fairly simple, if not disturbing. Your hair is dead. While the follicle is a living part of your scalp, the strands you see are lifeless. This means the lack of moisture, frigid temperatures, harsh winds, and arid indoor air pull vital elements from your locks — and it’s up to you to replenish them.
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The good news is, you can replace what winter steals with the right ingredients and styling advice. We asked top stylists for their tips on helping every tress type — from fine to curly — battle dryness, brittleness, static, and other seasonal afflictions. Follow these tips, and you’ll make it to March with a mane that would make Elsa from Frozen jealous.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
The farther hair is from the scalp, the drier it gets. Add winter weather, and your strands are set up to feel like straw. Plus, the dryness increases the odds you’ll develop static.

Hanging on to your natural oils is the best remedy for keeping long hair hydrated. "Washing less is a good idea if you have long hair," says Paul Perez, a celebrity stylist at Sally Hershberger Downtown Salon in New York City. You need the oils to keep your scalp healthy and provide crucial hydration, he says. Frequent shampoos only rinse away this moisture.
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Rather than wearing a beanie to hide your oily scalp, freshen hair with dry shampoo. Klorane Dry Shampoo with Nettle refreshes flat hair and absorbs oil.
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The ends of your hair are more vulnerable — they’ve been around longer and suffered more wear-and-tear. "If you’re heat-styling long hair, it’s important to protect the ends to avoid static and damage that can lead to breakage," Perez says. He suggests applying a moisturizing heat protectant, like Oribe Balm d’Or Heat Styling Shield. It contains maracuja and sandalwood oils, which act as a barrier to heat damage. Even if you aren't going near a flat iron, the lightweight oils moisturize dry ends.
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To battle the crackle of static, Perez suggests swapping your brush for one with boar bristles, like this Mason Pearson paddle. The natural bristles help distribute oils, so they don’t accumulate on your scalp. Spreading these oils around helps hydrate your hair, which leads to fewer flyaways.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Sadly, short hair can be prone to both flatness and flyaways. To fight them, start with how you shampoo. "Go ahead and rinse your hair daily, but leave the shampoo for occasional use," says Gwynne Mims, owner of Gwynne Mims Salon in Jacksonville, Florida. “Massage your scalp with conditioner to refresh your hair.” The added moisture will help resist flatness.
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When you do lather, wash with a gentle shampoo that’s low on sulfates but high on hydration.
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While it may seem counterintuitive, a deep conditioner can help keep hair looking full, yet tame. “Short hair can look ‘fluffy’ or piece-y due to the dry air,” Perez says. A weekly deep-conditioning treatment with lightweight silicones or vitamin E can keep your cut looking sharp. Try John Frieda Full Repair Strengthen & Restore to combat the effects of dry air, both inside and outside.
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Hat head is inevitable this time of year, so keep a travel size of a texturizing spray handy. The lightweight stylers contain starches that can revive flat hair without feeling greasy.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Your objective is to fight flatness at all costs, which only gets worse the drier the air becomes. One way to give some oomph to scrawny strands is to take a supplement that will encourage hair growth.
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"I always recommend taking vitamins geared for hair growth that contain biotin," says Edward Tricomi, cofounder of Warren Tricomi salons. “Biotin is one of the essential nutrients needed for hair health.” While these supplements won’t grow your hair at Chia-Pet speeds, they can help you sprout more strands.
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For a quick fix, style with a lightweight volumizer in spray or mousse form. "The key is to use the product sparingly," Tricomi says. "Using too much can weigh down hair, making it look thinner and less healthy." If using a spray, lightly mist the roots in one-to-two-inch sections. For mousse, use a golf-ball-sized blob. Comb through your crown to evenly distribute it.
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Static is especially problematic in dry air, making fine strands separate from their comrades all too easily. These genius Kérastase smoothing sheets tame flyaways and leave hair smelling fresh.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Heat is your enemy in the winter. The forced air in your home and office, and the high temps from heat tools make your ample mane prone to damage and dullness.
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Before you pick up the dryer or iron, coat wet hair in a protecting product. "A blowdry prep can reverse the drying effects of styling tools," Tricomi says. Look for glycerin or propylene glycol in your protectant.
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To minimize the damage of blowdrying, pick your tools wisely. This powerful dryer from Harry Josh gets the job done quickly, so you'll spend less time cooking your strands.
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At least once a week (as often as you have time, really), treat your hair to a deep-conditioning mask with oils, suggests celebrity stylist Mara Roszak. Her advice: Slather it on wet hair in the shower, put on a shower cap, and wait at least five minutes before rinsing. “Natural oils help prevent dryness and add shine,” she explains. L’Oréal's mask contains argan and coconut oils.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
"It’s actually a plus to have oily hair in the winter," says Nunzio Saviano, owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City. “Your natural oil is the best conditioning treatment.”
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During winter months, your styling strategy should focus on preserving oil and pumping up volume. "Don’t wash with a clarifying shampoo," Saviano says. "Use a volumizing formula instead to keep some oil on your scalp." Try Dove Oxygen Moisture Shampoo to add lightweight hydration that keeps hair feeling clean and bouncy.

Dove Advanced Hair Series Oxygen Moisture Shampoo, $5.79, available at Drugstore.com.
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The right brush will keep that healthy oil from looking greasy. “Use a natural-bristle brush, and brush hair from roots to ends to redistribute oils and keep hair from getting weighed down,” Saviano says. The mix of natural and nylon bristles in this Denman keeps locks looking shiny, sleek, and fresh, even if it’s sub-zero outside.
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Hitting the shampoo bottle tends to be a daily habit when you have oily strands, but washing can strip the oils you actually need. Fight the dehydrating effects of shampoo and refresh your strands with dry shampoo.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Cold, dry air on top of dry hair is like adding salt to a saltine. “Dry hair can quickly turn to brittle hair, which is weak and prone to splitting and breakage,” Saviano says.
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Since drier hair doesn’t require as much washing, using the right conditioner is key. Choose one that contains fatty acids like shea butter, olive oil, or coconut oil: These bind with strands and help seal in moisture.
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“When rinsing your conditioner, be courageous and use cold, or at least cool, water,” Saviano says. “You want to seal the cuticle, so nourishing ingredients will be trapped — hot water will just wash them away.”

For an added infusion of hydration, treat yo' self to a deep conditioner once a week. Saviano says you can find one of the most effective treatments at the grocery store. “I’m a big believer in natural coconut oil,” he says. “The omegas are beneficial to the hair and leave it feeling soft.” Heat it in the microwave until it becomes soft, and apply it directly to dry or damp strands. You can sleep with it on (wear a shower cap), or let it sit for as long as you can before rinsing.
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Dehydrated hair can also look dull, so after you blowdry, apply a shine product to smooth down the cuticle.
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You may need to call in the big guns to ensure your tresses are getting enough to drink. Saviano says running a humidifier at night can make a big difference in keeping hair soft and healthy.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Your fragile strands require lots of attention and ample buffering from the elements. Since you can't keep them wrapped in cashmere and shearling all winter (as much as you'd like to), you need to fortify them so they can stand up to wind gusts and below-freezing temps. “Keratin treatments, whether done in the salon or at home, can strengthen weak hair, because this is the same protein found in your hair,” says Doug Macintosh, a colorist at Louise O’Connor Salon in New York City.
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Work keratin into your routine, and switch out your usual conditioner with one like Joico K-Pak, which supplements strands with protein.
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Use a leave-in mist, like Sally Hershberger Super Keratin Spray, between washes to restyle or tame flyaways.
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“I like to use a hot-oil treatment at least once a week,” Roszak says. The plant oils in L’Oréal OleoTherapy Self-Heating Hot Oil contain ceramides, a form of lipids that helps hold hair cells together. Roszak suggests applying this to dry hair for an extra boost of conditioning that will help fortify damaged strands. “This even works on finer hair textures and won’t feel greasy.”
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Before you style, coat damp hair with a nourishing product, like John Frieda Frizz Ease Nourishing Oil Elixir. The silicone and argan oil help deflect some of the damage from your heat tools and protect hair from brutal winter elements.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
“You have to lock in moisture, or the color will fade faster than in the summer,” says Macintosh. “The indoor heat and taking hot showers make color look dull and flat.”
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Don’t let steam and harsh detergents suck the life out of your color. Wash with a hydrating, sulfate-free shampoo like Pureology Hydrate.
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Macintosh tells his clients to use a moisture mask whenever possible to compensate for the dry air. Wear one for a few minutes in the shower, around the house, or sleep with it on to give your strands a hydrating boost, he says.
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If you live in a snowy climate, the sun rays reflected off the white stuff can bleach your hair just as intensely as full sunlight can, Macintosh says. So, UV protection is essential in keeping your color vibrant.
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Without moisture in the air, your curls won’t maintain their shape and can be more vulnerable to breakage. Winter is the time to up the hydration factor in all your hair products, Mims says.
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A conditioning treatment can help fight static while infusing strands with oils that closely mimic those you naturally have, Mims says.
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Keep your spirals in perfect shape with a styling cream like Ouidad Curl Quencher Hydrafusion Intense Curl Cream, which blends proteins for strength and lightweight oils for moisture and shine.
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“Dehydrated hair tends to knot, which also leads to breakage,” Mims says. To avoid damaging fragile curls, detangle with a specially designed brush like this one from Sheila Stotts.
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Wearing curly hair in clips or the wrong hair ties can cause more damage to fragile strands. Mims says gentle, wide elastics, like these from Goody, are the way to go.
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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Textured hair is extremely prone to the abuses of winter. The changes in temperature and humidity can make your strands feel rough, unruly, and dehydrated. But, as counterintuitive as it may seem, you should actually avoid water as much as possible. The water and detergents in shampoo can dry your hair even further, says celebrity stylist Ted Gibson.
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“Co-washing your hair, or washing with conditioner, instead of using a shampoo, will avoid stripping essential moisture your hair needs,” Gibson says. Maintain your moisture levels with a co-wash containing coconut oil.
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To keep hair supple, treat it as you would your skin: Whenever you need lotion, your hair likely needs moisture. “Conditioner should be your best friend,” Gibson says. “It fights static and keeps hair nourished.” So, your styling products should contain coconut oil, olive oil, glycerin, or sodium lactate, he says. A moisturizing cream, like Miss Jessie’s Baby ButterCreme, or a leave-in conditioner, like Kiehl’s Strengthening and Hydrating Hair Oil-in-Cream, can manage unruly textures.
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Reduce friction while you sleep and switch your cotton pillowcase to one made of satin. The smooth surface isn’t as rough on your hair. Plus, it pulls out less moisture, making your strands less likely to break.
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