The transition in your beauty routine from the summer months to the winter months is regimented and intense — swapping lighter moisturizers for heavy ones, prepping the lips for more intense weather, and of course, making sure our hair is well-taken care of. Natural hair care in the winter requires not a full overhaul of products used, but instead an adjustment in how you use them.
You might forget about your hair in the 'Winter Transition,' but you shouldn't — especially if it's naturally curly. "Changing up your hair routine is important as you enter a new season," Larry Sims, celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union, says. "For much of the year, we're exposed to the sun and our natural environment, leaving the hair cuticle vulnerable. It's essential to give your natural hair some extra love in colder months."
For curly hair, extra winter love starts with a simple swap of your deep conditioner, but it also includes keeping up with haircuts and treatments. Ahead, we spoke to the pros for the tips they give their clients so that your hair can thrive this winter.
Double up on deep conditioner.
Rebuilding. That's the word Sims says to keep in mind as you shape your winter hair care routine. "Your cuticle gets damaged from chemicals, and wear and tear from daily styling," he explains. "This creates pockets and holes in the cuticle that can eventually result in shedding and breakage."
To stop breakage in its tracks, Sims says that adding a nourishing deep conditioning mask to your routine can drastically strengthen your curls. Sims recommends picking up this deep conditioner backed by him and his muse Gabrielle Union, who also frequently changes her styles. "This conditioner has Brazilian Bacuri Butter, Olive Oil, and Castor Seed Oil, which instantly replenishes moisture and protects against future breakage," Sims explains.
Caring for natural hair in the winter also requires a regimen, and celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons recommends using a hair mask once a week, especially ones formulated with bond-building ingredients, like the Andrew Fitzsimons Virgin Repair Restructuring Hair Mask. "A bond-builder is a protein heavy formula that is designed to repair damage and strengthen the hair, so when using products with a bond-builder in the harsh winter months, you are preventing further damage from the colder temps and even heat styling as well as promoting healthier strands," he shares.
Add a boost to your deep conditioner by adding heat suggests hairstylist Annagjid "Kee" Taylor. "Either wear a shower cap over your hair to trap in some of that extra heat or lightly run a blow dryer over your strands on a low setting to help the product penetrate a bit more," she suggests, recommending the Deeper Than Hair Resurrection Masque.
Matrix Artistic Director Michelle O'Connor, a fellow curly girl, agrees, adding that your sweaters and hats can exacerbate frizz and dryness. "Bulkier knits can cause more friction on the hair, leading to more brittle ends," she explains. "Using a moisturizing treatment once weekly can help prevent that."
Make sure your hair is dry after styling.
First off, the finishing step for keeping the most moisture in your hair may seem counterintuitive, and make the cold winter weather feel even colder. Cold blasting your hair instead of using hot water when washing your hair, according to Fitzsimons, may be the way you can keep your hair Elsa from Frozen-level stylish. "Cold water helps lock moisture in your hair while also tightening your hair follicles, making it the perfect hack for maintaining your hair in harsh temperatures. If you’re heat styling, ensure to use the cold shot after you finish to lock your style into place. Not only is it beneficial for health of your hair, but by applying less heat to your hair you are saving it from further damage."
Most curly-hair experts would say that the best time to apply styling products is when the hair is drenched. That remains true even in cooler weather. However, while many of them would encourage air drying in the summer, they advise against going outside with wet hair when it's cold. O'Connor suggests dusting off your diffuser to dry your curls without disturbing them. "Moisture can escape from the hair as the air becomes dryer," she says.
Devachan Salon Senior Stylist, Mia Emilio, has also told her clients to invest in a microfiber towel to protect and define curls. "Be sure to remove as much excess water as possible to ensure maximum volume and to reduce frizz," she says. "Use a microfiber towel like Devacurl's new DevaTwist or any microfiber towel wrap to create less friction while removing extra water out of your hair."
O'Connor says that regular towels can disturb the cuticle, leading to frizz and tangles. She says the key to effectively using a microfiber towel is to use the "plop" method, which helps absorb water and maintain definition. "Lay the towel flat, flip your head over, and gently place your curls in the towel," she explains. "Grab the ends of the towel and start twisting, creating twists on each side and clip them together to secure." For maximum definition and to get the most water out of your hair, O'Connor says to wait 30 minutes before removing the towel.
Use thicker styling products.
Cold weather can quickly absorb all the moisture out of once-juicy, hydrated curls. To keep your hair from getting dull and frizzy the moment you step outside (or put on your hat), O'Connor says to start practicing the LOC method, or layering your products from liquid, to oil, to cream, if you're not already. "After washing and conditioning use a leave-in conditioner, followed by an oil, then seal in your moisture with a cream," she says. Using the LOC method will not only give you the most poppin' curls, but it'll make sure they stay glorious for extended periods of time.
Your leave-in conditioner of choice depends on how thirsty your hair is for moisture. Emilio says that if your hair isn't too dry, you can leave in some of your conditioner from the shower, or you can opt to mist on a lightweight formula instead. "I personally love DevaCurl’s B'leave-In Miracle Curl Plumper for this time of year because it's light and leaves hair shiny and bouncy," she says. "Focus on applying the product on the ends and mid-shaft if you’re worried about volume."
For tighter coils, opt for thicker formulas with ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter to hydrate and define. Finish with lightweight oils to add just enough shine without making your curls feel heavy or greasy. O'Connor used the Biolage R.A.W. Replenish Oil Mist on her client's twist-out in the video above to add natural shine that still kept her curls bouncy. "Hair oil is always a must for curls," O'Connor explains. "It helps maintain a healthy level of moisture that is needed in cooler weather." Ultimately, moisture will be your curl's best friend this season, so the more of it you have, the more good hair days you can count ahead.
Don't forget your protective styles.
I know, winter time can feel like the mark of #silkpressseason, and we're not ever going to deter you away from a good solid silk press. But keep protective styling, in any form, at the top of mind, too. "Wearing protective styles can be extremely beneficial in the colder months. It is important to protect the hair from harsh weather conditions and the cold, as well as the vast differences between going into a heated room and out into the cold winter air," says Taylor. She suggests a looser protective style so as to not put further stress on the hair strands, such as loose twists, if you have a curlier hair type. If you have a hair type such as 1A, 1B, 1C, or 2A opt for wearing your hair in a loose braid, or a loose bun.
Look for curl-friendly hats and pillowcases.
Materials don't only matter when it comes to the type of towels you use on your curls. They're even more critical when you're looking to protect them from the elements. Most experts recommend trading your cotton pillowcase for a satin or silk option to avoid drying out and snagging on your natural hair, especially during the winter months. Phoenix Gonzalez and Sandra McCurdy created Silked, a line of satin and silk-lined accessories that include a line of mulberry-silk pillowcases to protect curls and reduce frizz.
"Satin is your secret weapon to protect your hair from bedhead and breakage," says Grace Eleyae, founder of Grace Eleyae Inc, a collection of satin-lined headwear. "Fabrics like cotton and wool suck the moisture right out of the hair strand, causing dryness and damage." Winter hats are a huge friction culprit since most of them are made of thick wool and cotton materials. Instead of your standard hat, opt for something satin or silk-lined like Eleyae's collection, which will protect you from the cold without giving you a bad hair day.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.