Prepping Winter Hair for Spring, Part One of Three
By Gigi Anders
Remember Thursday, December 21, 2017? No? Your hair does. That was the first day of winter last year. If you’ve ignored major seasonal-transitional haircare since way back then, keep reading. Our stylist and fave hair guru Devin Toth, along with our very own world-class derm, Tina Alster, are here to help get your locks in prime condition for Tuesday, March 20, 2018, the first day of spring.
Today we’re checking in with Tina Alster for an overview. Tomorrow, we’ll segue into Devin Toth for the how-to deets and specific product recommendations. The next day I’ll share all the new products I tried and fell in love with. Awesome hair awaits.
Gigi Anders: Tina, why is winter so harsh on hair?
Tina Alster: The dry, cold air outside and the use of forced heaters inside really make for a double-whammy on both hair and skin. The dead hair shafts respond negatively to the forces of nature, which pull humidity out of the hair, drying out the cuticle. So hair feels and looks brittle and snaps and breaks off.
GA: What do you recommend to your patients?
TA: Hydrate hair like you hydrate skin. Vitamins alone don’t do much to make hair look lustrous and improve its appearance. It’s topical, so you treat it from outside, in, not the inside, out. Use a conditioner to seal in moisture in the shaft and settle down the cuticle. That’s the outermost layer, which, like keratin in skin, flakes off. Hydrate it to not feel and look like scaly hair. To take it up a notch, once a week -- and more often if you have an acute situation -- use a mask overnight, either with a shower cap or Saran Wrap, to seal in the moisture and plump up and moisturize the cuticles. When you rinse it out in the morning, your hair will be renewed. You’re impacting the hair’s cosmetic nature and appearance to not look dull. It’s like those dehydrated soups; you add water and it comes back to life. This way the hair will hold its moisture.
GA: Wait, so which is the cuticle and which is the shaft?
TA: The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair shaft. The shaft is the actual hair that you see, the whole fiber. Like the keratin of the skin’s epidermis – its outer layer – can look lifeless when it’s damaged.
GA: Is there a way to avoid this desiccated hair situation in the first place?
TA: Don’t strip the scalp of its natural oils. We as dermatologists see a lot of patients with dry, itchy scalps. For example, men don’t use conditioner. They have more flaky scalps. But you should also avoid shampoos that strip the scalp of all its oil.
GA: How about styling products?
TA: Many over-dry the hair. A lot of things people use -- hair sprays, gels, those dry shampoos -- are really horrible because they dry hair out and give it a lifeless look. That dull cast they leave on the hair is because they pull out oils. Sure, some gel and foaming products remove dirt and excess oil, but generally they’re too stripping. Occasional use is fine, but not day to day. While dry shampoos are life-saving from a beauty perspective – they’re great in a pinch or after a sweaty workout or hot yoga – overusing them develops crud and dry stuff in the scalp, leading to an itch-scratch cycle.
GA: If you have dandruff, do you have any product recommendations?
TA: There’s one that I do like: Dr. Rebecca Kazin Hair Sanity. She’s my colleague, so there’s a really great disclaimer. Most dandruff products are inelegant, not fun to use. This has a teeny bit of cortisone and a very nice moisturizing base and salicylic acid for descaling.
GA: Until we’re really into spring and free of bomb cyclones, what are the primary changes we should be making to our hair care regimens?
TA: Dullness and brittleness is dehydration, usually from using cheap products that coat the hair, rather than penetrate it. Use salon-quality products that hold in moisture. Nicer brands like Kérastase, L’Oréal Professionnel, and Oribe really do moisturize the scalp and hair better, and they rinse with a finer finish.