NEW YORK (AP) — Maintaining perfectly coifed curls is challenging on a good day. During winter, relentless dry air and the smoosh of the average hat can mean whole months of bad hair.
“My city is drier then the Sahara desert. My hair is left feeling like sandpaper,” says Christina Smith, a part-time model, former beauty queen and general manager of an investment firm in frigid Calgary, Alberta.
Like many people with curls — by some counts 60 percent of the world’s population — Smith has a long list of hair horrors and an even longer list of failed products.
“I’m talking everything from the $5 local drug store brand to the high-end $40 for two drops of stuff,” she says. “I actually went as far as putting olive oil in my hair. It’s an old Italian trick which really wasn’t so bad, minus the smelling like a salad part.”
People with straight hair, or who straighten or chemically relax curly hair, face no less of a bother in cold weather. Either way, stylists say tweaking tools, technique, product and even clothing can help during the moisture-sapping season and fight other winter hair enemies like static electricity.
Salon owner Ouidad, who wrote the guide “Curl Talk,” suggests deep conditioning treatments every two weeks. Throw a spray conditioner into your bag to refresh and rejuvenate hair during the day when bombarded by indoor heat, she says. Switch to a moisture quenching shampoo and a leave-in conditioner for the season.
“Try to let hair dry naturally so you don’t have to diffuse and dry it out,” Ouidad advises.
Hat head is a little trickier.
“If you wear a hat, the fabric absorbs the moisture out of the hair and body heat molds everything down, leaving hair flat and lifeless,” says Ouidad, who has curly hair herself, along with signature salons in New York and Santa Monica, Calif.
Try using bobby pins to secure hair in sections following the natural curl pattern before putting on a hat, she says. “When you arrive at your destination, simply remove your hat and bobby pins and, if necessary, put some refreshing spray on and let your hair flow naturally.”
If that sounds way labor intensive, hunt down a super stretchy beret-style hat to encompass but not flatten hair, or switch to earmuffs or a jacket with a loose hood.
“On the rare occasion that I ever wear a hat in any weather, I plan on keeping it on for the day because curly hat head is not a pretty sight,” said Lisa Decker, a financial adviser in Atlanta.
Winter hair care should start with the scalp, says Diane Da Costa, celebrity stylist, consultant for Mizani and author of “Textured Tresses.” Whether your hair is straight with an open wave or coils tightly in a zigzag pattern — two extremes on Mizani’s eight-curl reference guide for stylists — the scalp and hair can suffer from inadequate moisture.
Not only are external conditions drier in cold weather, she says, but people tend to drink less fluids. “In the summertime, we drink more. We’re more active, releasing sweat, which naturally cleanses the body,” Da Costa says.
During cold weather months, detox the scalp with an essential oil pre-shampoo treatment, she suggests.
“Essential oils are natural toxin releasers and exfoliate dry skin on the scalp, opening up the pores in order for natural oils to flow freely,” Da Costa says. “Massaging the scalp with essential oils first will invigorate your oil glands to lubricate the scalp and hair.”
She suggests taking the treatment with a scalp massage under a steamer to stimulate the scalp and oil glands, and exfoliate dead cells. Water vapors from the steamer deposit moisture into the cuticle layer of the hair. Follow that up with a rich moisturizing shampoo and another stint under the steam with a nourishing conditioner.
Stylist Chad Abrams, with A-list clients at Jeffrey Stein Salon on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and Justin’s in Palm Beach, Fla., advises a boycott during winter of products that contain high levels of alcohol to avoid stripping natural oils.
A general rule of thumb for winter curl care: “The colder the weather, the creamier the products as we need to help restore moisture to our hair,” Abrams says.
Da Costa says check ends once a month to make sure they’re not splitting. “All hair styles can apply a small amount of emollient gloss or moisturizer on the ends to protect against dryness and brittle ends.”
Wear a satin or silk scarf underneath a hat to guard against frizz and breakage from rough fabrics, she says. Rub a small amount of hand lotion between your palms and apply to your hair after you remove a hat. “Hand lotion is very moisturizing and a small amount will stop static cling and not weigh down the hair.”
For relaxed hair, revitalize with deep nourishing conditioning masks every two weeks, as well as pre-shampoo oil treatments, she says. “It’s always best to use less heat on the hair as possible. And when you do use heat, make sure your tools are ceramic and tourmaline to protect against heat.”
Apply a thermal heat spray before using a blow dryer, but try to air dry more in the cold-weather months. If you do blow dry, apply a light leave-in conditioner first. Hood dryers offer more indirect heat than hand dryers. Try air drying with a wrap band around the head, followed by flat ironing for a smooth finish.
Da Costa also suggests switching up styles during winter and giving hair a rest from irons.
“Try sets that use flat twist, braiding and twisting techniques, add moisturizers and release for a fun wavy look.”