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November 1, 2021 • read

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8 hair and skin tips for cold weather

Cold-weather conditions can have a damaging effect on your hair and skin. We may be spending more time indoors to escape Canada’s infamous cold, but that comes with its own set of challenges. Here are eight tips for keeping your skin and hair at their best.

Stay hydrated

Your body prioritizes where it uses the water you consume. Your essential organs are at the top of the list, whereas your hair and skin are further down since they’re less vital. That means if you’re not getting enough water, your hair and skin won’t get their fair share of hydration.

Healthy adults should drink nine to twelve 250 mL (8 fl oz) glasses of water or other fluid every day. Stick to herbal teas or beverages that are low in caffeine if plain water isn’t for you. Liquids high in caffeine, sodium, and sugar like pop, coffee, or vegetable juices actually have a dehydrating effect. 

Dry skin is an indication of dehydration. Another simple way to tell if you’re dehydrated is to look at your urine. It should normally be a light yellow colour. If it’s darker yellow or brown, start drinking more water.

Dry, cold air can lead to hair breakage and a dry scalp. Staying hydrated stimulates your hair follicles so you keep producing new healthy strands, even in the dry winter air.

Use a humidifier

Cold air doesn’t carry much moisture, and neither does air produced by indoor heating systems. Whether you’re inside or outside, there isn’t much opportunity for your skin and hair to absorb moisture from your environment.

Humidifiers put moisture back into the air by pumping steam through the room they’re in. The resulting air moisture helps prevent your skin from getting dry and flaky, and minimizes breakage and split ends from dehydrated hair.

Moisturize your skin

Your skin is made up of several layers, and the topmost layer is called the epidermis. Your epidermis holds your skin’s moisture. When there’s not enough moisture in this layer, its cells break away. This can lead to itchy and flaky skin.

Using body and face moisturizer daily helps nourish dry skin. Try applying it soon after washing your face or taking a shower. Since your skin has just been in contact with water, it has absorbed enough moisture to hydrate that outer skin layer. Applying moisturizer helps lock in hydration before it evaporates away. It also creates a barrier between your skin and the cold, harsh air.

Try a gentle exfoliant

Getting rid of flaky, dry skin with a gentle exfoliant helps the underlying cells stay moisturized. Exfoliating gets debris and dead skin out of the way so that when you moisturize, you’re protecting healthy cells without trapping dead ones overtop. This helps your skin stay clear, smooth, and hydrated.

You can exfoliate manually with tools like sponges, brushes, or a towel. You can also use facial scrubs with granules, which dislodge dead cells. Chemical exfoliants are also available, which gently dissolve the top layer of your skin.  

Eat healthy fats

Consuming healthy fats is essential for skin, hair, and nail maintenance. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are best for hair and skin health. Your body can’t make them on its own, so the only way to reap the benefits is by working them into your diet. 

Foods that contain healthy fats include:

  • Nuts and seeds, like walnuts or flax seeds
  • Fish, like salmon, tuna or mackerel
  • Canola oil or soybean oil
  • Kidney beans
  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Peanut butter
  • Avocado
  • Eggs

Use sunscreen

The sun is always emitting UV rays, even if it’s not a sunny day. Especially when there’s snow on the ground, the sun’s rays can be surprisingly strong. Snow reflects the sunlight, making UV rays even more powerful.

Wearing sunscreen every day is a good practice to protect your skin year round. Sun exposure can lead to dehydration, causing the skin to lose elasticity. Over time, UV rays can also cause skin cancer.

There are lots of moisturizers on the market with SPF built in. The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends using a minimum of SPF 30 daily.Try working one into your daily routine this winter to get the benefits of moisturized, UV protected skin.

Minimize hot showers

As nice as a hot shower feels on a cold day, it’s not great for maintaining healthy skin. Hot water damages a protein in your skin called keratin, which protects your skin from easily tearing. When it becomes weakened your skin gets flaky. In combination with the dry air in winter, this can lead to cracked, painful skin. Opt for water that’s warm instead of hot next time you’re washing off.

Try a hydrating hair routine

Everyone’s hair has a different level of porosity, which is the amount of water or oils a strand of hair is able to absorb and retain. Dry air can lower your hair’s porosity, making it harder for your hair shaft to lock in the moisture it needs. In winter, changing your hair care routine could help optimize your hair’s moisture levels. Here’s where you can start:

  • Avoid heat styling tools, like blow dryers or straighteners.
  • Avoid dehydrating hair products, like gels high in alcohol.
  • Don’t wash your hair more often than necessary.
  • Seal hydration into your hair using oils.
  • Opt for ammonia-free dyes.
  • Avoid chemical hair straighteners.

Cold air and dry indoor heat can cause all sorts of hair and skin challenges. This season, consider experimenting with the foods you eat, humidifying your home, and adding hydration to your hair and skincare routines. The right combination will keep your hair and skin healthy all season long.

Book an appointment with a dermatologist for a personalized plan to help minimize seasonal damage to your hair and skin.   

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