Every year when the mercury plummets, stylist Jonathan Torch starts getting the calls from unhappy clients.
Almost overnight, their curls become droopy and dry, flat and flyaway. Holy grail products and tried-and-true styling techniques stop working as well.
'When it turns cold, it's like a switch turns on,' says Torch of Toronto, Canada-based Curly Hair Solutions. 'Everyone says 'I can't do anything with my hair.' Their routine changes overnight.'
Curlies spend most of the summer griping about heat and humidity. But whether they know it or not, they actually rely on that moisture for body and bounce.
To counteract the climate changes, stylists recommend extra conditioning, using less product and tweaking the cut to bring life back to limp ringlets.'I always like to change my clients' color, cuts and products with the seasons,' says Jason Yates, creative director of Houston-based Farouk Systems, manufacturer of the Biosilk line as well as CHI heat-styling products.'Their hair texture changes, their skin tone changes and their mood changes. As a hairdresser, you're missing out on a huge opportunity if you don't respond to that.'
Christo says his clients seem to know that they have to condition in the summer months, with the heat and the sun. But in the winter, many forget about it.'From December through February, the heat is pumping everywhere,' Christo said. 'The heat can totally dehydrate the hair.'
Deep conditioning is vital for parched winter locks. Most stylists recommend deep conditioning at least once a week. Choose a moisturizer rich in humectants and natural oils.
'I see a drastic change in the dryness of the scalp and the hair immediately when the climate changes,' said stylist Diane Da Costa, author of 'Textured Tresses.'
Da Costa recommends massaging the scalp with light oils like jojoba or shea butter.Don't shampoo as often since that can deplete natural oils. If you normally shampoo every three days, shampoo once a week during the winter. To freshen the curls, spritz them with a lavender mist.
A humidifier can help by adding moisture to the air, which cuts down on static. Da Costa also recommends drinking a lot of water for internal hydration.
Regular trims every eight to 10 weeks are important in the winter to get rid of parched ends and give the curls more bounce.
As the weather gets dryer, the ends get dryer and fuzzier,' said Dona Polston, a member of ABBA Pure & Natural Hair Care's artistic team.'There's nothing worse than frizzy, flyaway ends.'
Stylists agree that winter is the time to get creative with your curls. The styles can be shorter and edgier. Texturizing the hair can add volume and movement.'This is the time you can do anything with curly hair,' Ouidad says. 'You don't have to worry about shrinkage. People come in and cut it short and cut in lots of movement.'
Christo says he changes the way he cuts hair in the winter, using 'a little more angles, long layers and a little more framing of the face.'
'It's not the same cut I give in the summer,' he said. 'In the winter, I push people to make changes. I say 'Let's do something fun.' It can brighten things up.'
Curlies should also adjust the way they style their hair in the colder months.
When at all possible, avoid excessive heat styling with appliances such as blowdryers or straightening irons. If you do have to use a dryer, Ouidad suggests diffusing it on low heat, concentrating on the roots.
Air dry as often as you can, but make sure that hair isn't wet when leaving the house. In cold weather, it can freeze, causing breakage, said Mahisha Dellinger, creator of the CURLS haircare line.
'The less you deal with styling tools, the better off you'll be,' Polston says.
With styling products, less is more in the winter months. Christo says many of his clients keep doing exactly what they were doing for the summer and wonder why their hair responds different.
'The curls don't have bounce and don't move as freely,' he says. 'What they're using may be too much for the hair.'
Christo says he uses light products from his Curlisto line during the winter months, adding a dab of leave-in conditioner to the mix to add extra moisture.
'It doesn't take much to style curly hair in the winter,' he says. 'If you usually use a quarter-size, use a nickel-size.'Antonio Soddu, creator of the CurlFriends line of products, suggests using products that enhance volume rather than those that weigh the hair down -- a practice that may run counter to what curlies usually do.
Always make sure to apply the product in sections when the hair is wet for best results.With the change in climate, tweaking hair color also is important. Stylists recommend deeper more vibrant shades with more dimension, such as caramels, butterscotches, auburns, coppers and rich browns. Curly hair looks shinier and richer when it's darker, Soddu said.lighter hair tends to show more damage.
'Now is the time for a little drama,' Soddu said.
Winter tips from the experts
Ouidad: 'Don't rinse your conditioner out completely. Leave in about 25 percent of the conditioner.'
Christo of Christo Fifth Avenue: 'Condition hair before and after you color it. Your hair won't feel so dry.'
Mahisha Dellinger of CURLS: 'Massage a quarter teaspoon of warm natural oil - olive, avocado, jojoba, etc. - through your hair once a week at night, starting at the end and working up to the roots. Leave on overnight.
Diane Da Costa, author of 'Textured Tresses': At night, to preserve curls, put it up in pin curls. For kinkier, tighter hair, twist it with pomade.
Dona Polston, member of the artistic team for ABBA Pure & Natural Haircare: Before you put on a hat, put on some Nourishing conditioner. It's like giving yourself a conditioning treatment.
Jane Carter of the Jane Carter Solution: Leave a little conditioner in the ends.
Jason Yates, creative director of Farouk Systems: 'When it's battered by wind and rain, curly hair tends to be more brittle and fragile.Use more strengthening, more moisturizing products.'
Jonathan Torch, creator of Curly Hair Solutions: 'I encourage using products with a little more hold. People who don't need gel in the summer may start using it in the winter to keep their curls looking fresh.'
Jess McGuinty of Jessicurl: If the hair is healthy and not color treated, it's better to stay away from a product high in protein because excess protein can make healthy hair dry and brittle.
Antonio Soddu, creator of the CurlFriends line: Be careful not to saturate the hair too much with products.
Some winter product suggestions
Herbal Mists Da Costa Beauty Texture Lavendar Mist Devacurl Mist-er Right
Redken Heat Glide Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper ABBA Botz Curlisto Bio-Gel Mousse and Structura Lotion Ouidad Curl Quencher Gel Jessicurl Confident Coils Styling Solution Batia & Aleeza Bio-Herbal Styling Gel