Hot chocolate while sitting romantically in front of a log fire. Coats, jackets, boots and so many fun fashion opportunities. Winter has always been a kind friend to me. My curly hair, on the other hand, would be difficult to deal with. The dry and cold air, the low dew points that led to frizz, frustration and not knowing what to do. This was my life for 29 years before I was equipped with the knowledge to take care of my ringlets. Instead of embracing the beauty of my natural curls, I would hide them under a beanie or hat, or have them constantly wrapped in a tight bun. Just as it is with our body's health, when we don't take care of our hair's health, winter becomes a harsh friend that steals joy.
The constant exposure to cold temperatures, frequent rubbing against woolen clothing material and wearing knitted head accessories can cause environmental and mechanical damage to curly hair.
So, how can we keep our curls healthy during Winter?
In the very same way we keep our bodies healthy: by embracing and nourishing them.
Scott Musgrave, Founder of Curly Hair Artistry and Creator of the Cultivate Your Curls Online Course says: "Once you accept the reality of your hair changing in dry air - you then learn to embrace it with taking care of it, instead of trying to make it do what you wish you could have or had in humidity. Embracing reality is a mindset that prepares you for ideal hair later on more so than in the now with an instant gratification that many adhere to."
I would like to share with you five helpful practices that I implement consistently throughout my Winter routine in order to keep my 3a+b curls nourished, healthy and thriving. My hope is that they can be somewhat helpful to you in your curly girl journey.
1. Pre-wash oil treatments with Avocado oil once weekly, 8-12 hours before washing (overnight):
Avocado oil is a hair penetrating oil. I've had misconceptions about the effectiveness of oil treatments in the past because often I would simply use too much and would end up with greasy hair, even after a wash. Wendy (scientist) of Hair Science-y Blog performs hair analysis, and taught me that using just enough oil to make the hair shiny 8-12 hours prior to washing (once weekly) is very effective without the greasy feeling. She also helped me to understand that hair penetrating oils have the ability to balance the hair (they help to avoid porous ends all year round), enhance flexibility, softness and weight. According to superfoods researcher Jim Dillan from Superfood Profiles, Avocado oil is also helpful for dry weather because it's rich in monosaturated fats. It has a highly nourishing and protective effect against environmental stressors.
2. Co-wash using a cleanser and conditioner that contain a balanced amount of hydrolyzed protein:
Hydrolyzed proteins help curls by keeping them hydrated, because they form a film on the hair. They slow down water loss. During Winter months I like to co-wash my curls with Devacurl No Poo Decadence and One Condition Decadence. This perfect duo is very concentrated for extra moisture and contains balanced levels of Hydrolyzed Quinoa protein. Protein is also great for keeping the hair strong and flexible. During Winter months I tend to leave more conditioner than usual on my hair before styling. This helps to keep my curls hydrated for longer and less affected by the dry weather.
3. Deep moisture treatments twice weekly:
During Spring and Summer you would see me having a Deep Conditioning treatment once weekly, but due to the demands of the dry weather in Winter, I feel that my curls do really well with a deep conditioning routine twice weekly for extra moisture and elasticity. I like to use Devacurl Heaven in Hair whenever I have a chance. It is one of my holy grails for deep conditioning. It has some of the best ingredients for my hair, such as Cetrimonium Chloride (it can penetrate beyond the cuticle layers for deeper effects), Cetearyl Alcohol (moisturizer to soften curls, improve slip, and help hair retain moisture) and Behentrimonium Chloride (for slip, softness, flexibility and definition). I always deep condition my hair after it has been cleansed because this helps with better penetration. I section my hair in the shower with the help of a shower mirror and apply generous amounts of deep conditioner. Then I use a heated cap for at least 30 minutes and rinse off most of it. I always feel a difference in the softness, elasticity and definition of my hair afterwards.
4. Occasional protein treatments using small proteins for 30 minutes:
As I mentioned above, balanced levels of protein are very helpful for curls. Due to having coarse hair and already using some protein when I co-wash during Winter, I usually do a deep protein treatment once every 2 months. Fine and Medium haired curlies can use protein treatments once monthly. One of my favorite products for protein treatments is Curly Hair Solutions Pure Silk Protein Deep Moisturizing Treatment because it has a small protein (Silk Amino Acids). This is perfect for any kind of hair, including coarse hair like mine. I apply protein treatments, in the same way, I apply deep moisture treatments in the shower, but I only leave the treatment on my hair using gentle indirect heat for 30 minutes, before rinsing fully.
5. Use moisturizing styling products that contain film-forming humectants:
Film-forming humectants act in a similar way to hydrolyzed proteins by slowing down the loss of water. My holy grails for Winter are Kinky-Curly Knot Today Leave-in Conditioner and Kinky-Curly Curling Custard. Knot Today contains Behentrimonium Methosulfate, which is great for maximum slip and weight. It also has film-forming humectants such as Slippery Elm and Marshmallow Root. The custard is also very rich in film-forming humectants, moisturizing and it enhances a lot of shine. I apply Knot Today on soaking wet hair after leaving some conditioner in. Then I use the custard to finish. Finally, I gently diffuse my curls on low heat and airflow until 70-80% dry. Wet hair for long periods can be difficult to deal with during cold months, so a diffuser is helpful. Once my hair is fully dry, I scrunch out the custard's cast using a very small amount of Avocado oil one last time, focusing especially on the ends for a protection boost against the weather and clothing material.
Dealing with Winter dryness doesn't have to be a stressful feat. By consistently embracing and nourishing our curls, we can have beautiful hydrated hair regardless of what is happening with the weather outside. It all stems from a patient approach of understanding what our hair needs.
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How do you combat Winter dryness? Let me know in the comments below.