Don't Make These 7 Hair Mistakes This Winter

Here's how to keep those strands strong and healthy.

by Jessica Willingham
Originally Published: 
The most common hair mistakes to avoid in the winter.
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Hair and skin can really take a beating in the wintertime. Breaking, brittle ends and limp locks can plague you during the most wonderful time of the year. Turns out that the hair damage can actually be from making certain common winter hair mistakes, so once you're aware of them all, your strands can be saved.

You might assume that summer is the worst season for your hair. With the harsh sun, salty sea water, humidity, and a chlorine pool, the outdoor elements can spell disaster. But just as you can do things to protect your hair from summer's harshness, you can (and should) do the same thing in the winter. From making sure your hair retains moisture to thinking about what fabrics you use on it, there are some subtle routine tweaks that could improve your hair health.

Bustle reached out to expert hairstylists to get their input on some common winter hair questions — including the best shampoo for dry hair and how to repair damaged hair — and here's what they want people to know as temperatures drop.

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1. Is It Bad To Wear A Hat With Wet Hair?

An easy hack to disguise still-damp hair when you're in a rush is to throw a hat over it. This, however, isn't the best idea for your poor strands as it could eventually lead to breakage, according to Olaplex ambassador and celebrity hairstylist Chad Kenyon. "If the hair under the cap is tangled, this can be a problem [that] could result in hair breakage," he tells Bustle. "You want to smooth out your hair first." He recommends the Olaplex No. 7 Bonding Oil to help detangle and add shine.

Sarah Klein, hairstylist at Nine Zero One, agrees. "Any tension put on wet hair can be damaging depending on the level of tension or pressure being applied," she says. "When your hair is wet, it's at its most vulnerable state because of the elasticity." Garren, hairstylist and co-founder of R+Co, strongly suggests making sure hair is completely dry before wearing a hat in order to avoid wrecking with your style. "If [your hair is] even slightly damp, it will dry flattened out under the hat," he says. If you must wear a hat before completely drying your hair, Klein recommends opting for one that's loose-fitting (like a beanie) that won't pull or tug on the hair and cause damage.

2. Can You Overwash Your Hair?

In the winter, the cold air can deplete your hair of moisture, which can lead to damage and brittle strands. What can you do? Focus on moisture — which means washing your hair less. Nine Zero One hairstylist Ashley Ruiz says that regardless of your hair type, pay attention to how dry your hair and scalp feel when determining your wash frequency. "Scalps tends to be drier in the winter," she tells Bustle. "Try to use more oils or products that have moisturizing benefits rather than repairing or strengthening products." That's because, according to her, repair and strengthening-focused products tend to have more protein in them, which makes hair more brittle. Her tip? Wash your hair no more than three times per week.

That said, you can also under wash. Shelley Davis, founder of Kinky Curly, says that you should be washing your hair at least once per week to maintain both hair and scalp health. "Washing hair is important for removing product buildup on the hair shaft as well as dead skin cells on the scalp," she tells Bustle. Texture can play a part in wash frequency as well, she explains, as straight hair can be more oily while curly hair tends to be more dry.

3. Should You Switch Your Shampoo?

On the topic of washing your hair, many people wonder if you should switch up your shampoo once in a while. Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola, Ph.D., chemist and co-founder of NUELE says that this isn't necessary. According to her, regardless of the season, the best shampoo for dry hair is one that doesn't have sulfates. "It is important to steer clear of highly aggressive shampoos that have sulfates, because they strip the hair of the majority of their nutrients and natural oils, which leaves the hair brittle and frizzy," she tells Bustle. One gentle shampoo for dry hair is Verb's Ghost Shampoo, which is sulfate-free.

However, if you do think your shampoo may be causing your hair to dry out or be frizzy, Dr. Martey-Ochola recommends "gentle cleansers [with] little to no foaming." That's because suds tend to strip your hair of its natural oils, she explains. However, if your hair is already on the oilier side, you can use a stronger shampoo.

Ammon Carver, chief artistic director at Ulta Beauty and global creative director for L'Anza Healing Haircare, adds that a conditioning treatment can help ensure your hair stays healthy after washing. "If you notice your hair is drier in the winter months you may want to use a conditioning treatment to ensure your hair is maintaining proper hydration." Try a dry hair treatment like Briogeo's Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask to infuse nutrients and moisture.

4. How Often Should You Trim Your Hair?

It's easy to keep pushing off that haircut, but trims are important for hair health — especially in the winter. According to Carver, you should try to get a trim every six to 12 weeks. In the meantime, he says that it's key to be conscious of the scarves and hats that you bundle up with as these can cause friction and lead to fraying of your ends.

"Keep in mind that our hair simultaneously breaks from the bottom up as it grows, leaving the ends of hair looking very fragile and 'hollow,'" adds Carver. To combat this, he recommends a process called "dusting," which is essentially a micro trim that's done every eight to 12 weeks.

5. Is Extreme Cold Bad For Hair?

Yes, heat is a common culprit for hair damage, but extreme cold is no joke either.

"Hair goes through a lot of changes during winter because the cold air along with the lack of humidity and warmth indoors makes the hair dry and brittle," Klein tells Bustle. "This can cause dry scalp and damaged hair." So what can you do? To protect your hair, she recommends to do regular hair masks, use heat protectants, and try protective hairstyles such as braids, ponytails, or buns in order to prevent unnecessary heat styling.

6. Can You Go Out With Wet Hair?

So you know that putting a hat over damp hair isn't the best plan, but can you go out with wet hair at all? Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola tells Bustle that wet hair in the cold is a no-go. "Doing so can increase split ends, frizzy hair, and enhance breakage," she says. "The hair strand is coiled, so when it's wet and you go out into freezing air, the water in your strand will freeze as well, causing the hair strands to separate and lead to increased brittleness, breakage, split ends, and limp hair."

Ruiz agrees, stressing that your hair is "most fragile" when it's wet. "Going out with wet hair will leave the hair more vulnerable," she tells Bustle. "The best thing [to do] is to put either an oil or thermal protectant on that will help protect that hair for a quick-dry but also act as a protectant." The Bread Beauty Supply Hair Oil Everyday Gloss contains vitamin C-rich kakadu plum and fatty acid safflower oil for ultimate protection.

7. What Fabrics Damage Hair?

While wool may be a great choice for a coat, it's actually not so good for the hair. All of the experts that Bustle spoke with recommend avoiding wool and other dry fabrics — like cotton — as they pull moisture and oil from the hair. And yes, you guessed it, this can cause breakage and dryness. Instead, they recommend opting for sticking to silk-lined hats, silk wraps, and silk hair ties, since silk doesn't cause any friction with your hair, making it a perfect styling option.

Studies Referenced:

Mohanty S. and Cock, I. (2012) The chemotherapeutic potential of Terminalia ferdinandiana: Phytochemistry and bioactivity. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,

HEIMBURGER, D. (2006) Handbook of Clinical Nutrition (Fourth Edition),


Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola, Ph.D., chemist and co-founder of NUELE

Chad Kenyon, Olaplex ambassador and celebrity hairstylist

Sarah Klein, Nine Zero One hairstylist

Ashley Ruiz, Nine Zero One hairstylist

Shelley Davis, founder of Kinky-Curly

Ammon Carver, chief artistic director at Ulta Beauty and global creative director for L'Anza Healing Haircare

This story was originally published on November 5, 2015.

This article was originally published on