If your hairbrush seems to be accumulating more strands now that it’s officially fall, or you notice more hair seems to be shedding on your clothes — well, it’s not your imagination. It’s time for a brief lesson on hair growth.
The growth process contains three phases:
- Anagen phase: During this phase hair grows
- Catagen phase: In this phase the hair is transitioning and the growth process comes to a halt
- Telogen phase: Hair “rests” for around 100 days before it finally falls out in this phase.
“Hair grows faster in the summer than winter,” says Richard Mizuguchi, a board-certified dermatologist and hair restoration surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. “During the summer months, there are higher proportions of hairs in the telogen phase, hence more shedding in the fall and winter.”
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The theory? While only hypothetical, says Dr. Mizuguchi, it’s possible that humans hold onto hair during the summer months to protect against the sun — but that leaves you prone to hair loss during the fall and winter, from October onward.
In addition, Dr. Mizuguchi says you tend to sustain damage to your strands when conditions are dry: Outside with the freezing air and whipping wind, and indoors when building heaters suck out all the humidity.
Want to know how to keep your hair healthy and protected? We asked Dr. Mizuguchi what everyday moves help keep hair strong, healthy, and vibrant (even when the weather’s not).
Don’t wash every day.
It’s tempting to suds up your strands every morning, but you’re doing a lot of damage to your hair. “Americans wash their hair way too often,” Dr. Mizuguchi says. “And daily washing is harsher during the winter months.” Only wash your hair when it’s dirty, visibly oily, itchy, or there’s product build-up. For most people, you can break out shampoo every two to three days.
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Shampoo at the roots, then condition.
Speaking of shampoo, let’s talk about how to do that right. You don’t want to strip your hair of all oils.
“Shampoo should be applied to the scalp first to help remove any lipids, dirt, and skin scale,” says Dr. Mizuguchi. “Then as you rinse your hair, the shampoo should be massaged through the hair.”
And don’t skip conditioning, especially in the fall and winter when hair needs extra hydration. “It is important to use conditioners that leave oils in your hair and have humectants to retain humidity,” says our doc, who recommends John Frieda Full Repair Hydrate + Rescue Deep Conditioner, which “coats the hair with omega-3-rich Inca Inchi plant oil.”
Style your hair correctly.
You need to watch the damage you can potentially inflict while styling your hair — which is a lot, says Dr. Mizuguchi. First, let hair air dry as much as possible before you brush it out. “Wet hair is more fragile,” he explains. “It’s important to treat hair gently, especially in winter.
When heating hair, prep with a heat protective spray that contains dimethicone or amodimethicone, like Paul Mitchell Soft Style Heat Seal, Tresemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Protective Spray or Dove Heat Defense Mist to help retain moisture in hair.
When blow-drying hair, get a ventilated brush so the openings allow air to go through and do not keep heating the hair — and do not over brush hair.” That “100 strokes” rule is definitely overkill. Also, make sure not to hold your blow-dryer too close to the head, and keep it moving all the time to prevent damage from overheating.
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Wear a hat, but not a tight one.
A hat can help protect your hair from the wind and other outdoor elements — but it’s a double-edged sword if you don’t use a hat properly.
“It’s definitely important to protect from the wind, but tight-fitting hats increase static and give people hat hair,” says Dr. Mizuguchi. “This makes people style their hair more than once in a day — and that’s almost as bad as heating the hair.”
In addition, hats cause static electricity, which damages hair. With that in mind, don’t keep your hat so snug; try loose-fitting beanies and berets for winter, and wide-brimmed caps during the fall months.
Use a serum or sunscreen spray for extra hydration and protection.
It’s never a bad idea to boost give your hair an extra sip of hydration, especially during the winter months. “Especially if you have dry frizzy hair, hair serums can help retain moisture,” says Dr. Mizuguchi, whose go-to serum is Kerastase Elixir Ultime.
“I also like products with sunscreen in patients with thinning scalp or colored hair, which prolongs the hair color and protects the scalp.” Try Paul Mitchell Sun Shield Conditioning Spray or Clarins Sunscreen Care Oil Spray Broad Spectrum SPF 30 for full-on shielding powers.