Is your dry hair in need of some major fixing? Step one: Uncover the causes of dry hair so you can remedy them. Step two: Moisturize your mane like a pro. Let this foolproof guide lead the way.
If it feels like winter weather is wrecking your hair, it isn’t your imagination. Just as your skin dries out and feels parched during the coldest months of the year, so do your strands. With that said, you don’t have to fall victim to dry, dull, or frizzy hair during any season.
Below, experts share key intel on how to moisturize dry hair and keep it healthy 365 days a year.
What Causes Dry Hair?
- Seasonal changes. During summer, high temperatures, chlorine, or salt water can be the culprits. In winter, the lack of moisture in the air is a primary instigator.
- Chemical hair treatments. James adds that chemicals—including those for lightening or coloring hair—can also cause dry hair.
- Heated tools. Curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers can also zap moisture from your mane. James often witnesses people using the wrong tool without a protective coating, or turning them up to the hottest setting.
- Your hair might naturally be dry. “This is quite common for curly hair and gray hair,” says James.
- Washing hair too frequently. Over-washing your hair—as well as using expired products—can strip your hair of the moisture it needs, adds Ian Hoffner, a hair stylist at Mane Techniques in Wayne, PA
Dry vs. Damaged Hair
There’s a fine line between dry hair and damaged hair. It can be challenging to differentiate the two, yet both involve the hair having an open cuticle.
In the case of dry hair, the cuticle lacks moisture, says James. “If it feels coarse or rough to touch, it’s most likely dry,” says Hoffner.
On the other hand, hair damage usually occurs because the protein bonds in the hair have broken. As James puts it, the cuticle is “wide open, swollen, and sometimes split.” When hair is damaged, it typically has noticeable split ends and “breaks or snaps off while styling,” Hoffner adds.
The biggest difference between dry and damaged hair is that the former can be remedied much more easily. Dry hair is moisture-deficient, while damaged hair is protein-deficient. Both hair woes need a little TLC, but the remedies vary slightly.
How to Fix Damaged Hair
Damaged hair requires repairing protein bonds internally, says James. There are various treatments you can buy and apply to do this. Hoffner specifically recommends the K18 leave-in molecular repair hair mask. “This product helps to repair hair from the inside out within four minutes. It helps to restore strength, moisture, and softness,” he explains. You also can’t go wrong with Olaplex; it’s one of the best brands for damaged hair, as the entire product line is formulated to repair broken bonds.
Topical hair care products aside, you can also promote hair strength, length, and follicular health with the right nutrients. Think: biotin, zinc, and Fo-Ti, which are the key players in HUM’s Hair Sweet Hair gummies.
How to Fix Dry Hair
When it comes to replenishing moisture in dry hair, both James and Hoffner maintain that you can use the same types of treatments shared above. However, there are additional tips and tricks for washing, styling, nutrition, and more that can fix dry hair in particular.
Here are some of the best home remedies for dry and frizzy hair:
Is it better to air dry or blow dry your hair?
Whether your hair is dry or damaged, James maintains that it’s always better to air dry. “If you have to use heat on the hair, always use a heat protectant,” he advises.
How often should you wash dry hair?
If you have dry hair, it’s best to wash hair only two times a week, says James. Remember: Over-washing your hair is one of the primary causes of dry hair in the first place. “The only people who should wash their hair daily are those with oily hair,” he explains.
Does water temperature matter?
Yes, the temperature of your water absolutely matters—especially for people with dry hair. “Hot water strips away your natural oils, leaving your hair unprotected,” Hoffner shares. If you absolutely have to use hot water, James suggests finishing off your shower with a cool rinse to seal the hair cuticle.
Should you use a shower filter?
In recent years, shower filters have become increasingly popular. But if your water quality is decent, you don’t need to worry about adding one. “A shower filter is a great idea to help soften your water if you have hard water, or water that has a lot of mineral build up,” Hoffner explains. (Our vote goes to The Goodfor Company’s Shower Filter, which filters out minerals, heavy metals, chlorine, and other contaminants that wreak havoc on your hair.)
How often should you apply a hair mask?
Adding hair masks into your routine is one of the best home remedies for dry and frizzy hair. That said, frequency recommendations depend on your hair type. James advises his clients with color-treated and highlighted hair to apply them weekly. (If your hair is naturally dry, you may also want to moisturize with an intensive hair mask on a weekly basis.) Otherwise, Hoffner suggests that most of his clients use them one once or twice a month.
How does nutrition come into play?
You are what you eat—and apparently, your hair is what you eat, too. “Biology is a really fascinating thing,” says James. “Most people don’t realize that their hair follicles are a result of their blood, and their blood as a result of what they put into their body. Tiny cells are formed and then form into tiny keratin cells, which then feed into the bulb of the hair. They layer one on top of each other and then they become your hair.” Simply put, proper nutrition is integral for hair health.
On top of following a well-rounded diet, you may want some extra help to moisturize dry hair from within. We suggest HUM’s Red Carpet: It packs black currant seed oil and vitamin E to nourish hair follicles. (Bonus: It promotes healthy skin texture, too.)
Does wearing a hat in winter help or hurt dry hair?
Because dry hair craves moisture, wearing a hat actually helps dry hair since it holds in moisture in during colder seasons. Grace Eleyae makes satin- and silk-lined hats and turbans for this very reason: to seal in moisture for women with dry hair.
What else can you do to protect and moisturize dry hair?
James stresses the importance of using the right products for your hair. Just as someone with skin issues should use products recommended by their dermatologist to help treat targeted issues, those with specific hair types and conditions should listen to their stylist and use the products “prescribed” to them.
“If you have colored-treated hair, you should also be using a colored hair shampoo. If you have highlighted hair, use a shampoo for highlighted hair. If you have oily hair or a dry scalp, then you should use a shampoo and conditioner that treats those conditions,” he says.
In your quest to moisturize dry hair, you’ll also need to focus on using hydrating hair products. Avoiding ingredients like alcohol, silicones, and sulfates will help, too. Moreover, James suggests investing in high-quality hair tools with protective coatings and technology to seal moisture into hair. (He prefers heated tools by FHI Heat and Dyson.)
If you have more severe issues with your scalp or hair health, it may be best to consult a doctor or trichologist.