Winter doesn’t just suck the life out of you emotionally—it can also suck the life (and water) out of your skin and hair. While staying hydrated is super important, your skin and hair need extra protection against the elements.
We reached out to a few beauty experts to get their top tips for keeping skin and hair hydrated and healthy all the way to spring.
1. Prep your skin differently in the winter than you do in the summer.
It might seem counterintuitive, but you actually want to use a gentle exfoliator in the winter months, says Debra Jaliman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist. "Taking the dead skin off the surface helps your moisturizer penetrate better," she explains.
Jaliman also recommends using a water spray before moisturizing, which helps bind water molecules to your skin, creating a long-lasting, ultra-moisturized effect. Different skin types do best with different water spray solutions, but all skin will benefit from a moisturizer packed with hyaluronic acid. It's one of the best ingredients for skin hydration: A single hyaluronic acid molecule can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water and acts as a carrier, holding in H2O and delivering it to the skin.
2. Hydrating masks can keep both your hair and face from freaking out.
In cold, dry months, treating your hair with a deep-conditioning mask every couple of weeks is a good idea, says Stephanie Johnson, a cosmetologist and colorist specialist in Dallas, Texas. She recommends looking for a mask with shea butter or a nut oil. "Both are loaded with vitamin E and fatty acids that will nourish your hair," she says.
For African-American hair, Deycke Heidorn, a stylist in New York, recommends argan oil and coconut oil. "African-American hair is typically very porous and requires extra hydration and moisture," Heidorn says. "Coconut oil is a heavy sealant that locks in moisture, while argan oil is rich in vitamin E, which helps hydrate the scalp and hair shafts."
Another way to help your hair retain moisture: After conditioning, spray your hair with a leave-in conditioner before styling. "Heat and mechanical damage strips out moisture, so your locks will be thankful for the extra protection," says Johnson. But if you have fine hair, don’t slather on conditioner from scalp to ends. Instead, apply midshaft to ends only, to avoid weighing down hair and losing volume. This rule applies to both traditional rinse-out and leave-in conditioners.
For skin, Jaliman recommends honey. Honey naturally contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties—making it a great fit if your dry skin is also prone to breakouts. For ultra-dry skin, throw on a hydrating sheet mask for fifteen minutes in the evening, as well. Your face will thank you.
3. Get serious about beauty sleep and buy that silk pillowcase you’ve always wanted.
Traditional cotton pillowcases soak up more moisture from your hair and skin than their silky-smooth counterparts. If you sleep on a silk pillowcase, you’ll have fewer hair issues like flyaways and frizz, and wake up with dewier, creaseless skin. Silk also makes a lot of hairstyles—including blowouts—last longer, so you won’t have to fry your hair (or drain your bank account) as frequently.
4. Avoid sulfates.
Hair products are often loaded down with drying, stripping sulfates, a detergent chemical used to create foam in beauty and cleaning products. Sulfates act as "surfactants," molecules that attach themselves to oil and water, emulsify the surface tension of water, and wash away both simultaneously. While clean hair is happy hair, sulfates don’t always completely wash away and can irritate the scalp and hair in the end, causing more harm than good.
This is especially true if you have curly, fine, or chemically treated hair. "These folks tend to have less cuticle layer to protect the hair," Johnson says. "They have a hard enough time retaining moisture because their cuticle layer is often compromised. Drying sulfates are not going to help that at all."