How to combat the effect of Christmas stress on your hair
There's no doubt that the festive season takes a toll on your mind... as well as your hair. Here's how to keep your hair in top health.
It's December, and you're frantically trying to organised last-minute festive drinks with your friends, pick up stocking fillers for the little ones in your family, make sure you can book a delivery slot for your Christmas groceries, and pick up decorations for the tree - all the while, your hair is taking a back seat. This time of year can be stressful, which is why self care is more important than ever; and that includes caring for your tresses.
With the year bottle-necking to a close, we talk to trichologist Anabel Kingsley about the effects that winter and the holiday season can hair on your hair, and how to ensure that your locks are in tip top condition for Christmas Day and beyond.
What happens to hair in colder weather, and why?
"Cold weather in itself does not have a lasting effect on the structure of the hair or the health of strands. However, what you do to your hair during the colder months may have an impact. For instance, if you heat-style your hair more you may find your hair is dry, brittle and lacking in shine. Changes to diet and lifestyle may also take their toll i.e. if you do not eat as well or let your stress levels rocket.
"You also may find your hair frizzes more. Frizz occurs when moisture in the atmosphere penetrates into the hair shaft. This causes weak bonds within the hair to change shape, so that individual hairs stick out and fly-away. Frizz is most likely to strike when humidity levels change – and unfortunately, in terms of winter, this happens whenever we step from heated buildings into the chilly outdoors."
Can a change in diet over Christmas have an impact on hair health?
"Seasonal changes to diet can cause problems. During winter it is quite common for a hectic schedule (i.e. work drinks and Christmas parties) to disrupt eating habits. For instance, you may skip dinner, eat more fast foods and reduce your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. A healthy diet is vital to hair growth and health, so your hair could suffer if you are not in-taking nutrient-rich foods on a regular basis.
"Certain foods and drinks that we tend to eat more of in winter can also present problems for individuals who are prone to dandruff. For example, full fat dairy products, such as cheese and cream, as well as Champagne and white wine, can worsen or trigger flaking and itching. Increased stress levels can also have this effect, as well as making the scalp greasy and your hair limp, so try to manage your stress levels with activities such as yoga, pilates, mindfulness or light exercise. You can also perk up your scalp with daily use of an anti-microbial, astringent scalp toner such as the Philip Kingsley Flaky/Itchy Scalp Toner."
Are there any products you should/shouldn’t use?
"Any type of hair manipulation, from heated styling and brushing to colour processing, can impact the health of strands and therefore the way they behave and feel. Damaged and dry hair is always more difficult to manage, and won’t hold a style as easily
"Colour and chemical processing oxidise strands, weakening its protein structure and decreasing strength. These processes also lift the outer hair cuticle (its protective layer), which can leave strands rough in texture and lacking shine.
"Heated styling tools can scorch strands and dry them out. Using a harsh hair brush, or brushing very roughly, can remove parts of the hair cuticle and cause breakage.
"If you regularly heat style or process your hair, it’s important to use products that re-strengthen and restore the moisture balance of your strands. I recommend our Elasticizer and Bond Builder Restructuring pre-shampoo treatments.
"If your scalp is flaky and itchy, use a targeted anti-microbial shampoo and scalp toner. It’s important to tackle dandruff asap as it can cause and/or worsen hair loss. We make a shampoo called Flaky/Itchy Shampoo that we originally formulated for Sir Laurence Olivier. It is highly effective, doesn’t strip the hair and has a fresh green apple fragrance."
Are there any DIY tricks people can do to help ease any discomfort?
"Warm winter hats can leave your scalp sweaty and your hair flat. To restore volume and to refresh your scalp, spray dry shampoo throughout your roots, leave for 5 minutes and then gently brush through. The best dry shampoos are those that contain ingredients that benefit the scalp, such as Zinc PCA (helps to regulate sebum production and prevent flakes), Allantoin (a soothing agent) and Bisabolol (an anti-inflammatory ingredient).
"If you suffer from a flaky, itchy scalp, keep a travel-sized soothing scalp toner in your briefcase or backpack. Simply apply this to irritated areas whenever you feel the need. Our Flaky/Itchy Scalp Toner comes in a 75ml size and offers immediate relief – with long term scalp benefits."
How can you style your hair for Christmas while maintaining its health?
"Afrohair is the most vulnerable to damage of all hair textures because of its unique structure and specific processing and styling needs. Therefore, you need to be aware it requires special care and the use of specifically-formulated products in order to look, feel and be at its best."
"Because Afro hair is curly, it tangles easily. Trying to detangle it can worsen hair breakage, so be as gentle as possible. Apply a detangling spray to towel-dried hair and, using a wide-tooth comb, start at the ends and gradually work up to the roots.
"To increase shine for holiday glamour, use smoothing and conditioning creams to close the hair cuticle and encourage light reflection."
"It’s vital to protect and hydrate Afro hair if you colour or bleach it. Lightening Afro hair is potentially more damaging than lightening any other hair texture as the hair’s flat shape allows it to absorb chemicals more rapidly. Changing from a dark to very light colour can also significantly weaken the hair shaft, causing snappage. If you're planning on trying out a new colour this holiday season, prevent breakage by using an intensive pre-shampoo conditioning treatment at least once weekly."
"It’s vital to use a specialised and ultra-hydrating conditioner. Look for products labelled “moisturizing”, “re-moisturizing”, “emollient”, “deep conditioning”, “elasticizing”, “penetrative” and/or “intensive or extreme”. It’s also best to avoid heavy, oily types of styling products."