Yes, You Probably Do Lose More Hair in the Winter—Here's Why (and What to Do About It)

A hairbrush balanced on an abstract fixture

Nicole Mason / Stocksy

Winter can be rough: minimal daylight, dry skin, chapped lips, and, for some, serious hair shedding. While other effects of winter weather make sense, like decreased vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder, it probably seems counterintuitive that the cold weather could lead your body to drop hair. But for many people, the cold, dark winter months bring with them increased hair loss.

We wanted to understand the science behind winter hair loss and the effect of seasons on the hair growth cycle, so we turned to two board-certified dermatologists, Tiffany Libby, MD, FAAD, and Iris Rubin, MD, to get the full scoop. Keep reading for their insights on and advice for battling winter hair loss.

Meet the Expert

  • Tiffany Libby, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon.
  • Iris Rubin, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the co-founder of SEEN Haircare.

Do You Lose More Hair in the Winter?

According to our experts, the phenomenon of winter hair loss has a lot of reported sufferers—but no clinical research to back it up. "There are no great scientific studies on seasonal shedding, but there are numerous reports and observations of this occurring," explains Rubin. Libby agrees, adding that "while there are some studies that point to seasonal patterns to hair shedding and hair loss," there is no known association between wintertime and hair loss.

Why Does It Seem Like I'm Losing More Hair in the Winter?

Both experts say that hair shedding is directly linked to the hair growth cycle. "The hair-growth cycle is comprised of four stages: The anagen (growing) phase, catagen (transitional) phase, telogen (resting) phase, and exogen (shedding) phase," Rubin explains. "The telogen phase is when grown hairs are securely anchored within the scalp, and basically just hanging out before the shedding phase begins and the growth cycle begins all over again."

Rubin goes on to explain several theories about seasonal hair loss, one of which is that our bodies hold on to more hairs during warmer summer months to shield the scalp from UV exposure. Then, as part of the natural hair-growth cycle, the shedding of these hairs may happen to coincide with winter—but this would be highly dependent on the climate of where you live and your own personal sun exposure. "More sunlight during the summer may trigger hairs to enter the telogen (or resting) phase, perhaps as an evolutionary form of extra sun protection," she theorizes.

Ultimately, however, both experts point to environmental factors as a more likely cause of hair loss in winter. "It is normal to lose between 50 to 100 hairs a day, and if you are brushing or washing your hair less, you may notice [the hair loss] more on days when you are brushing or washing hair," shares Libby. Cold weather often means less sweat, and many people report washing their hair less frequently in the winter. Rubin points to winter dryness as a culprit: "Drier winter air can also remove moisture from the scalp and hair, making the hair more susceptible to breakage," she says.

How to Treat and Prevent Winter Hair Loss and Breakage

No matter the cause, losing hair can be stressful—so if there is a way to mitigate seasonal hair loss, we want to know about it. Luckily, our experts had several recommendations for battling winter hair loss and preventing breakage.

01 of 06

Avoid Too-Hot Showers

There is no better feeling on a cold winter day than a steaming-hot shower, but it can hurt your hair and scalp. "Avoid taking too-hot showers, which can strip your scalp, hair, and skin of natural oils," Rubin cautions. Instead, opt for comfortably warm showers, or if you want to take a hot shower, lower the temperature before washing your hair.

02 of 06

Keep Dry Hair Conditioned

"Drier winter air can remove moisture from the scalp and hair, making the hair more susceptible to breakage," explains Rubin. For this reason, it's important to keep your hair moisturized with conditioner. Libby recommends using a conditioner after every shampoo to help prevent hair damage, which she says can lead to fragile, thinning hair that may easily break. Need extra moisture? Try a hydrating hair mask.

03 of 06

Avoid Heat Styling (If You Can)

"Let your hair air dry when possible, or use low heat settings," says Libby. "Tools like blow dryers, hot combs, or curling irons can damage hair strands and increase risk of breakage." Rubin agrees: "Try to scale back on heat-styling, but when you do blow-dry, flat-iron, or curl your hair, definitely use a styling product that offers heat protection."

04 of 06

Don't Go Outside With Wet Hair

This isn't just an old wives tale—turns out, going outside in the winter with wet hair really isn't good for you. And according to our experts, it's especially bad for your hair. Rubin warns against going outside with wet hair when temperatures are below freezing, as the water on your hair can actually freeze and cause breakage as it expands. Make sure to wash your hair with plenty of time to allow it to fully dry before going outside in the winter (especially when it's freezing outside).

05 of 06

Avoid Brushing Wet Hair

While this advice may vary based on your texture, in general, brushing wet hair can damage already fragile strands. "Don’t brush hair while wet, as wet hair is more susceptible to breakage," explains Libby. If you're concerned with being able to detangle, try doing so while your conditioner is in your hair by keeping a wide-toothed comb in your shower. Your hair is less likely to break with the slip of the conditioner, allowing you to work out knots before your hair dries.

06 of 06

Use Hydrating Leave-In Products

Both experts recommend using leave-in products to maximize moisture during the cold winter months. Adding hydrating ingredients to the scalp helps to treat hair starting at the root to protect against loss and breakage, explains Libby. "I like leave-on products like SpoildChild's A22 Biotin Boost Hair + Scalp Serum ($50), a spray formulated with rosemary oil, caffeine, and niacinamide, ingredients that have demonstrated hair growth and strengthening benefits and that combat hair thinning and breakage," she says. "It’s a quick, easy addition to your daily routine to keep your hair and scalp healthy."

Rubin recommends the SEEN Magic Serum ($36), telling us that independent third-party testing showed that it reduces breakage by 81 percent after just one use.

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