Winter: A time for holiday movies, hot chocolate, and hair loss. Wait, what? It doesn't exactly add to that warm wintry picture, but unfortunately for so many of us, hair loss becomes big news every time winter rolls around.
According to a six-year study by a group of Swedish scientists, even healthy women are prone to losing their hair more at this time of year than during any other season. Why? Well, the key to understanding the process lies in understanding the hair growth cycle, which charts the lifespan of each and every hair. First comes the anagen (or growing phase), which is followed by catagen (regression phase), then telogen (Resting phase), and then exogen (shedding phase).
According to brand research carried out by Roots haircare, hair loss is measured by the anagen to telogen ratio. When the telogen phase increases and the anagen phase reduces, hair loss occurs. This seems to start happening at the end of summer (warmer weather speeds up circulation, which aids hair growth during the sunnier months). So as winter arrives, that's when you'll start to notice more hair in your hairbrush.
Trichologist and hair loss expert Sara G. Allison knows full well that winter is peak season for hair loss. "Hair loss can occur at any time of year, however, January is my busiest month for new inquiries. Throughout the rest of the year, clients often cite Christmas as being a turning point," she explains. "This is because everything intensifies over Christmas, from stress, poor nutrition, a lack of sunshine to vitamin D and an increased risk of catching viruses. Plus excessive damaging from overstyling, including extensions and heat damage combined with the cold wind and central heating, can make your hair brittle."
While seasonal hair loss is pretty tricky to control, you can arm your hair with the correct arsenal to fend off its effects. Keep scrolling as experts share their tips for bolstering hair against loss.
Don't skip wash day.
It's during a hair wash that you often notice the most hair loss, but according to Allison, it's no cause for concern. In fact, maintaining your regular wash schedule can be beneficial for hair health. "As long as you are using good products and minimising heat styling, then I encourage shampooing every day or at least every other day. You should then see less shedding each time, which psychologically is better for you and will also help eliminate any buildup of debris from sebum, dirt, or pollution, and will keep your follicles clear to encourage unhindered growth." Just make sure to stock your shower with a gentle non-sulfate shampoo.
As for brushing: "Brush your hair at least daily, but ensure you are gentle and use a wide-toothed comb or paddle brush. I find the tiny paddle brushes the best," she adds.
Go easy on air-drying.
"Don't leave the house with wet hair," warns Amy Newman, brand representative for Roots haircare. "It's a bad idea to go out into the cold weather with wet hair as it can cause the cuticle to freeze and break."
Hairdryers commit their fair share of the damage too, so Newman adds, "You don't always have to dry the hair on full heat. When hair is wet, spray with heat protection spray, and use your dryer on a cooler setting to lock in as much moisture as possible."
Turn down the temperatures.
"What you may not know is that long-term use and abuse [of heated styling appliances] can cause irreversible hair loss," explains Allison. "You should minimise damage by reducing the use of heat on your hair from such things as hair straighteners and hairdryers, which you should only use on lower temperatures. You should also be careful of overusing hair dyes, hair extensions, and tight hairstyles as these can cause problems as well."
Be wary of hairspray.
When after-work drinks and Christmas gatherings arrive, it can be a force of habit to reach for a can of dry shampoo or hairspray when making the transition from work hair to going-out hair. But according to Allison, we should be mindful of our use. "Whilst these are fine for occasional use, be careful about using them every day as they can cause your hair to get overdry and brittle, and breakage can occur," she explains. "Also we don't know the full effects of the chemicals in the aerosol cans, and in my experience, they do seem to induce excessive hair shedding."
Ramp up your vitamin D.
"It's not as fun as a winter sun holiday, but significantly cheaper: I recommend taking a vitamin D supplement especially through the months of October until May," explains Allison. Research backs this up. One study found that women who complained of hair loss had significantly lower levels of vitamin D3 than their counterparts. If you're interested in supplementing your diet, try Nature Made Vitamin D3 Dietary Supplement ($5), after consulting your doctor.