During the winter months, it is possible we may experience changes in our hair. Dryness, dandruff and breakage are among the most common symptoms someone might notice as they plod through the colder, dryer months.

Ronda Farah, MD, certified board dermatologist with the University of Minnesota Physicians (M Physicians) offers her advice on how to care for hair during the winter.

How can winter weather impact our hair?

As cold air arrives, it lacks humidity, which dries out hair. This impacts both the scalp and hair shaft. Dr. Farah says that during winter months, she tends to see a lot more scaling and dandruff–which are small flakes of dead skin–on the scalp. You might experience more breakage, split ends and frizz. That’s when it is important to pay extra attention to moisturizing the scalp and hair.

How can we help our hair during this time?

If you are noticing more dandruff and flaking on your scalp, there are many different anti-dandruff shampoos that can help.

“If we’re seeing a lot more dandruff, we might ask our patients to pick up those anti-dandruff shampoos at the store and use them at least three times a week if their hair can tolerate it,” she says. “And seeing that the scalp is more dry, we might prescribe an oil to apply to the scalp, or if a really bad rash develops, we might use a topical steroid.”

You may notice that your hair shaft is also dry, so Dr. Farah often recommends that her patients apply more conditioner to their hair, or even a deep conditioner. She also suggests leaving conditioner on the ends of hair for a longer period of time. Oils may also be useful for some people and can be applied both on the scalp and hair shaft. She usually recommends purchasing oils from a reliable retailer, but she’s careful to note that not everyone can tolerate them.

“The problem is some patients can’t tolerate any oil. If they apply oil to their scalp it may become greasy. They may get pimple-like spots on their scalp,” Dr. Farah explains. “Other patients need to oil their scalp once a day, or even once a week, and it’s the same thing for their hair shaft.”

She also says patients with curlier hair, or hair that holds a tighter coil, tends to be dryer and may need oils more frequently.

Dr. Farah suggests taking breaks from heat styling or not using any at all if someone notices dryness. Silk pillowcases can also be helpful to prevent damage from friction, and she says that you can protect your hair from the sun with hats. Even during the winter time, the sun can still impact your hair.

As winter takes its hold on Minnesota and you notice dryness in your hair or skin, a helpful step can be making an appointment with your doctor. Find one with M Physicians here