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How to Keep Your Curls Alive When It’s Really, Really Cold Outside

They’re counting on you.

Photo: Heather Hazzan
Photo: Heather Hazzan

You know who despises winter more than your face? Curly hair. Taking care of a head of curls is already a time-consuming, eight-steps-minimum process, and that’s on a good day, when it’s pleasant outside and you’re not crippled by SAD. Once November rolls around, everything devolves into a nightmare. The cold, dry air makes already-dry hair drier. The godforsaken wind undoes all detangling efforts. Hats, scarves, and hoods slowly break down any semblance of individual curls into an indiscernible clump of frizz.

Before you resign yourself to canceling all social obligations like I almost did after writing that bleak description, try building these six steps into your winter hair-care routine. They’ll help keep your curls protected, moisturized, and, well, curly, all the way into 2019.

1. Start Sleeping on Silk

We’ll start with the easiest step first: Upgrade your pillowcase to a fancy silk one, if you haven’t already. The smooth fibers will prevent breakage and frizz while you’re rolling around on your curls. They need this extra pampering now more than ever since they’re in a drier, more fragile state. But you deserve it, too. This is the most passive way to winter-proof hair, since all you have to do is click a “buy” button. There are two entire days dedicated to sales on the horizon; you got this.

SLIP Silk Pillowcase
$85 at Sephora

2. Learn Your LCO’s

The natural hair community has so many fun acronyms, and LCO is one of my favorites. The LCO method refers to three forms of products, and the order in which they should be layered onto the hair for maximum moisture retention: Liquid (water), Cream (something as thin as leave-in conditioner or as thick as a styling cream), and Oil (a hair oil that seals all the moisture in, much like face oils do in skin care). You can switch up the order or drop a letter altogether depending on how dry, damaged, thin, or thick your hair is. For example, some greatly prefer the LOC method, where the “L” stands for “leave-in conditioner” and the style is sealed with a styling cream.

3. Pick a Protective Style

Take advantage of the extra time spent holed up indoors to fall into a YouTube black hole of videos about curly hairstyles. Now is the time to get at least averagely good at braiding and twisting your hair into something that’s tangle-free and fun. Curly hair vloggers are the best source of easy, protective hairstyles that will wind- and wool-proof your hair, cutting down on tangles, breakage, and frizz. It will be so much easier to wear big-ass scarves and coats with collars and you won’t lose or snag any hair in the process.

4. Upgrade Your Outerwear Accessories

Unfortunately, curly hair doesn’t keep your ears that warm, so depending on your location, hats may be an unavoidable necessity. Thankfully, a kind soul invented satin-lined beanies that help mitigate hat-hair disasters. Satin doesn’t absorb moisture or create as much friction as other fabrics like cotton do, so your hair truly stays protected and smooth while it’s covered up. Fashion brand Grace Eleyae has everything from baseball caps to knit headbands lined with satin, so you can accessorize to your heart’s desire and even protect your already-protective styles.

Grace Eleyae Warm Slap
$32 at Grace Eleyae

5. Bulk Up for Winter

While you’re shopping for silky pillowcases and satiny hats on Black Friday, drop a few more heavy-duty hair products into your cart. Invest in a quality hair mask that is packed with nourishing oils and requires you to leave it on for more than a few minutes. Don’t save it for a special once-in-a-while treat. Slap it on every three to four days, depending on how dry your hair feels. This is no time to skimp.

Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair!™ Deep Conditioning Mask
$36 at Sephora

6. Get Steamy

Remember when I told you to get a humidifier for your face? If you haven’t taken that advice yet, consider getting one for your curls’ sake. This is the second most passive way to inject more moisture into your hair. If a humidifier just isn’t your jam, you can try to extend your shower sessions, letting your curls revel in the steam while you’re conditioning or wearing your quality hair mask. Just make sure no one else has to use the bathroom anytime soon and that the water isn’t too, too hot — you’ll just end up re-dehydrating your skin and hair in the end.

VicTsing 300ml Cool Mist Humidifier
$26 at Amazon

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How to Keep Your Curls Alive When It’s Very Cold Outside