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Winter has finally come to an end, but the long cold months can leave their mark on our hair and scalp. Blow drying and heat styling can leave us with dull, lifeless locks, while dry air and hot showers can cause itchy, flaky scalps. Fortunately there are several ways to combat the drying effects of the season, and start spring with shiny hair and a healthy scalp.


Know Your Ingredients

Certain ingredients found in many shampoos and conditioners can dry or irritate the hair and scalp. Sulfates, the most common of which are Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, can be harsh and drying, cause color to fade, and cause frizziness in curly hair. Parabens, a type of chemical preservatives, can cause scalp irritation to individuals with reactive or sensitive skin. Mineral and petroleum oils lie on the surface of the hair shaft, preventing moisture from penetrating while weighing the hair down. Coal tar is an ingredient found in many dandruff shampoos. Although currently allowed for cosmetic use by the FDA, coal tar is a known human carcinogen. Search out products that are free of these harsh chemicals.


Take a Shampoo Break

A common cause of dry hair and scalp is over-washing. Daily shampooing is drying to all but the oiliest hair. Try shampooing every second or third day to allow the body’s natural oils to condition and protect the scalp and hair. Less frequent washing reduces the amount of drying and styling time as well. Lukewarm water, rather than steaming hot, will be less drying to both skin and hair.


Cool It Down

Blow drying, curling, and flat irons all can damage the hair if used to excess. Use a highly absorbent microfiber towel after washing, and air-dry the hair as much as possible before blow drying. Keep the dryer in constant motion to avoid overheating the hair.

Check the heat settings on curling irons and flatirons, hair scorches at 450 degrees so be sure to keep appliances well below this temperature. The medium setting is safe for average to coarse hair; use the low setting if your hair is fine.

Whenever possible avoid drying and heat styling altogether. Allow the hair to dry in its natural state, or towel-dry and then style in a braid, bun, or ponytail.


Try a Natural Treatment

Jojoba oil is a wax ester and is the closest approximation of human sebum. It can balance your natural oils, and will not clog pores. To relieve an itchy, flaky scalp, warm a teaspoon of jojoba oil and massage into the scalp for 5 minutes prior to shampooing.

Tea tree oil is another great treatment for dandruff and dry scalp. This oil has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. However, tea tree oil is far too concentrated to apply directly to the scalp. Add five to ten drops to an eight ounce bottle of shampoo. Lather the hair and leave on for five minutes before rinsing with warm water and conditioning as usual.

Honey is a natural humectant and emollient, so it will attract and retain moisture in the hair.  Olive oil is rich in high levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, an antioxidant important for hair growth. You can combine these two ingredients to make a great deep conditioning treatment.  Mix equal parts raw honey and olive oil in a glass bowl, and warm slightly in the microwave.  Rub between your palms to emulsify, and apply to towel-dried hair. Cover with a shower cap to retain body heat and leave on for 30 minutes. Rinse well with warm water.

There are several oils which are light enough to use as a leave-in hair treatment. Try working a few drops of sweet almond oil or coconut oil into damp hair before heat styling to protect, and smooth. A treatment containing argon oil, such as Moroccan Oil, contains vitamins E and F as well as anti-oxidants, and will restore a healthy shine and luster to dry dull locks. Apply a small amount to clean, towel-dried hair from mid-shaft to ends. Blow dry or let dry naturally. Moroccan Oil can also be applied to dry hair to help tame frizz and fly-aways, or to condition dry ends.

Lena Whalen is a hairstylist at the award-winning Salon Medusa in West Hartford center. With over 20 years’ experience in her field, she is skilled at cutting, styling, and coloring all hair types. Salon Medusa is located at 13 South Main Street, West Hartford. More information can be obtained at www.salonmedusahair.com. For an appointment call 860-236-3344.