Many sources state that glycerin should not be used in the winter. But how true is this? Let’s explore.
Humectants like glycerin draw in moisture from the air to the hair. In the winter glycerin is said to draw moisture away from your hair.
The Hair Science
The claim that in the winter (cold dry air) that glycerin pulls water away from the hair is NOT well studied. But what is reasonable to conclude is that when the air is extremely dry this product is less effective, as there is not enough adequate moisture in the air.
"When the weather gets too dry, glycerin can’t pull enough water to itself and it loses it’s effectiveness. When the air is very humid and glycerin pulls lots and lots of water in – poof – your hair loses definition." – Wendy (Science-y-Hair-Blog).
Just one big problem…
So many products contain glycerin! I guarantee if you look on the back of your leave in conditioners, creams and the like you will see a good majority of them contain glycerin, making it pretty challenging to avoid.
So many products that we love use glycerin because glycerin is actually a good ingredient:
It has been proven to prevent premature failure of hair or in other words it helps to prevent breakage from combing, brushing and styling. (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists pg 39-52 1985)
It may also offer thermal protection, preventing damage to the cuticle. (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists pg 141-153, 1998)
How to work with glycerin in cold weather
JC of The Natural Haven Bloom, is a UK based scientist that has a great article on the benefits of glycerin for hair.
She makes a great suggestion to use steam so that glycerin can be more effective in a drier climates. Using a steamer like the qredew may help. Or you can simply apply the product with glycerin to your hair first and then hop in the shower with your hair uncovered so that the glycerin can retrieve the moisture from the shower’s steam. There also is the option of my clothing steamer hack.
You may also be able to mitigate any moisture loss, by sealing moisture into your hair by using an oil or butter first, then applying your glycerin product as Wendy of Science-y-Hair-Blog mentions in her article.
My Personal Experience with Glycerin
As a low porosity natural I struggle with getting moisture to penetrate and humectants help me hold onto moisture by drawing it to my hair. I have used products with glycerin in the fall, winter and spring without any issue.
However humid summer weather is an entirely different story. In humid summer weather when I used an edge control product with glycerin, at first my edges looked sleek, moments later my hair was a hot frizzy mess.
After this experience I would highly advise against using products with glycerin when there is high humidity.
It’s reasonable to try to avoid glycerin in cool dry climates. However, if you find that your product arsenal is filled with products that contain glycerin and you don’t want to ditch them: use an oil to seal moisture in first and or try steaming.