Days are getting shorter, nights are getting colder. Fall is upon us — seemingly out of nowhere. It almost seemed like Summer would last forever but alas, it’s time to break out the boots, sweaters, and scarves. And drink Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. No? Just me?
Caring for your hair in the warmer versus colder months is and should be different for maximum growth and length retention. In Spring and Summer, lighter products is the name of the game. But for Fall and Winter, heavy hitters are needed to maintain moisture, prevent breakage, and promote growth.
If you don’t pre-poo, Fall is a great time to start. Moisture retention begins before you even let a drop of water touch your hair for cleansing. Pre-pooing the hair with heavy-hitting conditioners or penetrating oils means that moisture will go into your hair, making it softer, improving elasticity (preventing breakage), and preventing hair from being stripped during the cleansing process. It also makes detangling a breeze. For maximum moisture, pre-poo hair for at least 30 minutes before cleansing.
In the warmer months, co-washing is an ideal option for cleansing hair, since many curlies tend to use lighter products during this time of year. When temperatures begin to drop, heavier products with oils and butters high on the list begin to come in to play. Unfortunately, many conditioners and co-washing products don’t have the muscle to adequately lift product buildup. This is where having a great sulfate-free shampoo or shampoo bar becomes beneficial. Gently lifting buildup and clarifying the scalp leaves a great foundation for the ultimate moisturizer to shine – water. If hair still has buildup from occlusive agents (like most butters and oils tend to be), water cannot penetrate and moisturize the hair. In turn, hair will become dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Clarify those strands at least once every 2-3 weeks, if not more frequently.
I cannot emphasize how important deep conditioning is to the moisture retention process – especially on the heels of using clarifying cleansing products. Deep conditioning corrects any dryness, improves elasticity, strengthens, moisturizes, and closes cuticles. All of these functions are integral to maintaining moisture and preventing damage to the hair in colder months. To get the maximum benefit from deep conditioning, let it sit for at 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you can, use indirect heat or steam to up the penetrating factor.
During the colder months, many naturals ascribe to the LOC method (Liquid, Oil, Cream) to retain moisture. If your hair can take that much, this is a great method for retaining moisture long-term. However, my hair is not robust enough to withstand the overwhelming moisture of oil and cream-based products at the same time. If you are building moisture into your regimen at every step along the way, or your hair is finer in texture, water-based leave-in and a non-solidifying cream are ideal. The last part is key — if your butter or cream congeals in colder weather, it may not be the best “final” sealing product. If it gets hard at cold temperatures inside the jar, guess what happens to it once you step into the cold weather outside? Despite all the moisture you’ve put in, hair will feel hard and wiry. Stick to blended smoothie-like products to avoid this feeling.
Many curlies resort to protective styling during the colder months, and with good reason. Hair can become easily ensnarled in sweaters, jackets, scarves, and other texturized/woven clothing that is popular in Fall and Winter. However, if protective styling isn’t your cup of green tea, it is still perfectly acceptable to rock “out” styles like wash n’ go’s and twist-outs. You just have to become hyper-vigilant about keeping your ends strong with protein treatments, and sealed to retain moisture and prevent splitting. If you really want to take a hands-off approach to your hair, Fall is the perfect time to experiment with beanies (line with satin to retain moisture), scarves, and head wraps.