Dry hair is usually caused by too much of a good thing, whether it be heat-styling, over-shampooing, or chemical treatments such as dyeing, perming, or straightening, says Zoe Diana Draelos, M.D., a consulting professor in the Department of Dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine. Try cutting back a bit by spacing out the time between chemical treatments or letting hair air-dry on the weekends when there's no one to impress.
Rethink cold-weather accessories
When it's chilly outside, your hair can suffer. "During the winter, our hair and scalp rapidly lose moisture, leading to breakage, dandruff, and slow growth," says Nene Marks, cofounder of the Nene's Secret line of hair products. And those wool hats that keep you nice and toasty can be less than ideal for your hair, actually absorbing moisture and oils. The solution? "Line your favorite winter hat with a silk scarf," says Marks. "It'll also help get rid of those stubborn flyaways."
"Your scalp naturally produces oils that help keep hair lubricated," says Jeffrey Benabio, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and member of the American Academy of Dermatology. "Some people simply don't produce enough oil, which leads to dry hair." Shampooing only every few days helps to maintain more natural oils, which condition hair. Even if you can't break the daily cleansing habit, be sure to always follow a sudsing with conditioner. And avoid shampoos labeled "clarifying," which are meant to clear out product buildup but can also strip away natural oils.
Lend a helping hand
"Women sporting natural hairstyles may find that their scalps don't produce as much oil, and what little oil is being produced gets trapped at the roots of thick, curly hair," explains Marks. "That makes it especially key for women of color to add extra moisture." Try her MM: Mom's Masque ($9.99), made with shea butter, chocolate, and macadamia nut extract.
You don't have to swear off heat-styling tools, but celebrity hairstylist Mark Hill recommends turning down the temperature. When blow-drying, start with a heat-protection spray and choose as low heat and speed settings as possible. "If you use a straightening iron, let hair air-dry first," he adds. And consider subbing in Velcro rollers for a curling iron, which can create the same effect without the heat damage.
Related: 16 Ways to Wear Braids This Winter
"After the summer, I see lots of clients with dry, damaged ends thanks to days spent in the sun," says Hill, who suggests deep-conditioning weekly. "Some of my celeb clients actually apply a deep-conditioning treatment before bed and rinse it out really well in the morning." To minimize that damage in the first place, look for hair products with built-in sun protection, such as Aveda's Sun Care Protective Hair Veil ($28), or wear a hat when you soak up rays.
Fight natural causes
Sometimes no matter how well you treat your hair, it can end up feel parched. The hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause, certain medications, hypothyroidism, and chemotherapy can all cause dry hair, says Benabio. The body also doesn't manufacture hair as well with age, so as you get older, protecting hair from the sun and doubling down on conditioner becomes extra important.
Mix and match
When shopping for leave-in conditioners, scan the ingredient list. Products made with argan and Moroccan oils are all over drugstore shelves right now, and they work quite well, says Draelos. If you have dry but fine hair, look for products with dimethicone, which moisturizes without weighing hair down the way an oil can. And panthenol helps retain moisture and reduce frizz, adds Benabio. A drop or two of hair oil applied from mid-shaft to end will kick up moisture and shine without leaving hair overly greasy, but if you're still weary, mix a drop of oil with your regular styling product, says Hill. Try his Defrizz-ilicious Magic Drops Rescue and Repair Treatment ($11.99) or Maijan's Pure Moroccan Argan Oil ($17.50).
Be a fixer-upper
"Nothing can permanently repair hair since it's not living," cautions Draelos. "However, some ingredients such as proteins can temporarily mend split ends, which are very common in dry hair." Look for products containing keratin, a protein that helps give hair its structure.
While specific foods are unlikely to change hair's texture, dermatologists agree that eating well can make a difference. "Healthy hair is a reflection of a healthy body," says Draelos. "And since hair is made of protein, it need the raw materials from a diet rich in protein." "Foods with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, and those high in Vitamin B5, like eggs and avocados, can help," adds Benabio. Taking around 1,500 mcg daily of the supplement biotin may also be useful.
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