Picture this: It’s a cold winter morning and you woke up late. You jump in the shower, throw on some clothes, but don’t have time to dry your hair so you rush out the door. All of a sudden you notice — your hair is frozen! While this may be hysterical in the moment, it actually could be an unfortunate situation to find yourself in.
Growing up, your mom may have warned you not to go outside with wet hair, for fear you may catch a cold. Luckily, there is little scientific evidence available to support this claim.
“You cannot catch a cold or the flu simply from going out with wet hair during winter,” Anita Skariah, DO, a physician who specializes in internal medicine and pediatrics at UNC Healthcare told Bustle. “Some wives’ tales are valid conclusions from observations people have made through the years, but this one has not been proven conclusively, so far — despite a few studies investigating this.”
However, going out this winter with wet hair can still be disastrous — for your hair.
Celebrity hairdresser Jason Collier has a client list full of A-list celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Eva Longoria. He said it’s crucial to avoid exposing wet hair to harsh winter conditions and low temperatures. That stiffening that happens when your locks freeze is actually putting them more at risk for breakage.
“[Cold weather] stiffens the hair strand, which then makes it far easier for the hair to snap and break, leaving you with uneven, split ends all over the head — which, in the worst-case scenario, means needing to get your hair cut shorter to even out the difference,” he said.
Anwar Zahar, principal technician for Aveda’s research and development, agreed and explained the science behind this.
“When it’s cold outside, it’s very important not to leave the house with wet hair as it has a greater risk of damage.” Zahar said. “Water molecules in the hair can expand — or even solidify if it’s below freezing — which causes the hair shaft to swell, making it prone to breakage.”
Collier said, even though he doesn’t recommend blow drying your hair regularly to avoid heat damage, it would be better in this case to blow dry it rather than go out in the cold with your hair still wet.
“Usually you hear hairdressers saying that you should leave your hair to dry naturally as often as possible, but in the winter, the opposite is true,” he said. “Either [dry] it before bed, or get up an hour earlier, there’s no excuse.”
You should be careful no matter what hair type you have, but those with curly or frizzy hair should take extra caution when it comes to the colder weather.
There are also a few other things you can do to ensure your hair is as healthy and strong as possible.
For one, you should avoid washing your hair too often and always use a heat protectant spray with any hot tools.
“Wash your hair no more than twice a week if you can manage it, reducing the impact that your hairdryer has on the hair,” Colier advised.
You should also be sure to keep your hair moisturized, just like you do with your skin in the dry winter months. The dryer your hair is, the more brittle it becomes with can lead to easier breakage and damage. Try using a deep conditioning treatment or a weekly hair mask to keep it restored and healthy.
Depending on your hair type, you may also be able to use hair oils. These help seal the cuticle which can protect your strands from breakage. Coconut oil and argan oil are good examples. However, these aren’t for everyone and may not be compatible with those who have more oily scalps.
Last, but not least, all beauty starts from the inside. Make sure you eat a balanced diet with skin and hair-healthy ingredients, and always be sure to drink lots of water. Sometimes your hair and skin can appear dry because you haven’t been hydrating enough.