While we’re all mentally manifesting the end of winter, the reality is we still have a few more weeks of cold, snow flurries, prematurely dark evenings and dryness ahead. But really, it’s that last bit that’s really getting to us.
If dewiness and hydration is next to godliness, dryness is complete hell. And for those of us with natural hair, it’s always an uphill battle. During these colder months, our scalps crave plenty of moisture and, honestly, a little humidity to achieve those peak hair days.
Fortunately, Felicia Leatherwood – the hair guru behind Insecure star Issa Rae’s endless and iconic natural hair looks – is here to exclusively spill the tea tree oil with Very Good Light on all the ins and outs of natural hair care in winter. We’ve got her tips and product picks (plus some of our own VGL faves) to keep your curls poppin’ and prospering during the Polar Vortex of doom.
“Deep conditioning is a huge part of taking care of your hair in the winter,” Felicia tells Very Good Light. “In the winter it’s cold and the water feels harder on the hair, which dries it out quicker. There’s no humidity to help keep the hair hydrated.” Make sure you have the time to give it your all, too. No skimping. “You want to deep condition at least twice a month for 30 minutes or more. You can sit under the dryer, put a plastic cap on or do an overnight situation.” Basically, Netflix and nourish for a little bit.
VGL pick: Aesop Rose Hair & Scalp Moisturising Masque – $35
Let it gel
Laying your edges properly requires the perfect edge control. That often comes in the form of gel. But what works in summer won’t work in winter, Felicia warns. “A lot of people like to wash and go in the summer, shampooing your hair, putting a little leave-in in there and putting gel on it while the hair is soaking wet, right? In the wintertime, that wash-and-go situation is a little challenging, depending on where you live,” she says. “A gel is going to dry your hair out.” No need to worry though, just switch your thinking a little bit. “It’s better to use a cream-based product because it will seal in the moisture better. It gives you that gel that holds the texture, but it also has this cream base that provides hydration.”
Felicia’s pick: Aunt Jackie’s Don’t Shrink Flaxseed Elongating Curling Gel, $7
VGL pick: Bumble and bumble Bb. Curl Anti-Humidity Gel-Oil, $30
Seal it in
Because natural hair is dense and moisture-hungry, piling on the product is not an issue like it is for our fine-haired friends. In fact, Felicia says that during the winter months, adding leave-in conditioner to your product list is a must. “When the hair is wet, the cuticle is open and that’s when you get all of the good stuff in there. When it closes, it seals it in. Use a leave-in conditioner at the ends to seal in that moisture.” And her favorite leave-in from Curls’ Blueberry Bliss line works like a champ – even on slightly damp locks. “You can T-shirt dry your hair, put that on and it will still penetrate the cuticle,” she explains.
Felicia’s pick: Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave in Conditioner, $12
VGL picks: Kristin Ess Weightless Shine Leave-In Conditioner, $10; Sachajuan Leave In Conditioner, $34
Know thy oils
Cutting down on your morning routine during the winter can help your natural hair, too. When you rock protective styles like braids, twists, hair added to lock your hair down, it stays put for 4-6 weeks. “You don’t have to think about it, but make sure that you are hydrating the scalp by applying natural or organic oils.” Surprisingly, however, Felicia is not a fan of on-trend favorite coconut oil. “It actually dries a lot of people’s hair out – and their skin and their face. It’s not the holy grail.” Which oils are actually natural hair-friendly then? “Jojoba oil is great, carrot oil is excellent, argan. Castor oil is very good. It’s a serum so you don’t need a lot, and it helps to stimulate the follicle and grow the hair. So for people who have issues with their edges thinning, especially if they have protective styles, castor oil is great for fertilizing the follicle.”
Save shampooing for summer
Co-washing is nothing new, but sticking with it throughout winter is key to maintaining in the cold. “Shampoo will strip the hair down and dry it out, especially if you’re a texture 3c or 4,” the hair guru tells us. “I don’t want people to think shampoo is bad, but it will strip out everything and your hair can tangle and break easily, so it’s better to do co-washing,” Felicia advises.
Slip on something smooth
Winter headgear doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking about styling natural hair, but Felicia warns that wool, cashmere, felt and other friction-inducing fabrics can do damage. “If you’re going to wear a hat, look into the ones that have satin linings. A lot of times the dryness comes from the hats and scarves – the things we put on our heads and that are touching the nape of the neck – that’s breaking the hair off.” Instead, go with lining that’s super smooth, like satin or silk-lined caps.
Felicia’s picks: Grace Eleyae Warm SLAP (Satin-Lined Cap), $45