Freeze Frame: Fixing (and Avoiding) Winter Hair Damage

Is winter wrecking your hair game? Whether you’ve been facing the elements at home or plan to book a trip somewhere in the snow, we’re breaking down the science behind cold-weather hair problems (and their solutions) so you can stand tall in the face of freezing breezes.


The Problem: Brittle strands & breakage

The Reason: Low temperatures & arid air

The Science: Natural law dictates that objects become more delicate in a frozen state, and hair is no exception. In extreme temperatures, layers of frost accumulate around strands, siphoning the moisture from their core and leaving them brittle. Think: fallen tree branches. Moisture equals pliability—the drier they get, the less flexible they become, leaving them vulnerable to breakage.

The Fix: Now that the polar vortex has come and gone (we hope), it’s time to repair the damage. Hydrate your strands and stave off additional breakage with a moisturizing leave-in product like Redken Anti-Snap Leave-In Treatment.

Brunette hair model with a hat
Don't let cold air and winter hair get you down. These tips-and-tricks will help you protect your hair before damage occurs.

The Problem: Split ends

The Reason: Freezing your hair

The Science: Not to sound like your mother here, but if it’s 40° or below, don’t go outside with wet hair. You might not catch a cold, but freezing hair could lead to serious damage. If you’ve ever left a wet article of clothing out in the cold overnight, you may have noticed that it appears fuzzy and disheveled when thawed. Well, the same goes for your hair. Your strands are made up of many individual fiber-like components like thread. When damp, these fibers expand and separate in a frozen state. Like frayed string, this inevitably splits your ends—or your strands altogether. A good rule of thumb? Save air-dried styles for the warmer months.

The Fix: DESIGNLINE Mend the Ends strengthens and seals your strands, but if you’re suffering from a flurry of split ends and frizz, book a trip to the salon to snip off your damaged ends, too. While you’re at it, ask your stylist for the Malibu Hair Treatment to fortify your hair with extra strength and restore its gorgeous shine.


The Problem: Color fading

The Reason: Hot tools & cold temperatures

The Science: Late mornings can get the best of us any day of the week, but when the cold front hits, hitting the snooze button can cost you a heck of a lot more than just a decent breakfast. So, what do you do to get out the door, and protect your hair color, when time isn’t on your side?

The first temptation is to the crank the heat to quickly dry your hair with hot tools. More heat means faster dry time, right? Tempting, but wrong. Not only will this route fail to dry hair faster, the extra heat will burn your strands and potentially alter their shade.

The second temptation is to rock damp hair anyway. Split ends might be worth the risk, right? This might get you back on schedule, but it's not a great idea. Like we learned before, hair expands when it freezes—like a balloon. And bad news: Like how a balloon’s pigment separates when it expands, lightening and fading in color, your pigment weakens when your strands expand, too. If you want to avoid an emergency visit to your colorist, you’d best find a new route.

The Fix: To let your color last all winter, stay away from hot temperatures on your hot tools and always use a thermal protectant spray like DESIGNLINE Hot Stop before styling. If you’re running late, rather than risk damaging damp hair in the cold, use Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum to speed things along and leave your hair with soft, gorgeous shine.


Don’t let winter hair woes darken your day. Stop into SmartStyle for the products and services you need to beat cold-weather damage and finish the season on top.

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