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Winter Scalp Care Tips from Our Head of Science

Written by Dr. Julie Karen
Winter Scalp Care Tips from Our Head of Science

Welcome to winter! Season of flakes, and not just snowflakes but also flaky skin and scalps thanks to that cool, dry winter air that often zaps our skin of moisture and leaves behind dry, rough, flaky skin.

My name is Dr. Julie Karen and I’m a Board Certified Dermatologist at CompleteSkinMD in Manhattan, along with my sister Dr. Elizabeth Hale (more on our credentials here).  I’m also the Head of Science at Jupiter, where I work closely with the leadership team on ensuring that they’re using the most effective formulations for treating the scalp without any of the harsh, color-stripping chemicals found in those ubiquitous blue bottle drugstore brands.

Below I answer some common questions I get from my patients about how to manage their skin, hair, and scalp during the winter. Read on to learn some of my pro-tips for keeping flakes at bay and hair looking its healthy, shiny best. I promise to stay neutral in product recommendations where possible, but hey, Jupiter makes some really amazing clinically-proven products - and for doctors like me, that’s important.

What should I be doing differently with my wash routine in cold weather vs. warm weather?

Our skin needs moisture to stay healthy, and harsh winter temperatures can zap that moisture out leading to dry, flaky scalps and brittle hair. A few key tips for your wash routine:

  • Look for products with ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, coconut oil, and squalane that support your skin’s moisture barrier and hydrate your hair and scalp.

  • Condition from root to tip to keep your skin moisturized and your hair hydrated

  • Exfoliate! Buildup from a flaky scalp in winter is very common, and can clog your pores and hinder healthy hair growth. Regular physical and chemical exfoliation using a semi-firm scalp massager and gentle scalp mask helps keep your scalp clear and allows shampoo and conditioner to work their magic.

  • Try a cool scalp rinse to lock in moisture for your hair and scalp

I heard that my shower water might be exacerbating some of my winter skin woes. Is that true?

You’ve heard right. The water in your shower can contribute to skin, scalp and hair concerns. That’s because chlorine, heavy metals, and other contaminants in our water can lead to scalp discomfort and irritation as well as buildup (when’s the last time you changed your shower filter?!). A routine with the right set of medicated scalp health products and filtered shower water will help support a healthy scalp and flake-free hair this winter.

If I were to buy just ONE thing, what should I get for healthy skin and hair this winter?

Check out the Jupiter x Canopy Scalp & Skin Bundle - it has everything you need for the healthiest winter wash routine for your skin and hair with a filtered showerhead, the best moisturizing  scalp care products, and an exfoliating scalp brush.

What ingredients should I look for in my winter scalp care products?

It’s no surprise that hydrating and moisturizing ingredients are key in fighting flaky winter skin conditions. Products with ingredients that support your skin’s moisture barrier and hydrate your hair and scalp including colloidal oatmeal, coconut oil, and squalane will absolutely help.

What’s the deal with winter hats?

Great question. While winter hats keep us feeling warm, they aren’t great for your scalp. Under your winter hat, it’s warm and humid. That allows the dandruff-causing yeast (Malassezia) to thrive and may create an environment on your scalp that can lead to an overproduction of oil, itchiness, redness, irritation, and a buildup of plaque-like flakes (dandruff).

Don’t ditch the winter hat though. Regularly washing your winter hat will help ensure you’re not trapping any debris or contaminants close to the scalp. You can also  wear an anti-microbial winter hat. And of course, you can easily manage dandruff and maintain healthy looking hair with a moisturizing antifungal dandruff shampoo formulated with Zinc Pyrithione to effectively and safely treat flaking.

How can I save my hair from feeling dry and brittle all winter?

As we’ve discussed, a dry, itchy scalp and brittle hair is very common during the winter months. High-quality dandruff shampoos can lock in moisture, exfoliate dead skin cells, and leave your hair soft and healthy. If dandruff is a struggle in the winter (or year-round), you’ll need a shampoo that treats dandruff and a conditioner that hydrates your scalp and hair.

The key ingredient to look for when it comes to dandruff shampoos is Zinc Pyrithione. This active ingredient is scientifically proven to treat dandruff.

To blow dry or not to blow dry?

Another popular question this time of year. Heat styling is especially damaging to already dry and damaged hair. Blow drying in particular removes moisture from your hair, and heat styling such as curling irons and flat irons also reduces moisture on your hair strands.

Added heat to your hair and scalp can lead to increased dryness and possible damage to already compromised hair. Allow your hair to air dry or wash it at night whenever possible, so it has time to dry naturally. 

Winter Scalp Care Made Easy

So there you have it, my guide to winter hair and scalp health. Sticking to your routine can make all the difference in maintaining a balanced scalp and gorgeous, shiny hair this winter.  Check out my favorite set for winter scalp care, here.

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have about the information contained herein, as well as the risks or benefits of any treatment.