My hair is almost never perfect. In the summer, it’s sweaty, oily and piecey — from biking, from trying to go one too many days between washes, from driving with the windows down. Winter hair is something else altogether. Between scarfs, sweaters, hats and just walking outside, my already fine hair is a mess of static flyaways.
It’s kind of inevitable this time of year. “A lack of moisture in the air leads to hair being too dry and causes static,” says Lauren Remington Platt, founder and CEO of Vensette, an at-home hair and makeup service.
Here’s a more scientific explanation: Static electricity is a result of an imbalance between negative and positive charges. These charges can build up on the surface of an object until they find a way to be released or discharged. Friction, like brushing your hair or taking off a winter hat, can transfer negative charges to your hair. Because objects with the same charge (like hair) repel each other, you get static.
Winter’s cold exacerbates this, but you may get hair static at other times of the year, too. “Dryness leading to static can also be caused by not conditioning the hair after shampooing and using hot tools,” Platt says.
While we can’t totally stop static electricity from happening, static-y hair is not the look I’m going for. So I asked a few hairstylists: How can we really manage hair static? The answer is to keep up with routine hair care. Sounds simple, right?
To compensate for the lack of moisture in the winter, you have to add moisture to your hair. “The main thing is to remember to condition after shampooing,” Platt says. Static occurs due to lack of moisture, so “adding moisture back to the hair with a nourishing conditioner will definitely help.”
Pass on the cheap 2-in-1s at the grocery store since those products tend to be drying, says Robin Houk at Ryli Blue Salon in Austin. Make sure to use shampoo and conditioner that is sulfate- and paraben-free, and therefore more gentle. “They do a better job at removing unwanted dirt but keeping the healthy oils from being stripped away.”
Take note: Thin, fine, dryer hair does not hold onto moisture as well as thicker hair, so Houk has found success in mixing a moisturizing shampoo and condition together as a first step. To avoid oily roots, only use the conditioner from mid-length to the ends, Platt says, recommending R+Co ANALOG Cleansing Foam Conditioner.
You can also try oil for extra moisture. “A tiny drop of argan oil can go a long way to keep the hair moisturized without weighing it down,” Houk says. “Be careful: Products that claim to be argan but really have much heavier oils or silicone in them will get you oily very quick.” If you’re serious about preventing static, try weekly or monthly conditioning treatments.
“Buy a nice, thick deep conditioner and, once a week, sleep in it. Rinse it in the morning, and your hair will stay as lovely as the day you got it freshly cut,” Houk says. (Plus, a hair mask is totally self-care.)
Use a heat protector with hot tools
“Over-drying the hair, or use of hot tools, can unfortunately really make it fluff up,” Houk says. If you can’t do without the blow dryer or straightening iron, use a heat protector. “A lot of prevention comes from the product you use on wet hair.” Houk finds that adding lightweight gel, like Unite Blow and Set Lotion Sculpting, on damp hair before a blowout can help with very fine hair.
Also, everyone can benefit from leave-in conditioner. Look for one that offers moisture, heat protection and UV protection, she says. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle, Living Proof Restore Instant Protection and Sun Bum Beach Formula 3 In 1 Leave In Treatment check all the boxes.
On dry hair, use the right products
Once your hair is dry, Houk says you can spray a little hairspray or finishing spray into a brush (or natural-bristled toothbrush) and gently comb down unruly flyaways. Try Unite Tricky Lite Finishing Spray or R+Co Foil Frizz Static Control Spray; Platt suggests Soft Dry Conditioner Spray.
If you have fine or oily hair, apply a little dry shampoo to the roots. This adds volume without weighing your hair down. Regular brushing will help distribute your hair’s natural oils to the rest of your hair (again, to moisturize), but don’t overbrush.
Try an updo
No time to heat style (and protect) your hair? “Going for a high, textured ponytail will solve the problem by containing the hair; the messiness of the ponytail itself will actually compliment the static,” Platt says. Or try a braid.
Skip the dryer sheets
Or at least, only try them as a last resort for the most desperate hair emergencies. According to Real Simple, “Dryer sheets contain positively charged ingredients that are released by heat and movement, such as the tumbling motion of the dryer. These ingredients bond loosely to any negatively charged fabric surface, such as a piece of clothing with static cling, neutralizing the charge and acting as a lubricant.” “I’ve tried a dryer sheet before just to see if it worked,” Houk says. “It does to some extent, but they have some questionable chemicals and leave a weird residue on the hair.”
If you’re in a bind, try Platt’s trick: Pass damp hands lightly over your hair to combat unwanted static. Or, if all you’ve got laying around is face products, smooth a drop or two of face oil on ends, or spritz some face mist then comb through with your fingers. Problem solved!
Photos via Getty Images.