As frustrating as dealing with your sometimes stubborn hair can be, it’s because natural hair can be extremely sensitive – especially in winter.

During winter, the elements, our efforts to stay warm and the urge to neglect your normal hair care routine can do serious damage to your hair. But don’t worry, preparation, protective styling and extra effort to care for your hair can give you the healthy natural hair you’ve always wanted throughout the cold winter months.

Step up your winter natural hair care game

Protective styling through winter is a given, but what many people neglect is their hair care regimen before the protective style, and the treatments that can boost your hair’s health while it is styled.

The quality of your hair products matters most in winter, as your hair will need the extra nutrients and moisture to withstand the harsh weather and possibly long stretches of time in your chosen protective style. Rich conditioners and moisturisers with extra protein and cholesterol can strengthen your hair and help it hold on to more moisture, especially if you’re having a dry winter.

Have you heard of hair steaming?

Steaming is the latest natural hair trend. While the trend does come with some cool new gadgets, steaming your hair is nothing new and it’s probably something you already do a little bit. Steaming your hair opens up the hair follicles, allowing them to absorb more moisture and nutrients. Conditioning your hair while you shower, or having a conditioning treatment while you’re in a steam room gives your hair a great opportunity to absorb all the goodness of your conditioner before you rinse the excess off.

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Rinsing your hair with cold water after conditioning can be daunting in winter, but it’s well worth a short burst of shivers. When you rinse your hair with cold water, you seal the follicle, allowing your hair to retain more of the hair treatment you’ve just done.

Related: 5 YouTube hacks for a healthy looking afro

Time for a trim

It may not be obvious to the untrained eye, but natural hair is prone to split ends. Damaged hair and split ends are a nightmare in winter when your hair is at its most vulnerable. Add a trim (just the split ends) to your pre-protective style routine for added protection.

Split ends can run up your hair causing breakage and thinning, and it’s best to get rid of them before your hair is manipulated and braided or styled.

Butter your scalp up

A healthy is scalp is vital to a healthy head of hair. When treating your hair, don’t neglect your scalp! Hair moisturisers and hair food are great for keeping it moisturised, even when your hair is in a protective style – but they can accumulate in your hair and on your scalp, turning into a gunky mess.

Rather opt for lighter oils that are absorbed easier by your scalp and your hair’s new growth. Oils like black Jamaican Castor oil are great for your scalp and hair, even though it’s quite thick. You can also try coconut oil to prevent a dry and itchy scalp; it’s great for providing moisture and nutrients.

Related: 5 chemicals you should never use on your natural hair