As the cold air sets in and the official start of Winter is only days away, area hair stylists have charted an increase in the number of Black clients experiencing hair loss and breakage. While climate-sensitive Black hair is not uncommon, many women are unaware of home remedies and precautions that ward off damage.

Anacostia stylist Katrina Dennis, told the AFRO that while many Black women have turned to natural hair styles, they often mistake ‘natural’ for ‘low-maintenance’ – a mistake that often lends itself to increased shedding and splintering.

“A lot of African-American women fall in love with the concept of wash and go, or the added resilience of their hair once they go chemical free; however, in some cases, natural styles require even more care,” Dennis said. “The idea, for instance that sleep bonnets, or satin pillow cases are no longer needed, has forced a lot of ladies into my shop with heavy breakage.”

Dennis recommends several tips for avoiding winter hair damage, including: ensuring hair is completely dry after washing; if wearing hair weaves or extensions, be sure to adhere to regular grooming in between stylings; and protect your ends when out in cold, wet weather to keep them from splitting and breaking.

“Sometimes with extensions and sew-ins, women forget to manage their hair beneath it, resulting in dry scalps, sores, and generally unhealthy hair,” Dennis told the AFRO. “Change extensions often to give hair a rest and in the interim, give your hair hot oil treatments or hair masques to strengthen it.”

The average scalp has 100,000 hairs. Each follicle produces a single hair that grows at a rate of half an inch per month. After growing for two to six years, hair rests awhile before falling out. It’s soon replaced with a new hair, and the cycle begins again. At any given time, 85 percent of hair is growing, and the remainder is resting. Nearly 70 percent of Black women have reported some irregular hair loss, caused, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by stress, grooming techniques, and medications – including birth control pills.

Davia Hurley, one of Dennis’ clients said she found that her scalp had dried out and was actually matting beneath a sew-in that she had worn, unchanged for more than 8 months. A college athlete, Hurley said the neglect forced Dennis to cut the extensions out, leaving bald patches and a rash.

“Davia’s case is pretty common in D.C., where women leave synthetic hair in too long. Because the kinds of hair used could include horse, dog, cat, hairs or those from unknown sources, it is unwise to ignore irritation,” Dennis said. “I cut all of it out, but had to send her to a dermatologist.”

Hurley’s hair is now worn in a short, cropped afro. “It was gross, is the only way to explain it,” Hurley told the AFRO. “Because it was getting cold outside last year, I decided to just leave it in. My hair looked great to the eye, but was a funky, nasty mess underneath the synthetic hair. Proper grooming is essential.”