ashley englishDIYsmall measures

small measures with ashley: winter hair care

by Ashley

Image by Lynne Harty

Ah, winter. The season is officially upon us, with its massive snow storms (more on the way, Northeasterners!!!) creating icy fingers and toes and the need for multiple layers of clothing. And while it is a season filled with joy (it is, after all, the time of holiday celebrations, sledding and hot chocolate), it is also the season that presents some of the greatest challenges to one’s appearance. From parched skin to chapped lips, winter shows no mercy on our countenances.

I’ve found a number of solutions over the years for combating the mercury-dipping ravages to my face, hands and body. Where I often find the greatest challenge, though, is with my hair. Winter is just plain rough on hair. The lack of humidity in the air dries out tresses and scalps alike, leaving us itchy, flaky, frizzy and crunchy. And so, today’s Small Measures focuses on whipping up some homemade winter hair-care remedies. Most of the ingredients needed for making these products are already hanging around your kitchen. If not, a quick trip to the grocery store is all that’s required. Why spend your precious, hard-earned dollars on costly hair-care products and treatments when you can frugally whip up your own healthy, homemade concoctions?

The first recipe is included (reprinted here with permission from Lark Crafts) in my forthcoming book, Homemade Living: Home Dairy with Ashley English. What the what? Dairy products in your hair? That’s right, folks! Dairy products are great for use in home body-care regimens. Lactic acid, coupled with beneficial vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fats and proteins, works wonders on your hair, scalp and beyond. You’ll also find a recipe for creating your own Rosemary Hot Oil treatment. Rosemary has a reputation for stimulating hair follicle growth, as well as treating flaky scalps. For those of you interested in rosemary’s hair benefits but unable/unwilling to make up your own home brew, I’ve long found Weleda’s offering to be just as good. — Ashley

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post and Ashley’s homemade hair mask after the jump!

Winter’s Grasp Dry Scalp Mask


  • 1 avocado, pitted and mashed
  • 4 tbsp. whole-milk sour cream
  • 3 tsp. extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil


1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.

2. Wet hair and apply mixture. Massage into scalp, and rub through with fingers to tips. Run a fine-toothed comb through your hair to evenly distribute the mixture.

3. Place either a plastic shower cap or towel on your head; leave conditioner on for 20 minutes. The heat created by covering the head allows the mixture to more fully penetrate the scalp and hair.

4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Shampoo and style as usual.

Rosemary Hot Oil Treatment


  • 1/2 cup fresh rosemary leaves (you will only need the needles, not the stems)
  • 2/3 cup carrier oil of choice (can be olive, almond, grape seed or apricot kernel oil)


1. Fill a small pot with 2 to 3 inches of water. Bring just to the boiling point over medium-high heat.

2. Place rosemary needles and oils in a glass heatproof jar or a glass measuring cup with a spout. Put the jar into the pot (the water should come about mid-way up the jar; alternately, you can warm the oil and needles in a double boiler).

3. Heat until the oil and needles are warm. Remove from heat, strain off needles, and allow oil to cool slightly.

4. Apply the oil to dry hair. Massage into scalp. Comb hair from scalp to ends to coat evenly.

5. Put either a plastic bag or shower cap over your hair. Cover with a bath towel.

6. Leave the treatment on for at least one hour or even overnight.

7. Shampoo the oil out. You may need to shampoo twice to thoroughly remove.

8. Style as usual.

There are also a number of good hair-care habits to employ over the next few months that will aid in taming your tresses. I utilize them regularly all winter long and can completely vouch for their efficacy.

Winter Hair Care Habits

1. Always wear a hat or similar hair covering whenever you venture outdoors.

2. Wash your hair every other day or every few days (if you’re not the oily type) but condition regularly. I typically wash my hair twice weekly during winter months but condition every other day (my hair stylist taught me this trick).

3. Minimize your use of hair dryers, curling irons, straighteners and other heat-inducing tools as much as possible. I try to give myself enough time for my hair to dry naturally before heading outdoors. Of course, some mornings I’ve just got to use the hair dryer, which is why tip #2 is so important.

4. Avoid using extremely hot water on your hair. If you like your showers super warm, simply adjust the setting to a cooler temperature when washing and rinsing hair, and then bring it back up a higher heat when done with your hair care.

5. Give your hair a mask or hot-oil treatment, like those above, once weekly.

What about you? Got any go-to tips for loving your locks all winter long? I’d love to hear about them!

Suggested For You


  • Apparently raw egg is also a great hair mask – although obviously you need to be VERY careful to use tepid water when rinsing out, or you could get scrambled! Lemon juice helps to rinse it out completely.

  • i can’t wait to try these! here in italy a lot of girls put olive oil in their hair during the winter for a little diy treatment – who knew!

  • This is awesome and so easy! I am doing all of these this
    weekend. Toronto winters are brutal on my hair :(

  • I’m trying not to use the blowdryer either, i have longer,
    thin hair which tends to get flat without the aid of the blowdyer.
    it’s taken a few days to get the hang of it, but so far so good.
    After only a week, i have noticed a difference in how my hair looks
    and feels-it feels healthier and not as dry. I also add olive oil
    to the ends of my hair on the days i wash my hair before i get in
    the shower-just an added bonus to the weekly deep conditioner

  • I really needed these tips! I battle dry, damaged hair and
    the winter is always particularly bad. Thanks for the awesome

  • Shea butter! It’s great on chapped lips and dry skin too.
    I’ve gotten rid of all of my expensive hair care products because
    the shea butter is so much better than anything else I used to use.
    I just rub a small dime-sized amount between my hands and scrunch
    it onto the ends of my hair – damp or dry. I also do the shampoo
    twice a week, condition every other day trick.

  • A second version of the rosemary oil treatment is getting a
    bottle of olive oil and fresh rosemary and putting the rosemary in
    the oil fresh and leave it in a dark place for a few weeks to let
    the oil soak up the rosemary and then heat the oil for a few
    seconds in the microwave and apply to ends of hair and roots, it is
    also great for dry skin!

  • An old family friend passed on an easy post oil hair treatment tip: before wetting your hair to wash out any oil, FIRST put shampoo in your hair. It comes silky without greasiness.

    I also keep a bottle of Vitamin E Oil in my shower and use it after shaving my legs. It works like a charm!

  • Im definitely going to try that avocado mask.
    Also just wanted to say that I got your book Canning and Preserving for Christmas and I love it! I made my first pickles the other day!

  • I find that olive oil can be hard to wash out; even after multiple washes it will stay greasy. I’ve started to use coconut oil treatements and I find that it leaves my hair softer and less greasy afterwards.

    I’m excited to try the avocado treatment!

  • I have long, fine stick straight hair so when it dries out
    it turns into straw. This winter I haven’t had as many problems
    with dry ends/split ends, and I think it’s because I only use
    organic shampoo/conditioner on it (Target started selling some!)
    and always use detangler before I comb through damp hair. I also
    have dry shampoo on hand (Oscar Blandi’s is my fave) that I use on
    the hair near my face because even if the ends dry out, the roots
    get oily fast.

  • I tried coconut oil but I found organic argan oil works
    best for me. I also wash my hair every other day and it really
    helps my highlights last longer.

  • i don’t know what type of hair you have but this could work
    for someone with slightly dry hair on dry hair once a week comb
    sweet almond oil through the your hair leave it for as long as you
    want then shower

  • I love to warm up some coconut oil, to massage into my scalp, it’s supposed to be really good for dandruff as well.

    sometimes I’ll use a few drops of argan oil…and it pays to have a really good natural shampoo that works together with your hair. I have one that I love, you need so little and I only have to wash my hair every 4 to 5 days…So it lasts ages

    I never seem to use my avocados on my hair, always end up in my tummy, love them too much…but I should definitely try it…

    Love, Jules

  • Love this post, Ashley! My favorite recipes are the ones that call for ingredients I already have in my kitchen. Winter’s Grasp Mask, here I come!

  • Thanks for the tip Jessica! I remember using an egg mask about 1o yrs ago and washing my hair out and then blowdrying – obviously, not everything came out, because i ended up with literally pieces of scrambled eggs in my hair. on the other hand, very soft hair.

  • I grow my hair to donate to children’s cancer charities, so I learned a couple of tricks to make my untreated hair as healthy and shiny as possible. The best one is to sparingly apply any natural conditioner (I’m a big fan of Ojon, Giovanni and Aveda) onto dry hair overnight, but apply more conditioner towards the ends, soaking the last 2 inches in conditioner. It also helps to gently brush with wide tooth comb to redistribute the treatment. Wash hair in the morning as usual, but don’t condition. Repeat once a week. I usually braid my hair and put a small towel onto my pillow to keep conditioner off the pillowcase.
    And I always, ALWAYS, put a leave in treatment on the very ends of my hair.

  • I have very thick, coarse hair and during the winter months, my scalp is just a dry mess. Just rinsed out the avocado mask (I added a fresh, organic, pasture-fed raw egg to it as well) and my scalp already feels so much better.

    Ciel – thanks for the tip about shampooing before rinsing out. I was leery about adding the olive oil this time as I’ve tried it before and it seems like my hair just won’t let it go. I just scrubbed in a little Dr. Bronner’s almond soap in prior to rinsing and it seemed to work like a charm.

    I also love love love using argan oil on my hair and there is also a shea hair cream by Hamadi that I love (with organic Lemongrass, Exotic Verbena, Lemon and Palmarosa oils/extracts added). Of course, I only wash my hair every few days or so as well, which helps.

    Thanks everyone for the tips!!!

  • I’m especially keen on the tip about not washing hair as frequently, something I picked up as a hair and makeup designer in theatre. Lots of people claim they can’t do it because their hair is too greasy. The truth is that their hair is just trained that way because they wash too often. We produce more oil if we are constantly washing it out. It may take a few weeks for your hair and scalp to adjust, but it is worth it, plus it saves money!

  • Tried the avocado mask this past weekend and it worked like a charm! My hair is soft, shiny, smooth and it’s not itchy or flaky like it has been all winter. I will be doing this once a week now! Thanks Ashley!

  • great tip, thanks, shall try

    I have colored blond hair and found if wiz up ripe banana,an egg and any sugested above carrier oils plus one or combo of essential oils:rosemary, lavender, jasmine or yalang-yalang in the food processor you`ll end up with lushes mixture for your locks.apply to dry hair,leave in for 30-60 min (I quiet often put on my shower cup and beany combo and do some housework, so by the time chores is done so is my treatment )
    good luck and enjoy

  • i ruined my hair by not taking care of it so i have started doing the following things and its helped so much. I have done similar masks, usually i do one egg, avocado, a small amount of Argan oil and olive oil, put on a shower cap and wrap a hot towel from the microwave around my head. leave on for 30 min. I also use Wen cleansing conditioner which has completely changed my hair for the better(sulfate free), i would also suggest a vinegar rinse once every two weeks for shine, and no hair products that contain alcohol, its bad for color and also drying, its hard to do though, try not to blow dry even though its so hard for us girls with fine hair! i tried the banana once as well but didn’t blend it enough and ended up with chunks of it still in my hair even after several rinses. your posts are great and helpful thanks!

  • I love the avocade trestments , its amazing how you can leave in for 20 mins, and feels fanadtic once your hair is dry and blowave. It really hard to find a treatment that moisture your hair for a long period of time. I love it and think every woman should try it!!! Its fantastic and good for hair, :)

  • This is very Great advise…cant wait to give it a try. My first winter in Northern NY and I will not be caught slipping. Not hair wise anyway. THANK YOU!

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