There’s no shortage of healthy hair tips online these days, but how do you keep your strands strong and sweat-free if you’re a serious exerciser? If you’ve ever skipped a workout or altered your exercise routine to avoid dealing with sweaty post-workout hair, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there are plenty of easy ways to protect your hair before working out to keep your strands in tip-top shape no matter how much you sweat. The best part? They work for all hair types, textures, and styles, so you can go from boxing class to a board meeting with your boss in no time.
Using a little bit of dry shampoo or texture spray at the roots and a leave-in conditioner spray at the ends of hair before a workout will help absorb oil and sweat, reducing the chances of unmanageable post-workout frizz while boosting shine. A spritz of moisture from a nourishing leave-in conditioner with UV protection will also combat dryness and protect strands against the sun’s harsh UV rays — a must for outdoor workouts, since sun damage can leave strands brittle and dry.
When prepping with products, less is more, as product buildup will only weigh your strands down and leave them looking lifeless and flat. Also, be mindful of ingredients that might actually make things worse, such as silicone-based products, which can attract dirt and sweat.
Oil-based hair products can also lead to post-workout acne on your head, face, neck, and chest, since products can travel from your scalp when you sweat. Use a gentle clarifying shampoo once a week to remove dirt, oils, and product buildup — as well as all that sweat from your workout routine.
How you style your hair when you sweat matters, too, no matter your hair type. If you want to prevent the dreaded ponytail dent, tying hair back with a scrunchie or a spiral hair tie is the answer. It will not only prevent breakage, may also prevent headaches that can be caused by too-tight styles.
Picking the right hairstyle for your workout is also important to prevent breakage. A high bun keeps your hair securely in place during mat-based workouts like yoga, while a high ponytail paired with a moisture-wicking headband works for intense cardio sessions, such as indoor cycling classes or jumping rope. Braids are perfect to help prevent wind-induced tangles during outdoor workouts, like running. Stretchy, breathable headbands can keep hair off your face while also keeping your head cool and dry, but a baseball cap will likely only help trap heat and moisture, leading to a sweatier scalp, face, and neck.
When you finish a workout, you can spritz your roots with water, then use the cool button on your blow dryer for a quick, post-workout blowout.
Thinking about shampooing instead? That depends on your hair’s specific needs, but most people can get away with shampooing anywhere from two to four times a week after a workout. Washing too frequently can strip hair of its natural oils, while washing too infrequently can lead to buildup that makes your scalp feel itchy, leaving dandruff and flakes behind.
If you have any concerns about your scalp or hair health, check in with your dermatologist, who can offer the best advice for your individual needs. But don’t feel bad about skipping the post-workout shampoo from time to time — with these tips in tow, those around you will be none the wiser.
About the author
Arielle Tschinkel is a pop culture and lifestyle writer whose work has also appeared on Shape.com, Women's Health, Apartment Therapy, USA Today, and many others. She lives in the suburbs of NYC where she spends most of her time with her Bernedoodle, Bruce Wayne, and while she's possibly the least athletic person on the planet, she's a longtime SoulCycle and The Class enthusiast, taking every opportunity to breathe, stretch, shake, and let it go.