I never thought I’d be a runner. I simply didn’t believe my body, plied with spaghetti and less flexible than steel, could do it! But then again, I also never thought I’d live through a pandemic, or deal with many of the other stressors that have kept me sad and raging for the past few months. I started running to un-stick myself from those feelings, and I’ve actually found it really helpful. (“Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy,” etc.) But as I consider going back to life outside my house, I’m not sure where my new running routine fits in—by the time I’m finished with a run I’m dripping in sweat, and the more I run the more I need to wash my hair. Frequent washes (and blow drys!) unzip my split ends, and mean I need to budget extra time to wash, detangle, dry, and style. Plus, the routine is more costly, because the more I wash, the faster I go through shampoo and other hair products. But the kicker is: my fine, straight hair can handle the frequent washes a lot better than curly and coily hair types. As a survey by Reuters Health revealed, it’s estimated that 40-percent of Black women aren’t getting the same mental and physical health benefits from working out because they’re worried about their hair.
Luckily, many brands are taking on the challenge of sweaty hair in new, innovative ways. I find that the best approach is a multi-pronged one that starts before you start moving and ends after your post-workout shower. (A quick aside for hair washing enthusiasts: I see you, I hear you, but this story is not for you. Please don’t swoop in and suggest simply giving your hair a good wash—this advice isn’t helpful, or even applicable, to many folks and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to get their heart rates up without added stress.) If you’re trying to stretch a wash after a workout, here’s what you can try:
Spraying on dry shampoo after a workout is a quick way to sticky, powdery hair. But before a workout, it lays the groundwork to actually prevent a lot of your scalp sweat from dampening your hair. Dry shampoos are mainly made of super absorbent powders like tapioca and rice starches, and coating your hair in them pre-workout they’re ready and waiting to soak up all that extra moisture. It’s more effective than using it once your hair is already wet and sweaty, and will disappear more easily into hair, too. Living Proof’s is great, and I like Verb’s dark hair option, but this trick works with any dry shampoo you have on-hand. For those who are averse to dry shampoo, maybe try a dry co-wash? Cantu’s version adds shea butter and glycerin for extra cushion alongside absorbers.
Styling your hair to minimize sweatiness during a workout is absolutely crucial. You have to get it up and off your neck, a perspiration hot spot. From personal experience, the silk or soft hair ties meant to minimize tug are too soft to last through a workout—my hair constantly falls out of them. Instead, spinning it into a bun and fastening it with a small claw clip is more effective, and I never have to worry about a crease. For those with curly hair, a Puff Cuff may be the answer. It’s sort of like a clip in the round, and you can gather your curls in it on top of your head just as securely and crease-free.
It also helps to preserve your forehead sweat from migrating into your hair with a physical blocker. Gymwraps are essentially updated sweat bands, meant to wick away moisture along the hairline. Firstline makes a similar contraption for less, though it’s more of a headband than an adjustable hair tie. And finally, some folks might find it helpful to work out in something satin-lined—many, like Grace Eleyae’s version, come with an elastic strap meant to stay in place, and you’ll get less friction (and therefore less frizz) on your hair.
After a workout, the name of the game is refreshing your scalp so it smells nice and doesn’t feel too dirty or product-y. Covering your hair in a microfiber-lined shower cap like this one prevents frizz and sops up some moisture on the inside as it protects your hair from shower water outside. Once a rinse is out of the way, Sunday II Sunday’s Root Refresh Micellar Rinse gets the job done with a combination of (undetectable by smell) apple cider vinegar and micelles, which dissolve oils without stripping. The targeted spray applicator really helps get into the roots, and it’s specifically designed to work well on protective styles and locs too. If you do get any creases in straight or wavy hair, you can spritz Playa’s New Day Hair Mist along the lengths and then brush or finger comb to iron them out. And on curly hair, mist all over with water or a curl refreshing mist like this one from TGIN, and then style with whatever milks, moisturizers, and gels you normally use.
I’ve been using this method for a few weeks now and am impressed with how my hair looks after a workout. It’s pretty much… fine? Sweaty hair isn’t necessarily greasy hair, and once it dries I can barely tell a difference between how it looks on a wash day or post-run. Of course, I still wash it every four days or so, and make sure to slather it in a hydrating, reparative hair mask for at least an hour before I do. Because hair masks are also particularly workout-friendly—if your body’s working hard, your haircare may as well be, too.
Photo via ITG