How to Protect your Hair while Exercising

7 ways to keep your tresses healthy while you get your body fit

It is no secret that working out does wonders for your body. Not only does it help to reduce stress and the risk of chronic health conditions, but it also has the amazing ability to encourage hair growth by increasing blood flow to your scalp.

But as beneficial as exercise can be for your physical form, sweaty buildup accumulating in your scalp during exercise can potentially do damage to your precious tresses. So, before you head out and hit the gym for your next Zumba or spin class, let’s get you prepped with six ways to protect your mane while working out.

1) Tie Up your Hair…and Leave it There

This may sound like common sense to most avid gym-goers, but you’d be surprised by the number of women who work out wearing their hair down. I know, it’s mind-boggling. Keeping hair pulled up in a high bun or ponytail not only keeps your hair clean by keeping it off your face as you sweat, but it also prevents your hair from getting accidentally pulled or tugged, or even worse; possibly snagged in a piece of gym equipment! Ouch! But stranger things have happened.

woman with tied hair during workout

You also want to make sure that you leave your hair tied up after your workout to allow time for the sweat to evaporate. This is essential for those who may not immediately shower right after a workout as you don’t want to unleash those tresses onto a sweaty neck and shoulders. In the meantime, put a towel over your holders to absorb the sweat.

2) Wait to Wash for a While

If you had plans to wash your hair the night before or the morning of your workout, you may want to think twice. Freshly washed hair gets temporarily robbed of the protective oils that coat each strand. And as a result, it is in its most vulnerable state when having to deal with the elements. The moisture-stripping effect of the salt in sweat will dry out your luscious locks, making your hair prone to breakage, and we don’t want that, do we?

So, wait to wash your hair until right after doing that heart-pumping, sweat-inducing workout. That way, it gives your scalp time to reproduce sebum, which is the oily substance produced near your follicles that slides down the length of your strands to keep them lubricated.

3) Stock Up on the Dry Shampoo

One item you should definitely have in your gym bag at all times is your favorite dry shampoo. Interestingly, this product is marketed primarily as a styling option to refresh your hair and allow you to save time by skipping a wash day or two…or three.

But one of the best ways to use dry shampoo is before your gym routine. Think of it as deodorant/antiperspirant for your hair. It will help to absorb all the excess oil and sweat from your scalp before it can gunk up your hair and clog your follicles. Plus, you will really appreciate the odor control it provides. Many dry shampoo formulas come in an array of light and fresh scents.

Make sure not to overuse dry shampoo as this can result in product buildup on your scalp and hair. Use a sulfate-free clarifying shampoo at least once a month and do scalp exfoliation treatment biweekly.

4) Shorter Hair Doesn’t Mean Short on Care

Just because your hair isn’t long enough to caress your shoulders or even brush up against the back of your neck, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take similar measures as your longer-haired friends do before getting that good workout in. Short hair still needs the same protective care while at the gym to keep it healthy and thriving.

two older women with gym hairstyles for short hair

Use soft hair accessories to gently keep your hair off your face, like wide, non-slip, lightweight, headbands that prevent sweat from dripping into your eyes. Stay away from harsh fabrics that could potentially pull and snag around the perimeter of your hair. 

5) An Assortment of No-Hassle Hairstyles

Although it may not seem all that important, choosing the right hairstyle for the gym is as crucial as the outfit you decide to wear. Try to stay away from any style that causes unnecessary pulling and tugging, especially around your fragile hairline. 

girl with a protective hairstyle having a break in the gym

Braiding or twisting your hair up is a great way to add a little flair while keeping it out of the way. Styles like these that intertwine the strands increase your hair’s ability to withstand constant manipulation as opposed to just wearing loose hair pulled back in a ponytail. You can also do a French roll and use straight pins to hold it firmly in place. That way, the ends of your hair stay safely tucked within the style and out of harm’s way.

dark-skinned woman wit hair up-do in the gym

6) Deep Condition to Keep Tresses in Tip-Top Shape

We all know the enormous benefits deep conditioning has in reviving a dull, dry mane, which is restoring shine, increasing elasticity, and adding tremendous softness. And while your body requires sufficient rest in between workouts to maximize your results, your hair needs recovery time too in the form of deep conditioning.

After washing your hair with your favorite shampoo, opt for a deep conditioner over your regular, instant conditioner that you throw on and quickly rinse right out. Instead, go for a product that contains natural moisturizing ingredients, like glycerin, sea kelp, and fruit extracts, and leave it on under a warm towel for 30 minutes to allow your hair’s cuticles to slightly lift, letting the conditioner do its restoration work.

7) Look for Workout-Friendly Accessories

To feel comfortable and stay focused on your workout, you need to use hair accessories that are comfortable to wear and stay put without slipping.

Snag-Free Hair Elastics: Ordinary hair elastics can pull hair and cause breakage. Use hair ties that have an ideal level of elasticity. Your hair ties should be made of a material that does not tangle or damage the hair.

Spiral hair ties: Thanks to their spiral shape and smooth surface, they put less pressure on your hair than traditional hair ties. This telephone cord-like hair tie can be easily removed from wet hair, which helps to minimize tangles and hair breakage.

Workout Headbands: This hair accessory works for all lengths of hair. Hairbands should be made of elastic and soft material that absorbs moisture and is easy to maintain.

woman wearing sweat bangs while exercising

Final Word

We spend a lot of time and money to make sure our hair looks as good as it can. So, don’t throw all that effort away by skimping on the preparation for getting your hair ready to endure a grueling workout at the gym. Taking the time to ensure that your mane continues to flourish while working out will only complement the results of what consistent exercise will do for your body, and you deserve to have both.

young woman is-preparing hair for workout

Disclaimer: All content on this blog is created for informational purposes only. You shouldn’t use it as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Last Updated on March 26, 2022 by Gaga

About the author | Website | + posts

Gaga is a blogger and founder of the Softer Hair website. She often says that insomnia is to blame for her first blogging attempts. Being the night owl, she hated the morning alarm. She left her office job and returned to what she loved most - writing. Her pets are her coworkers, and she replaced the town crowd with a quiet neighborhood outside the city.


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