If you’re someone who takes great pride in your hair health, you’re probably pulling out all the stops when it comes to caring for your tresses in the best way you can. This probably includes using top-notch shampoos and conditioners, using hot tools sparingly and applying a heat protectant beforehand and letting your hair air dry whenever possible. But one area of hair care you might be missing actually has to do with your workout routine.
We know what you’re thinking — exercise itself doesn’t impact the hair negatively (in fact, there’s evidence to suggest that it may enhance hair health since it increases blood flow and circulation to the scalp). However, habits that are related to your workout routine can cause hair breakage. “The repetitive tension of bands from hats, sweat bands, elastics from ponytails, and clips is what contributes to hair breakage that happens as a result of how the hair is styled while exercising—something we call mechanical breakage,” explains certified trichologist and inventive colorist Bridgette Hill, WTC.
Another major reason our hair is more susceptible to breakage when we workout is because sweat makes our hair wet. “The combination of wet hair fibers and friction from hats or ponytails lead to breakage,” Hill warns. Over shampooing is another cause of breakage for those of us who exercise regularly. “It is unnecessary to clean hair with a detergent based cleanser after every workout—simply rinsing the hair, or incorporating a scalp rinse, or co-wash product are great options to reduce using detergent based shampoo’s daily,” she says. “Overusing detergent based shampoo’s lead to compromised hair fibers that can lead to breakage.”
The good news is that there are things we avid exercisers can do to help prevent hair breakage. Here are some tips from hairstylists for cutting back on hair breakage while you’re working out.
Spritz leave-in conditioner on strands pre-workout
Before your workout, Daniel Koye, a licensed cosmetologist and hairstylist who works in theater, film, and television, recommends spraying a light leave-in conditioner on your hair to help keep it flexible and more elastic. “This will fill your cuticle with a conditioning agent that will let some of the stress that working out causes to no longer be an issue any more,” he adds.
Choose a smart hairstyle
Of course, you want to get your hair out of your face while you’re exercising, but you can do so in a manner that doesn’t pull or tug on the strands and lead to breakage. “Everything from too-tight ponytails to braids and cornrows can put excess tension on the hair fiber,” warns Hill. “Try to avoid putting too much tension on the same area day in and day out—for example, wear a high ponytail one day and a low ponytail the next.”
Invest in a bond building treatment
If your hair is fine, color-treated or porous, preservation of the hair is key, explains celebrity hairstylist and makeup artist, Aaron Barry. He recommends Olaplex No.3 take home bond building treatment, which is packed full of amino acids that penetrate the cortex and strengthen the hair from within making the hair more tolerable to being stretched when wet.
Avoid aggressive brushing
Barry warns against aggressively brushing your hair after exercising and instead suggests opting for a Tangle Teezer. “If your hair is tangled this will help you tame the mane without having to aggressively brush,” he says.
Use an overnight treatment
One of the best times of day to hone in on hair health is while you’re sleeping, since your body’s cells regenerate the most during this time. Barry recommends using a leave-in overnight serum, like Alterna Hair CAVIAR Anti-Aging® Restructuring Bond Repair Leave-In Overnight Serum. “This fast-absorbing serum is rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids that help restore hair’s lipid layer creating healthier, younger-looking hair,” he says. “The serum can be left in the hair overnight and washed out post-workout and also contains a heat protector of up to 450 degrees F.”
Use a boar-bristle brush
Hill recommends rethinking the brush you use to blow-dry your hair, as one that isn’t gentle enough can inflame the scalp and cause hair breakage. She recommends a boar bristle brush or one that has a mix of plastic and boar’s hair bristles. “The idea is to stay away from metal brushes, which can abrasive to hair fiber and scalps. Incorporating proper hair and scalp treatments is also essential,” she adds.
Apply a pre-shampoo treatment before exercising
If shampooing after exercising is not an option for you, Hill recommends applying a pre-shampoo treatment to your hair before you exercise to maintain the balanced moisture and lipids that are stripped from the hair due to over shampooing.” Exercising with a pre-treatment in the hair is one of the best preventive hair breakage habits that will lessen the chances of hair breakage,” she says.
Workout with a deep conditioning mask in
If you’re working out at home, this trick can save your hair some serious health. Although it makes your hair look super greasy, Koye recommends drenching your hair in a deep-conditioning mask prior to your workout and taking advantage of the heat and sweat that your hair produces. “The sweat and heat from your own gel will help heat up the mask and lock in the conditioner,” he says. Rinse it out in the shower post-workout and love the hair-healthy effects.