The dilemma of whether or not to work out in the morning is a real catch-22. If you do go, you reap the mood-boosting benefits of exercise, including the kind of glowy skin no amount of hyaluronic acid could possibly replicate. But your hair becomes a sweaty, gross mess. Don't go, and you have an easier time styling your hair but miss out on exercise, which is really important to your overall health. See? Catch-22. (We're sure this is exactly how Joseph Heller imagined that phrase would be interpreted).
Even the poshest gym bathrooms don't make ideal settings for washing, drying, and styling your hair before work. Anyone who has ever tried to get their hair totally dry in SoulCycle's chic but very shower-steamy changing room can attest to this. Plus, washing your hair every day isn't always the best idea—even if you work out a lot. To help navigate this after-gym hair world, we consulted the experts.
Keep scrolling for some expert-approved tips on how to deal with your sweaty, after-gym hair.
Put a Mask On
"One of my favorite ways to care for hair while working out is is to actually prep before heading to the gym," celebrity hairstylist Kendall Dorsey explains. "Before tying your hair back, comb in your favorite treatment mask from root to tip. I like the évolis Professional Promote Mask ($40). Then, pull your hair back into a ponytail, bun, or even a braid, and go workout.
"The excess heat you produce while working out will help the mask penetrate more deeply, and it also helps to keep your hair nice and slicked back during exercise. Post-workout, comb out your 'treatment style' and either rinse and air-dry or slick back into a fresh pony until you can rinse out. It will look sleek and super chic."
Try a Pre-Shampoo Treatment
Co-founder and Creative Director for R+Co Howard McLaren is also a fan of pre-workout gym hair treatments, specifically pre-shampoo treatments. "R+Co's Palm Springs Pre-Shampoo Treatment Mask ($32) is a great product to put in your hair while you work out to save time doing a treatment. Work it into dry hair from root to ends, twist it up in a bun, and then shampoo and condition as normal after your workout," he says. "You'll have nourished and hydrated your hair without adding any extra time to your beauty routine."
Alternatively, you can use Oribe's Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Intensive Treatment ($68) on dry hair. "Pull your into a high ponytail and twist the ends if you like. This will not only help keep your hair back out of the face but will also condition and nourish the hair while you are at the gym. After you rinse this out (and shampoo and condition as usual), you will be left with very soft hair," says Oribe's Director of Training & Content Kien Hoang.
Use a pre-shampoo to give your strands some TLC while working out for the ultimate multi-tasking hair hack.
Don't Wash Your Hair
"I like to recommend the all-natural route: I tell my clients to rinse their hair off from any sweat after but avoid shampoo (which can easily over-dry the hair, making it fluffier), towel-dry, and use the all-natural brand that we love and carry at the salon: Oway Organics," stylist and co-founder of Nova Arts Salon Sal Salcedo says. He recommends the Sea Salt Spray ($37) if you have straight hair and the Curly Potion ($35) if you have waves or curls.
Keep It Loose
"If your hair is already in a good place before working out, one of the easiest ways to keep your hair from getting overly sweaty is to take the top half of your hair and loosely clip it at the crown. Take the bottom half and use a soft hair tie to create a loose ponytail so you don't get a dent from sweating. The key is to have your hair loosely tied, not yanked tight so that it's stuck to you and your sweat while working out," celebrity stylist and co-founder of R+Co Garren says.
Braid Your Hair
"Braid your hair before working out (one or two braids will work) and once done working out, unbraid and use a little bit of product on roots and throughout the length to soak up oil and add texture. I like this because it's low-residue and won't gunk up on sweaty hair that you can't wash or even hit with a blow-dryer," Dorsey says.
Prefer a sporty, trendy hairstyle? Hoang says to "pull your hair into a high ponytail and do a tight three-strand braid. For a more casual look, create a mid-ponytail at the back of the head and loosely braid. After the workout, let the braids out and touch up your waves with Oribe's Dry Texturizing Spray ($48) to get rid of any post-workout grease."
If you are doing a low impact workout like yoga or pilates and don’t want to have to wash and style your hair after, McLaren is also a fan of using braids as a workout hairstyle. "Use a primer like R+Co's ONE Prep Spray ($22) to mist the hair from root to ends, part it in the middle, and braid it into two plaits on either side. Allow your hair to dry in the braids while you work out and then take the braids out. Flip your hair over and spray dry shampoo throughout the hair to add volume and texture. The result will be undone waves and texture."
To get the most out of your gym hairstyle, weave your hair into a braid or two. This will keep your hair out of your face while creating a wavy texture.
Twist Your Hair
Not into braids? Twists are another workout hairstyle that can give you gorgeous texture after your gym session. "Twisted messy knots are an easy style to work out in, plus they can leave you with tousled waves," says Hoang. "Touch the waves up after with Oribe's Gold Lust Dry Shampoo ($48) at the roots."
Blast Hair with Cold Air
"Post-workout, spray R+Co's Spiritualized Dry Shampoo Mist ($29) on the scalp and rub it through before blasting a cold dryer on your hair to take sweat away," Garren says. "You'll then be able to wear it down or in a messy bun because volume is back and oil, sweat, and smell are gone. To add more volume, use R+Co's Skyline Dry Shampoo Powder ($29) now that roots are clean."
Layer Your Products
If you have curly hair, Dorsey recommends working out with your hair in a bun. To deal with sweaty hair after a workout, let your hair down and use a combo of styling mousse and conditioning water to hydrate and redefine your curls. Dorsey likes Voloom's Soft Styling Mousse ($24) because it is low-residue and won't weigh curls down and Philip B Weightless Conditioning Water.
Have curly hair? Hoang recommends using Oribe's Priming Lotion Leave-In Conditioning Detangler ($38). "Apply it before working out to condition and make it easier to style hair for the gym."