How to Maintain Black Hair During Exercise

Westend61 / Getty Images

 Westend61 / Getty Images  

There have been so many times I've opted out of a workout class for the sake of my hair. It's tough to get a schedule down, where you work out as often as you'd like and maintain your chosen haircare and styling routine. But you can do both. We promise. There are a few key steps you'll need to take before each workout (and one post-workout step depending on the intensity of your class) to ensure your hair looks great and your scalp stays healthy. You may already implement some of their tips into your weekly routine, but it never hurts to revisit or learn useful advice on your hair journey. Keep scrolling for some expert-approved tips on how to maintain natural hair while at the gym. 

Meet the Expert

  •  Michelle Dixon is a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago.
  • Angela Stevens is an Emmy Award-winning celebrity hairstylist and Cantu Partner.

Wrap It Up

For all hair lengths, one of our hair experts recommends a pretty cool tool to help preserve your hair during your next workout. "For a workout, I love the Nicole Ari Parker Gymwrap," she says. "It's a headwrap you can wrap around your sides or edges, and it's great for natural or relaxed hair. It helps wick away moisture and also helps the heat to be released." She also shares that Nicole Ari Parker's line has a full triangle wrap that's best for short hairstyles.

The Gymwrap Hair Wrap
Hair Wrap The Gymwrap $15
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Dry Before Unwrapping

If you decide to wrap your hair, both Dixon and Stevens advise using a blow dryer with a cool or medium heat setting to go over your hair while it's still secure to ensure your hair looks its best. "If you release the hair while it's hot and wet, it will puff up more, so always dry it before unraveling the wrap off the hair."

If your workout is intense and you perspire a lot, you'll have to wait for your hair to dry before taking it down; otherwise, your hairdo will droop. You may need extra help from a blow-dryer on low heat to speed up drying time.

Style a Ponytail (or a Puff)

Longer-haired ladies can pull their hair back into a ponytail. Fashion a high ponytail or puff that doesn't rest against your neck if possible. Not only does it keep your hair out of the way, but you can also wear a matching covered elastic if you like your hair accessories to match your exercise outfits. To maintain as much sleekness in your ponytail as possible, twist or braid its length, especially if you're taking part in a high-intensity workout or you're exercising outdoors on a windy day.

Protect It

Protective styles always make maintaining Black hair easier. There are many options to choose from if you're looking to protect your hair while working out that don't require a trip to your braider (though that is encouraged, too). Twist and braid outs can offer protection and an easy style you can shake out post-workout. If your hair is long enough, give a French braid or a single braided ponytail a try.

Just be sure to wrap the style with a scarf or pin the braid or braids up. For any hair type or style, celebrity stylist Angela Stevens suggests waiting until the hair and scalp have cooled down before removing the twists (or braids) for the best styling result and following up with a light oil as you remove the braids or twists. 

Tea Tree & Jojoba
Cantu Tea Tree & Jojoba Hair and Scalp Oil $6
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Embrace Your Texture

Embracing your current hair texture will vary depending on if you texturize, relax, heat style, or are full-on natural. We know there is no such thing as a "wash n' go," as there is always some level of styling required. But, don't be afraid to lean into the current texture of your hair. When you have other options besides the bone-straight look, you won't spend as much time straightening after exercising.

Be Diligent About Protection If You Do Heat Style

If you're relaxed or a straight natural, keeping your sleek tresses frizz-free may be a challenge, depending on how often you work out. You can schedule your workouts around your washday, wrap your hair before each workout, and keep your flat iron and heat protectant on standby. Dixon emphasizes this point. "If you are using heat, be sure to always use heat protection. I use Oribe Balm d'Or Heat Styling Shield, which provides heat protection up to 450 degrees and contains a lot of oils to protect the hair and restore luster and moisture. If you're doing a lot of heat styling, try using a lower heat setting if possible." If you have time post-workout, she even suggests sitting under a hooded dryer with your hair wrapped.

balm-dor-heat-styling-shield
Oribe Balm d'Or Heat Styling Shield $45
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Cleanse Your Scalp

Working out means you may have to cleanse your scalp more, but hey, the benefits of exercise are worth it. You'll just need to keep a few haircare rules in mind. "My suggestion on shampooing revolves heavily around the amount of sweat produced during a workout," says Stevens. "If the hair is drenched from a workout, chances are it's time for a shampoo. If the sweat is minimal, every 3-4 days is good." With those guidelines in mind, Stevens has a few more tips. "With naturally curly hair, after a rigorous work out an ACV rinse or pre-treatment is suggested before cleansing the scalp. Then go in with a co-wash to keep the hair hydrated while cleansing." Check and check.

Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Hair Rinse, with ACV & Rice Water
Girl + Hair Clear+ Apple Cider Vinegar Clarifying Hair Rinse with ACV & Rice Water $13
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Bottom Line

Let's face it: When you work out, you generally get sweaty, and it can be tough to maintain great hair with a physically active lifestyle. That's the truth. Some women try very hard to keep every hair in place and find it a hard battle, especially when they have to fit in exercise time before work. Will my hair dry in time? How am I going to manage this hairstyle when my roots are still damp? Some styles will be too difficult to maintain and you'll have to find alternatives if you want to continue working out. Yes, some of your options may sound boring, but it's worth settling on an easy hairdo or two that you can style very simply in order to keep exercising.

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