Going to the gym can lead to some serious strand damage. Every time your hair is tugged, rubbed, or even styled, it gets a little more frayed. However, that is not a reason to ditch your workout. All you need is to rethink how we treat our hair while exercising and understand how friction damage to the hair starts.
Each strand’s outer layer, or cuticle, is made up of scales on the surface of the hair and a lipid protection barrier that keeps the scales soft and flat. When friction damages that natural shield, it causes the scales to flex upward and can even pull them off, leaving holes in the cuticle. This exposes the inner structure of the hair (cortex) which is comprised of bundles of a tough protein (keratin). When these bundles fray, you get split ends, and when you tug to comb or pony up, it causes the weakened hair to break.
Here’s what you need to do to protect your hair while you are working out.
1. Do not shampoo after every workout
Remember, this is a big no-no. Shampooing the hair too much — even after a gym session — can cause your hair to dry out. It also strips away the natural oils that keep your scalp and hair healthy. Instead, you can keep a travel size dry shampoo in your gym bag. Dry shampoos help to soak up all the unwanted sweat and oil while absorbing all the impurities. Otherwise, you can try using a cleansing conditioner that will do the cleaning trick and keep the hair’s natural oils or a hair refresher to hydrate the hair.
2. Do a pre-workout for your hair
It may seem silly to spend time beautifying the hair before getting all sweaty. But it is important that you spend a few seconds on your hair for better strands after exercising. You should ideally spray some dry shampoo on your roots before your workout. This helps to prevent excess moisture from saturating your whole head with sweat.
3. Be gentle to your (especially wet) hair
Hair stretches up to 30 percent when it’s wet, making it more susceptible to breakage. Yank any old brush through those post-gym tangles, and you will end up cringing when you see all the broken pieces frizzing up. The detangling tool you use is also the key. If you use the wrong one, it will be ineffective and destructive like cutting a tomato with a dull knife. Furthermore, rather than aggressively rubbing it with a towel to dry it, wrap the towel around your head and squeeze out the excess moisture.
4. Loosen that ponytail
The ponytail keeps the hair out of your eyes. But, it is time to avoid pulling your hair into a tight ponytail if you can help it. Instead, you can opt for clips or snag free elastics that are easier on your hair.
5. Think out of the pony
Strands are more prone to breakage when you put stress on the same section every day. You definitely have other hairstyle options besides the ponytail. For example, a loose, high bun will give you tons of volume after a workout. While you work out, you can also try a fishtail or a knotted braid. If extra control is needed, braid your bangs back and to the side to keep off your face. Tie the rest into a low bun and secure with a spin pin rather than an elastic.
6. Protect your hair from the sun
Your scalp is just as sensitive to the sun as the rest of your skin. Of course, it is not comfortable when it burns. And the itching is going to be a nightmare. If you are a regular runner or do any kind of outdoor exercises, do use heat protection hair products before starting your workout to help prevent any sun damage, as well as preserving your hair colour and preventing colour fading.
7. Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate after a workout
You should wash, or at least rinse, your hair before you dry it after a workout. All that salt in your sweat will dry out your hair, so if you skip the washing or rinsing and go straight into blow drying your sweaty hair is going to be very dehydrating for the mane. If you are on the go and need to quickly leave, you can save some time by dabbing the sweat from your hair with a towel, then mist your hair with water filled in an empty spray bottle to dilute any remaining sweat before you blow dry it.