Expert tips for maintaining Black hair while working out

JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES
·5 min read

Many women of color treat their hair as a sense of crowning glory, and for good reason.

Whether it's naturally curly, straightened or relaxed, there is significant time put into preserving these strands that have historically been an integral part of their unique identity.

Other important topics for many women are health and exercise, but many Black women often find themselves faced with an internal debate over whether to work out or have a good hair day.

An eye-opening 2012 study conducted by Dr. Rebecca R. Hall, Dr. Shani Francis and Melicia Whitt-Glover, Ph.D. under the guidance of senior author, professor and chair at Wake Forest School of Medicine's Department of Dermatology, Dr. Amy McMichael, revealed that nearly 40% of the African American women surveyed avoided exercise at times due to hair-related issues.

Following results from this initial study, several other studies have found similar results.

MORE: House passes bill that would make natural hair discrimination illegal nationwide

"We have not expressly studied the biologic effects of perspiration on hair in any population, but it is clear that sweat can cause hair humidity affects and wetting of the hair," McMichael told "GMA."

"When the hair is straightened with heat, any humidity or moisture can cause a reversion to a more natural curl pattern in some African American women," she added. "Sweating can worsen seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)."

Several other experts agreed that another underlying issue is the amount of time and high costs associated with preserving naturally textured or coarser hair types -- which in turn can effect the flow of daily tasks.

PHOTO: Fitness enthusiasts and hair experts share their best tips for maintaining your hair while working out.  (GMA Photo Illustration, courtesy of Kira West, Peloton/Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts )
PHOTO: Fitness enthusiasts and hair experts share their best tips for maintaining your hair while working out. (GMA Photo Illustration, courtesy of Kira West, Peloton/Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts )

Getting in a good sweat session certainly shouldn't be the end-all, be-all to your glorious strands, and thanks to a variety of fitness enthusiasts, wellness advocates, social media and mainstream video-sharing platforms, there are lots of tips and best practices for women of color to find a happy medium between hair and health.

"Finding good styling products and stylists who truly understand hair care are both very important as well," said McMichael. "There has also been progress in types of exercise that can be less likely to cause profuse sweating, such as walking and yoga. These exercises can be added to an exercise regimen right after washing and styling, and more exerting exercise can be done closer to the time for hair wash."

"GMA" tapped Peloton yoga and meditation instructor Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts as well as writer, activist and athlete Kira West to find out their tips for preserving your hair while being active.

Dr. Chelsea Jackson Roberts

How would you describe your natural hair type, and how has it (or hasn't it) affected your workout routines?
I would describe my hair as very thick, yet delicate, 4A texture. Initially, I thought that my hair was a challenge to work with when working out until I became more educated on care and the best products for my precious curls. Now, I enjoy getting creative with my hair for workouts and honestly I am inspired by how my workouts influence my hairstyles.

What are one to three go-to hairstyles you would recommend to women of color with naturally textured hair and why?
Hairstyles I love! 1. Twist outs because it provides protection for my hair for a couple of days while my hair is in twists and also when I sleep. Then, when I take the twists out I have a full, natural look. 2. My go-to styles are faux locs and box braids because they are so low maintenance and protect my hair for weeks.

Do you have any tips or best practices for post-workout hair care?
I am typically in braids or faux locs these days and it is essential for me to allow time and space for my hair to dry after a sweaty workout because I want to keep my hair smelling fresh. After either air drying or blow drying my hair on a warm or cool setting, I lightly oil my scalp in order to keep my hair moisturized. I also recommend taking your hand through sections of your braids and locs and lightly oil. Just because our hair is inside of the braids, doesn't mean we can neglect our hair and not give it a little love.

Kira West

How would you describe your natural hair type, and how has it (or hasn't it) affected your workout routines?
My hair is thick, coily and beautiful, but really hard to manage. My hair is something I think about often and while working full time in an office environment I spent years planning my workouts around my hairstyle. As a Black woman I always want to make sure I look put together and my hair is a huge part of that, but fitness has become increasingly important for my mental health so it was definitely a challenge to balance the two until I really did research on styles and decided what was most important to me.

What are one to three go-to hairstyles you would recommend to women of color with naturally textured hair and why?
I would recommend braiding your hair. I've loved knotless braids, but if you're wearing your hair in its natural state I'd recommend protecting it with a silk scarf or satin sweat band while working out. If you like to wear your hair straight then just be mindful of wrapping it before you work out or putting it into a ponytail or bun to protect the ends. I love satin hair ties to make ponytails and buns less stressful on your hair. There are also some great silk-lined caps. Low-impact workouts may not leave you dripping sweat, but they're still super effective and impactful. On days I'm trying to avoid high-sweat workouts I love pilates and barre.

Do you have any tips or best practices for post-workout hair care?
Don't forget your scalp and be sure to take great care of it! I love Sunday II Sunday products for active, natural women and use the micellar spray after my workouts almost daily. Allow your hair to dry post-workout before styling it, which helps avoid breakage. Carry the products you need for your hair care or have them easily accessible to make your life easier.

Expert tips for maintaining Black hair while working out originally appeared on goodmorningamerica.com