By Sophia Panych
OK, let me preface this post by saying that nothing should keep you from working out. Working out is good for you—very good for you—and a healthy lifestyle is way more important than getting one extra day out of your blowout. That said, you could be doing serious damage to your hair every time you throw it up to go the gym. “I’m seeing so many girls come to me with severely damaged hair from not taking care of it properly after working out,” says colorist Dana Ionato, who works at Sally Hershberger Downtown Salon here in New York City. Luckily, Ionato has some helpful advice.
Be picky about your hair ties. “The problem is that many of us just grab the first ponytail holder we can find,” says Ionato. “But there are so many hair ties available now that are made specifically for working out that are gentler than your average elastic.” (Ionato suggests Sephora Ribbon Hair Ties, and my personal favorite is Flexx by Emi-Jay.) And the same goes for headbands. “There are brands like Sweaty Bands, Bani Bands, Lululemon, Under Armour, and Save Your Do that make headbands in moisture-wicking fabrics so your roots don’t get so oily.”
Switch things up. “So many women are coming in the salon with breakage in the area where they wear their ponytail regularly,” says Ionato. The trick is to not tie your hair up in the same place on your head every day, which causes breakage over time. “Alternate how you wear your hair from workout to workout—a low ponytail, a fishtail braid, a high ponytail, a knot at the middle of the back of your head. "Just be conscious about putting your hair up. If you twist your hair to the right each time you work out, twist it the left on occasion,” says Ionato.
Lay off the H2O. Water may be integral to your body post-workout, but it’s not the same for your hair. “I’ve heard of people wetting their hair with water after the gym, then using conditioner to detangle,” says Ionato. “This is so bad for your hair. Not only are you spreading the salty sweat to your ends, but water also dries out your hair and oxidizes hair dye. Plus, conditioner is meant to go on clean hair. If it goes on dirty hair, you’re going to get a buildup of the protein bonds found in conditioner, which can eventually cause the hair to dry out and start breaking. Basically, if you’re going to get your hair wet, you might as well reach for the shampoo.”
Speaking of shampoo: Bring your own. “If you’re washing your hair frequently, you want to use a gentle, lightweight formula—like Pureology Hydrate Shampoo or Acure Triple Moisture Shampoo—that won’t overcleanse and strip the hair,” says Ionato. “And make sure to rinse out the conditioner really well so you don’t have any of it left lingering in your hair.”
Related: 10 Best Dry Shampoos Under $20
Rethink dry shampoo. Dry shampoo is a great way to avoid looking like a grease pit, but the key is to apply it before you start sweating—not after. “If your hair is drenched with sweat, no dry shampoo is strong enough to soak that up. Plus, many dry shampoos have a very high alcohol content. Mix that alcohol with sweat and it’s going to seriously dry out your hair.” (The same goes for beach sprays and texturizing sprays, which are also high in alcohol.) Ionato recommends finding a dry shampoo sans alcohol, like Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo, and spraying it throughout your roots before you workout. “If it doesn’t contain alcohol—or has very little alcohol in it (like Sally Hershberger Major Body 3-in-1 Volumizing Spray)—you can use it afterward; just wait until your hair has had a few minutes to dry,” she says.
Brush your hair. “Your hair can get nourishment from its own natural oils, but those oils won’t reach the middle of your hair unless you brush it,” says Ionato. “So if you worked out and won’t be washing your hair that night or that morning, make sure to brush you hair with a bristle brush, like a Denman or Mason Pearson. Not only does that distribute the oils to the lengths of the hair, but it also breaks up any congestion you might have at the scalp.”
Protect yourself. “Some people forget how much they’re exposed to the sun when they work out outside,” says Ionato. “If you’re doing an outdoor sport, like running or soccer, make sure to use a UV protector on your hair. I love the Phyto Phytoplage Protective Sun Veil.”
Photo: Arthur Belebeau
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