mater mea - Celebrating Motherhood and Women of Color

How To Exercise With Natural Hair

J. Quazi King for mater mea

J. Quazi King for mater mea

How To Exercise With Natural Hair

Words: Cianni Jackson

Frizzy or sweated-out hair should not be the price you pay for exercising. Stay healthy and maintain your hairstyle with these four tips.

Are you letting your hair hold you back from being physically fit? There is nothing worse than spending hundreds of dollars and countless hours in the salon or at home to see your style go from fabulous to tragic after an intense workout. Sweat can dry out your hair, make your hair frizz up, and wreck havoc on a new ‘do, causing many to forgo exercise for their hair’s sake.

For some women, “going natural” is a way to combat this. No longer limited to the afros of the '70s, women are wearing twist outs, tapered cuts, presses, and protective styles such as braids and buns to showcase their style. While these chemical-free styles offer flexible day-to-day styling options, the struggle to keep them fresh, moisturized, and presentable after exercising is real. 

But you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Planning your hairstyle to match your exercise schedule is the key to keeping your body in shape and your hair looking great. Our hair is as unique as we are and what works for some may not work for all, but the tips below can be tweaked to suit you and your hair’s needs.

Tame Your Tresses

Protecting your hair prior to sweating is key to retaining your style and minimizing the amount of time it will take to return it to its pre-workout state.

Use a silk scarf or sweatband to tie down your hair to keep the frizz at bay. If you’re worried about your edges kinking up, apply products meant specifically for your hairline: Karen’s Body Beautiful Sleek Strands Edge Control, Carol’s Daughter Macadamia Hold & Control Smoother, Design Essentials Sleek Edge Control, or Silk Elements are all good options that leave minimal-to-no residue and smell amazing.


Refresh Your Hair

Daily washing, while an attractive option for those who put in a lot of time at the gym, can strip your hair of its natural oils. If you deal with smelly hair or the constant urge to scratch your scalp after a workout, there are alternatives to grabbing your shampoo bottle. 

Co-wash. Co-washing with a cleansing conditioner like As I Am Coconut Cowash can be a viable option. (Co-washing means using conditioner in place of shampoo.)

Use essential oils. Apply essential oils to your scalp with a cotton ball or your fingertips. Peppermint oil will break up the build up formed by sweat, while tea tree oil will prevent fungus and bacteria growth on your scalp (though the latter should always be diluted with water, as it may burn the scalp). Commonly used as facial astringents, witch hazel and Seabreeze can also be rubbed onto your scalp to get rid of buildup, but should be used with caution as they are known for their drying effects. Refreshing immediately after exercising will provide the best results.

Use dry shampoo. Spray dry shampoo directly to your scalp and style as usual. Evo Water Killer Dry Shampoo is lightweight and adds volume and texture. (You'll need to have a brush on hand to distribute it throughout your hair.)


Moisturize Your Hair

Kinky and curly hair tend to lack moisture. Adding sweat can increase dryness, causing breakage and limp hair. Once you've removed the build up, it's imperative to add moisture to keep your locks healthy. Matrix Biolage Hydratherapie is a leave-in conditioner and styling cream that provides elasticity and added manageability. And when rubbed on your scalp, coconut oil is nature’s cure for dryness—Naturalista Cosmetics Juicy Yummy made with cocoa butter, aloe, and other essentials oils is perfect for styling twists. (Note: a little goes along way.)

In our opinion there's no such thing as too much moisture. Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deeeeep Conditioner will leave your hair feeling baby-soft and can be left in while you shower and rinsed right before you towel dry. For maximum moisture, you can apply Kemi Oyl as a hot-oil treatment a couple times a month.


Wear A Protective Style

If you exercise more than three times a week regularly, this may be your best choice. The options are a-plenty and can be achieved with your own hair or by adding human or synthetic hair. Twists, braids, buns, ponytails, and weaves will keep your natural hair protected. You should be good to go for at least a week with no washing—which gives you plenty of time to work out.


How do you protect your hair while working out? Tell us in the comments.



6 Great Leave-In Conditioners For Natural Hair

Beauty Secrets: Charlotte Betts

Beauty Secrets: Nikisha Brunson of Urban Bush Babes