Find out how to stop sweat from getting in the way of good hair days.
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Hair Health Hotline Question: How to Wash Your Hair If You Work Out Every Day?
Credit: Unsplash, Kyle Smith

Hair Health Hotline is your direct access to dermatologists, trichologists, hairstylists, and other beauty pros. Each story in this series tackles a common hair or scalp concern and offers science-backed solutions to care for your strands.

If you love challenging workouts, you likely view sweat as an indication you've done something right. As gratifying as that can feel during a fitness class, it presents a bit of an obstacle if you're someone who works out most days. Namely, taking care of your hair becomes more difficult. No need to tone down your workout routine in the name of healthy hair — colorist Mark DeBolt and hairstylist Ryan Trygstad, owners of Mark Ryan Salon, are sharing their top tips for those who break a sweat daily.

Q: I sweat so much my hair is wet after workouts, and I exercise every day. How can I keep my hair looking its best without over-washing it?

A: Even if you work out a lot, you want to avoid washing your hair every single day. By adding a few key products and accessories to your arsenal, you can ensure that your hair doesn't feel dirty or look flat between washes. Here's your three-part plan.

Determine How Often to Wash Your Hair

By now, you've probably heard that for most people, daily hair washing is overkill. (See: How Often Should You Wash Your Hair, Really?) And even if you work out regularly, you still want to follow the general rule of thumb for hair washing according to your hair type.

That means if you have hair that's on the fine, straight side it likely looks flat and oily soon after washing, so it may find that you need to wash every other day or every three days in order to avoid oil build-up. If you have curly or coily hair, your scalp is probably on the dryer scalp, and you'll be better off stretching it to around once or twice per week, says Trygstad. "It's really about reading your own hair," he says.

While you want to avoid shampooing any more frequently, you can still feel free to shower off after every workout. On days when you're breaking a sweat but not washing your hair, consider rinsing your hair and applying conditioner, suggests Trygstad.

And if you just cannot fathom the thought of not shampooing daily, you can still look after your hair's health through your other habits. The main harm of washing too frequently is "the friction, tension and pulling of the hair when it's wet," since hair stretches out and becomes more prone to breakage when wet, says DeBolt. "If you stretch your hair too much it can stretch out and not return to its shape," he says. "It's ok to shampoo your hair every day, but you're going to have to be someone who does a lot of air drying or is really mindful with hot tools whether that means turning the heat down or using thermal protectants." (Related: The Best Heat Protectant Sprays, According to Customer Reviews)

Hair Health Hotline Question: How to Wash Your Hair If You Work Out Every Day?
Credit: Courtesy of Ryan Trygstad and Mark Debolt

Find the Right Hair Products

It pays to be choosy when selecting your hair products. On wash days, resist the urge to use shampoos with sulfates, which are helpful post-swim or in the presence of build-up, but can be too stripping for regular use, says Trygstad.

The enticing thing about shampoos with sulfates is that they can leave you with a squeaky-clean feeling — a welcome sensation after a grueling workout. But you can get the same reward elsewhere, says Trygstad. Try exfoliating scrubs or any "invigorating" product with menthol or mint if you want to "feel clean" without using sulfate shampoos, he suggests. You can incorporate the treatments once a week, or even more frequently if you have short hair since there's less issue with drying out the lengths of your hair, he says.

You're probably already acquainted with the power of dry shampoo, and while the products can create build-up when used frequently, they're fine in moderation, says Trygstad. He swears by R+CO Spiritualized Dry Shampoo Mist in particular. "If you shake the bottle, spray it on your roots, and hit them with a blow dryer for 30 seconds, it looks like a brand new blow-dry, it's insane," he says. "It's kind of a magic product." 

Rethink Your Usual Gym Hairstyles

Sure a snatched ponytail looks hot and keeps your hair out of your face, but that can come at a cost. "I can almost spot hair tie breakage when a client sits in my chair because it almost looks like a 'U' shape and it's exactly where the hair band rests," says DeBolt. "Especially people who prefer their hair tied back really tight, I can spot that a mile away."

The move: Opt for a loose braid or bun, which will be less likely to cause breakage. A bun is also the ideal set-up for a hair treatment, notes DeBolt. "Before you go to the gym or take that Pilates class, put a treatment in your hair — an overnight serum's really good — and then you wrap it up in a bun," he says. The style allows your hair to stay warm and damp, allowing the treatment to penetrate your strands deeply.

Rather than a traditional ponytail holder, tie off your style with something that's less likely to cause breakage, says Trygstad, who suggests Goody Hair Spin Pins or Invisibobble Hair Ties. A headband can help protect your hair from sweat during exercise. "I have a lot of clients who use microfiber hairbands, and they'll put them right on their hairline when they work out," says DeBolt. "That really helps soak up some of the sweat." (Side note: If that doesn't suffice, scalp Botox is an option for people interested in a trick for how to stop sweat from forming in the first place.)

There you have it. If your week is booked solid with workouts, the right wash routine, products, and styles will ensure your hair doesn't suffer.

Have a hair health question you want answered? Send your Q to hairhotline@shape.com for a chance to have it featured in a future installment of Hair Health Hotline.