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Exercising and Curly Hair

Exercising and Curly Hair

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Whether it is your New Year’s resolution, or you are an avid athlete, working out causes you to sweat. That is one of the many benefits of exercise: sweating and clearing the pores. While sweating helps to cool down the body, it is also one of the many ways in which the body eliminates toxins and minerals.  Due to the high salt content in sweat, if it is allowed to stay on the scalp and hair too long, it can dry out your strands and scalp. Unfortunately, many curlies avoid exercising because they fear the water and salt in sweat will damage their hair or make it smell. Fear no more! 

Whether you are working out at the gym or at home, bicycling, swimming, or diving/snorkeling, here are some suggestions for what to do without having to excessively cleanse your hair.  

Working Out At The Gym (or At Home) 

Before and During Your Workout

Contain The Sweat

  • Use a soft, moisture-wicking towel to gently wipe up the sweat. Avoid wearing a headband or scarf while working out. Both may keep sweat trapped in your hair and prevent fresh air from getting to your scalp, leading to build-up.

Protective Style 

  • Style your hair in a way to keep your hair and scalp cool. And keep longer hair completely off your neck and back. For example, put the curls up in a bun (with a soft scrunchie or satin tie), in a pineapple, in flat twists, or in braids on top of the head. This will allow the sweat to evaporate.  Check out the cute microfiber towel scrunchies from Kitsch

Dry Your Roots

  • Dry shampoos actually work better on dry hair, so try a CGM approved one before you start working out. A dry shampoo (spray) will help keep your roots dry.  For example, Hair Dance’s VOLUMIZING DRY SHAMPOO IN LAVENDER. However, if you have very dry hair, a spray can also be quite drying if it contains denatured alcohol. Another option is using a dry shampoo powder, which also works well to keep your roots dry.  
  • For a Guide to popular dry shampoos and powders go to SHOP.   

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and prevent excessive sweating.

Stay Cool

  • If possible, use a fan at head height to circulate the air and dry the sweat.

After Your Workout

In The Shower

  • Pull the hair on top of your head when showering (with a claw clip or a Puff Cuff). Wash up to the hairline all around the head. The steam from the shower will make it easier to dry or do a damp refresh. If your hair frizzes easily, use a shower cap.

Mop Up Wetness

  • If your roots or scalp feel wet rather than damp, use a microfiber towel  to GENTLY dry the roots. Do not rub but instead gently squeeze with the towel. 

Use A Refresh Spray

Full Refresh

  • After 2-3 workouts you may need to do a full wet refresh, to reestablish curl clumps and tame frizz. Diffuse on low or no heat.

Wash Your Hair

  • By all means, wash your hair if it NEEDS to be washed, using a gentle detergent or a cowash. 

Watch these helpful videos from 

  1. Abbey Yung: How to Wash Hair Less When Working Out | Post Workout Hair Care Tips for Sweaty Hair & Oily Hair 
  2. Manes by Mel 
  3. Bianca Renee 
  4. Curlmix 

Bicycling (or Motorcycling) 

If bicycling, there are several ways to protect your curls.  One option is to tie a satin scarf around your curls before putting on your helmet.  Another is to use a doo-rag, like this one: You can also try a satin-lined or silk buff or silk bandana. If you have short or low-density hair, a bonnet or skull cap is another option. Or a slapcap like this one: Keep a spray bottle with water mixed with a little leave-in conditioner on the bike, in case you stop somewhere and need to freshen up. 


  • Tie up your hair for swimming in a braid, pigtails, etc. Spray or spritz the hair with clean fresh water right before swimming so there is less space for the pool water to soak in. The idea with this technique is, if your hair is saturated with water, it may not soak up as much of the chlorine and chemicals. You can also use coconut or olive oil on dry hair, or a leave-in conditioner if you are swimming in a lake or the sea. 
  • Use a swim cap to protect your curls. The Nike ones are tight enough to stay on.  This South African company makes large and extra large sizes: 
  • If in a pool, avoid putting leave-in conditioner and oils in your hair before swimming if you are not using a swim cap. Conditioner and oil float on top of the water and may also damage the pool filters.
  • After swimming: use a gentle shampoo to wash the chlorine out of your hair. Co-washing is typically fine for removing chlorine but is not strong enough to wash out the oils. 
  • Use your favorite nourishing conditioner, dry, and style as normal.
  • Clarify once or twice a month to revive curls. Malibu’s Swimmers Wellness shampoo and conditioner are especially formulated for swimmers. 

MzBiancaRenee has a helpful video: 

Diving and Snorkeling

  • Use the tips under swimming and also use a leave-in conditioner to prevent tangles.  This biodegradable leave-in conditioner from Stream2Sea is reef safe.  

Remember: All these tips are for natural hair. Chemically treated hair will need different/extra care!


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Absolutely Everything Curly

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