Is Sweat Damaging My Natural Hair?


BarbaraNaturallySpeaking submitted a question she received from a reader, along with her detailed response. Check it out!
__________________________________________________________
Question submitted via email:

I have been natural for two years now, but still learning how to work with my hair. For the most part, I wore my hair in braids during my transition period and only wore my hair out long enough for it to breathe before putting braids back in. I work out at the gym in the morning and have heard sites mention that you should wash you hair after each workout because sweat will damage your hair. Is this true?

I do lots of braid outs on dry hair and I'm about to style my hair in mini twists for the fall to protect my hair and retain length. With that being said, I will not wash my hair everyday and need advice on how to keep my hair healthy. Help!!!

Response from barbaranaturallyspeaking:

Congratulations on a successful transition and induction into the natural hair community.

Working out does typically cause sweating and yes sweat can be damaging to your hair. Sweat is the bodies way of naturally cooling you down and it's the bodies way to eliminate toxins. Sweat is also drying to the hair. There are some ways to absorb sweat, especially if you sweat a lot in your head area. You can wear a cotton headband to absorb some of the sweat around the hairline. If your hair is long enough to bun, it's a good idea to pull it back and away from your face to keep you cooler. You can do a conditioner rinse to remove sweat from your hair after working out. In the summer, I typically conditioner rinse if I'm wearing a puff. Like you, I wore cornrows during my transition. When I worked out I would fill a spray bottle and add shampoo (I'm currently a supporter of sulfate free shampoos when I do choose to use shampoo on occasion), and water to thin it out. I would then spray my hair with this mixture and let the shower run over my hair. Now that I'm all natural I would try adding conditioner to a spray bottle, misting the hair, paying attention to the scalp and then doing a water rinse. I would then spray on some conditioner, water, and oil mixture ( which you could mix in a spray bottle) and spray on as a leave in conditioner, or use your leave in conditioner of choice. I think this strategy would work on your mini-twists. If a few of your twists become untwisted you could probably retwist the few that may come aloose. I would then take a t-shirt and squeeze the water out by squeezing the t-shirt down the length of the twists in a downward motion. Another alternative would be to sit under a hooded dryer after applying a leave-in conditioner. The third alternative would be to take a hand-held dryer with a diffuser attachment with you , so that you could gently dry after working out. This question prompted me to plan a new experiment. My daughter starts her swimming classes again next week and immediately after she will be attending music class. I twisted her hair tonight.

Medium sized twists on my daughter's hair while wet
The shrinkage is amazing on wet hair!

If time permits I plan to conditioner rinse her twists and use a t-shirt to pull most of the drippies out of her twists. Since it's getting cooler, I may also take the hand held dryer to make sure that her scalp is dry before going out. Hopefully I will try this within the next 1-2 weeks. I will post the results. The good thing is that restyling natural hair after a workout is easier with natural hair than it is with relaxed hair. Now sweat equals rinsing and conditioning. I surely don't miss blow-drying hair straight and then curling after washing. Hooray for easier management of hair after a workout, for the girls with curls!!!!

Check out my website at http://www.barbaranaturallyspeaking.com for updates on hairstyles, healthy meal ideas, and info. about my exercise routine. I also have photos of how to create hairstyles for adults and children with photos of myself, my daughter, and guests with step by step instructions for maintenance. I look forward to meeting you there!

18 Weigh in!:
modest-goddess said...

I'd love some advice on this too. I want to start working out more often but I'm not sure what to do with my hair. My usual routine is wash once a week and twist-outs. I have about 10 inches of 4a hair. If I work out every other day or daily would it be best to wash n go, or wash/twist 2x a weak? What would be a good wash n go routine to prevent tangles yet be quick enough to do daily?

Kristina said...

I actually think that sweat is not harmful or damaging to your health of the hair. It's keeping it moist at that time, however I wouldn't do it on a continous everyday event. Mold is not a good thing to have in your hair, be careful to wash or just rinse your hair. To much washing of hair depending on your hair type will actually strip you of the needed moisture. So good ahead and workout to your hearts content whether it's in the gym or at home while getting some good loving from your spouse/boyfriend.lol.lol......

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this as I was just wondering what I was going to do for the winter with my in-between TWA while still maintaining my exercise routine. I currently do daily co-washes, and wearing Wng, but I want to start cutting down the manipulationg without sacrificing the moisture that the daily after-workout shower provides. I am starting to see a lot of SKK, and with my daily use of hair gel, I need another option.

Anonymous said...

@Kristina - when you said that too much washing can strip hair of its moisture, do you mean too much co-washing or too much shampoo washing?

Kristina said...

To much of the cowashing can do this, not all hair types can take having their hair washed everyday. Your hair needs the oils that is lost doing those washes, so you can wash once or twice during the week but allow your hair to get back its moisture retain. Otherwise you will be sounding like rice krispies snap crackle pop... I'm sure a person with type 2 or 3 hairs can get away with it, but type 4 hair needs moisture alot and overwashing it serves no purpose.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole "sweat is damaging" is rubbish. I work out 6 days a week and best believe I sweat like a race horse. I only wash my hair 5-7 days and I have experienced no ill side affects. I have no funky odors and my hair is not breaking off.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you should wash your hair every day but you SHOULD at least water rinse sweat from your scalp. I don't believe a rinse would harm your hair anymore than letting sweat sit there. Sweat is not moisturizing. Sorry. I have type 4, workout often and I know that sweat, once it dries- is just as drying as over washing. I don't know if we have beauticians or chemists answering but I think it's really based on what is best for your hair no matter what type. I know some people don't sweat but also don't wash their hair for weeks. My beautician says you wouldn't do that with your body-- so why do that with your hair which is attached to your body? The same goes with sweat. The body is naturally getting rid of it. So why would you want to keep it? LOL

CURLYNIKKI said...

the lactic acid in sweat can be damaging to hair. I don't work out a ton, and I'm not an 'excessive' sweater, so I don't have much personal experience. I keep up my same wash and style routine when I'm working out regularly (walking daily and light toning-- washing and conditioning once or twice a week).

Barbara Naturally Speaking said...

I think it truly varies how you take care of your hair after a workout. The statements above helped me to see that a few more statements are warranted to answer the above question completely. It's best to find what works best for each individual. I don't think one answer is the golden standard. I workout 1-2 days a week and regardless of whether I'm working out or not, I frequently co-wash my hair daily which is moisturizing to my type 3C hair. Whether I'm working out or not I also typically spray my hair with a water conditioner mix which is moisturizing to my hair. When it comes to sweating, true some people don't sweat a lot. I don't sweat a lot when I'm walking or lightly jogging on the treadmill, in that case no I don't rinse my hair. I frequently do cardio classes which has my head drenched in sweat along with my body. I personally can't tolerate allowing all that sweat to dry in my hair without co-washing and adding moisture (applying conditioner and rinsing my hair). If working out involves swimming, then it's a must for me to cleanse me and my daughters hair (sulfate free shampoo). I have to get that chlorine out, as I don't want the hair to dry and break. Thanks again as those additional comments helped me to add to my initial response. Now I'm going to direct the person that asked here for additional info. Questions begets questions, thoughts, and answers. Thanks curlies!

Anonymous said...

How can a naturally occurring bodily fluid be damaging? I hope people don't use this as yet another excuse not to work out.

Anonymous said...

I work out 5-6 times a day a sweat quite a bit. However, I wash my hair once a week and co-wash 1-2 times to get rid of sweat during the week. I also spritz it with water and apply oil daily to keep it from drying out. It also helps to wear a scarf to catch some of the sweat during the work out. Washing my hair multiple times a week dries it more than leaving the sweat in it. I haven't had any problems with this. As long as my diet is healthy, especially with the consumption of healthy fats, my hair is shinny and more vibrant. It actually seems healthier the more I exercise and sweat.

Skillsgill said...

I have been rather lazy lately, but was a work-out-a-holic (6 days a week) in the past and I sweat like a racehorse, including my face/head. One of the MAJOR reasons I went natural about 10 years ago was because of this. It was a waste of time for me to straighten my hair because I would sweat it out every day and have to straighten the roots. Hot appliance on dried, sweaty hair? Not a good combo. So, I started wearing my relaxed hair wavy all of the time by using John Frieda Frizz Ease hair serum (remember when that first came out in the early nineties) and a scrunching spray. My hair was always poofy and rarely stayed straight, plus I only relaxed my hair but twice a year anyway. So I finally decided relaxing my hair to wear it curly was just the most idiotic thing and why bother. There was one final thread, went to one of those Dominican doobie spots in Newark and they relaxed all of my hair when they saw my 6 inches of new growth (I was a DIY relaxer even though I only did it twice a year). The overlapped relaxer started causing my hair to break off and that was the final straw. Wow, this is turning into a Hair Story!! Anyway, all this to say that I only washed once or twice a week (this was in my shampoo days, before I was aware of co-washing. It WAS the mid 90s;). My hair grew like wildfire and did very well. I'm probably a 3B now, but was a 3C with some 4a in the back, I think. So, as many stated above, you have to listen to your hair and figure out what works for you, your hair and your lifestyle. For me, there's no way with mid back hair that I'm co-washing or even water rinsing every day. Just not going to happen and I don't even have kids!! Just my two cents for what it's worth=).

Shelli

http://www.curlynikki.com/2010/08/twist-and-turn-two-strand-twists

Skillsgill said...

Ooops, was trying to post this in case anyone wanted to see my hair.

http://www.curlynikki.com/2010/08/twist-and-turn-two-strand-twists.html

Shelli

MayGEM said...

Sweat is very drying to the hair. This is what works for me. Peppermint oil and water. You can place it in a spray bottle if you have twist or braids, or apply to your scalp directly with a Q-tip. The mixture will cleanse (remove sweat/salt) from ya scalp until your next wash. This trick was recommended to me by a chemist who knows all about natural hair. Try it out!

Anonymous said...

I am a college athlete (I run track!) and working out/training is a part of my everyday life. I've been natural for over a year & it wasn't until recently that sweat & my hair started to become a problem. I'm beginning to notice my head itches excessively, even a few days after washing. My hair length is about to my shoulders, but I'm unable to bun it. I'm definitely goin' to try the peppermint oil & water trick and maybe see if light water rinsing helps. Anything else worth trying?

Lynnieluve said...

I work out 3-4 times a week and I only wash my hair once a week. The sweat doesnt dry my hair out or damage it. I do use a aloe spritz (water, aloe vera gel, peppermint EO, tea tree EO, and rosemary EO) to keep my hair/scalp refreshed until my next wash.

Anonymous said...

This article is god-sent! I have been struggling with this issue for about a month now. Thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

what did you do with your daughters hair when she was a baby?

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...