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Curly Nikki

Working Out With Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202152 Comments
via The Good Hair Diaries

You recently decided to take responsibility for your health and start working out. But giiiiirl….what about your hair? You worked so hard to maintain your natural hair. I mean it’s no small feat achieving 3 and 4 day hairstyles. Don’t fret my pet! I’m going to give you a couple of tips that could save your luscious coils and encourage you to continue getting your body right.

1. The Pineapple is your best friend

Working Out With Natural Hair

Wearing your hair up in a pineapple means that you can still preserve those precious braid-outs, knot-outs, twists and roller-sets that take a few hours to achieve. The curls will still be maintained through the length of the hair. Tie a satin scarf around your edges and place a sweat band around that. Your edges will lay down and you can fluff the rest of your hair and go.

2. Freshen up your scalp

Who has time to co-wash after every single work out? I know I don’t. If you sweat profusely or just don’t feel comfortable working out and not washing your hair try an astringent. Hit up your local health food store and ask for a natural astringent. Soak a cotton ball with the astringent and wipe just your scalp with it. Be sure to follow up with your favorite natural oil on the scalp to prevent a tight and dry scalp. This should keep you fresh and clean until your next wash day.

3. Rock a bun!Working Out With Natural Hair

It’s pretty cold in my part of the world at the moment. Cold weather always means protective styling time for me. Why not rock a bun during your workout? It can be a high, medium or low bun, and you can still use the silk scarf for your edges and the sweat band on top of that. Want an added benefit to your hair? Consider baggying your ends while in the bun. The ends of your hair will be happy and moisturized while your body gets tight and sexy.

4. Make a workout schedule 
I know it seams like a no brainer but it must be said. If your doing cardio 2 to 3 times a week, then make sure it coincides with your co-washing days. You can weight train or rest for the remaining days, and you shouldn’t be sweating too much, so washing your hair is unnecessary.

As always remember that every head of curls is not the same. Listen to your own hair and make an educated decision. Try not to allow your hair to rule your life, and remember to have fun!

How do you manage your hair and your work-out routine? 


  • Krystal Washington says:

    My hair comes second to working out, which is a reason why I BC'd 5 months ago. I sweat like crazy, so I co wash my hair after each workout which is 6 times a week. I do have a TWA however, but Im pretty sure I will continue the same regimen after is grows out. Sweat contains salt, and salt can be drying to your hair so its important to rinse the sweat out of your head with water, even if you don't shampoo.

  • Anonymous says:

    This is right on time because I sweat like a hog 4 days a week sometimes 5 and was wondering how naturals prepared their hair..I usually wear a half wrap and a sweat band so i guess I'm doing something right..

  • Anonymous says:

    Lol I was just telling my dh that my hair is dry as all out doors lately. Same time I've been running or power walking and strength training I was thinking it was the oyin honey hemp or the cones in the ors lol, then a light came on..(thank God before I thru away all of my oyin or ors) and realized it was prob sweat. I sweat like a hog esp here in florida and I wear wigs only @ work tho. So I will start co washing after every other work out @ least! This was dynomite advice and I certainly will be buying a sweat band (looking like a black jane fonda)
    Lol and they say bw don't work out chile boo! Get it ladies…:-)

  • Anonymous says:

    I love this!! Simple, brief, and very helpful. IT gives me a whole new perspective and a heck of a lot of encouragement to hit the gym without worry.

    Many thanks!

  • runningnatural says:

    I'm a runner. I run 4-5x a week and weight train 1-2x wk. I too sweat "LIKE A BEAST" and have bra-strap length natural fine hair. since my hair is fine it doesn't hold styles to well so pineapples are good but not a 100% guarantee. I usually have to sacrifice a style to work out but my health and looks :-) are more important! Currently I rock a curly half wig and twist out which camaflages my slightly puffy, frizzy post work out hair. Check out my blog at for hair updates and running routines!

  • Anonymous says:

    I work out 6 days a week and I sweat a lot. I wear twists most of the time because it is just easy. I rinse them with water and conditoner when ever they feel dry and seal the ends with an oil mixture.
    When going to work, I wear them down with or without a headband or up in a ponytail or updo. I try to co wash once a week or biweekly.

    I try to make it simple,otherwise something will fall short. And I have no plans to stop exercising any time soon!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Has anyone heard of the "save your do" hair bands/scarves designed by Nicole Ari Parker? I'm tempted to order one to see if they help absorb the sweat…

  • Marleea says:

    I work out 4 days a week, and I naturally curly hair. After every work out, I rinse the sweat out and put on a creamy conditioner and rinse it out in the am. I co-wash every other week and shampoo every other week. I constantly put castor oil or olive oil on my scalp.

  • Anonymous says:

    wng! I work out 7 days a week and I sweat. I wash with shampoo once a week and co wash every other day. On the day that I dont co-wash I dampen my hair with water/conditioner combo and add a little baby butter creme and maybe a little curly pudding if needed and dry/stretch with the blow dryer. My hair is always soft and looks great. Sometimes I just smooth eco styler on the edges and pull into a puff. No worries:-)

  • Anonymous says:

    When I workout I sweat, but that is not a problem for me, b/c when I get home, I take a shower and let the water run on my head to rinse away the sweat. Since the weather is so unpredictable I have my hair in a protective style so putting my hair under water is a double whammy, b/c I get to moisturize my hair as well as rinse out the sweat from the workout. And I must say my hair still looks as good as it did when I first got it done so if youre worried about the style getting messed up, don't. As long as you know how to maintain then the style will last as long as you want it to.

  • Brendita says:

    @Chicfitchef and all: It IS great to hear that so many Black women make exercise & fitness a priority! :-)

  • Carla says:

    OMGeepers!!!! I definitely needed this advice. Right on time!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Yes it is possible to get a fine, powdery residue on the skin after a prolonged period of sweating after intense exercise. It's actually not that unbelievable if you think about how the body uses sweating to cool itself down. Body fluid natural contains sodium and chloride. Sweat is a body fluid, DOES taste salty and could, therefore leave a residue if enough of it has been allowed to dry on the surface of the skin. A ten mile run (plus) would be considered a prolonged period of cardio exercise which would result in a lot of sweat being produced.

  • Arika says:

    I loved reading this post and all of these comments and realizing that I was doing the right thing after my workouts! I workout about 4-5 times a week and sweat profusely. (I can move a finger a sweat from the effort.) I have short hair (almost shoulder length) but I keep it in twists. All I do is wear a satin scarf as I'm working out, then spray my hair and scalp with water after I'm done making sure to dab it with a old t-shirt, apply some jojoba oil, and then I let it dry before I get in the shower. (Wearing a shower cap!) By the end of the week, if my hair starts looking a little raggedy it's my wash day so it's okay.
    I need to show this to my natural friends who don't know what to do after a workout! Plenty of good suggestions here.

  • Anonymous says:

    It's really not too difficult to accomplish working out with natural hair once you accept it for what it is and set your priorities. I work out 4-5 days a week, sweat buckets, AND wear twist outs. I can't do the wash and go thing because I hate long detangling sessions and it requires more manipulation for me.

    Since I exercise early in the mornings, I ponytail my twists into two pigtails to keep them away from my scalp. I then put on a workout headband to absorb sweat and keep my roots flat. After my workout, I take off the soaked headband and put on a satin scarf to absorb whatever sweat is lingering and allow my hair to air dry as I prepare for work.

    There are days when my hair is still puffy and moist, and there are days when it looks perfect. I accept it for what it is. My hours are long so I can only wash once a week and re-twist or pineapple at night to keep my hair fresh. I have not had any issues with odor, or dryness.

    The key is setting a schedule you can live with such as working out every other day or in the evening, moisturizing often and allowing your scalp to dry as much as possible.

    When the heat and humidity of summer hits the East this may change for me but for now, this works well and my hair is thriving. The benefits of exercising and eating clean definitely outweigh "sweat issues" for my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    Love this post!! I've been cheating on my hair with Senegalese twists for my workouts and I LOVE IT!! No muss no fuss.

    I work out 6/days a week- intense cardio most days. I find that the way to avoid smelly hair is along the lines of what Brendita and others have mentioned: allow the sweat to evaporate. If you sweat and then keep your hair tied up all day, the sweat is trapped in there and can bring a smell. So after a weekday workout, I leave my twists free to dry (and given the spring/summer heat they dry pretty quickly) on my way to work. I also avoid using braid sprays too, because those sprays mixed with your sweat can actually make your hair smell more!. Sometimes I will add a few drops of tea tree oil to my scalp- especially as I get closer to wash day just in case my hair is feeling a bit icky. Otherwise, I'm good to go during the week & just shampoo on the weekends.

    Separately, I love reading about black women working out! There's so much out there in the media that makes it seem like we don't; this post was a breath of fresh air! -CFC

  • Brendita says:

    @NaturallyNay: Satin lined sweatband = HUMID & HOT! The satin really doesn't absorb, it just makes you sweat more. I use a terry cloth sweat band. It doesn't pull my hair out because it really doesn't move. I put it on my forehead, about 1/4 inch below my hairline. It doesn't tug at the hair at the back of my head, either. I think the sweat kind of lubricates the hair, so there's no tugging/yanking.

    Just like you, it doesn't take much for me to start sweating. I start sweating about 2 minutes into either cardio or strength training. And also, just like you, when my hair begins to looks dry, it's shampoo time. For me, that's once a week.

  • Brendita says:

    @Anonymous May 16 2012 9:50: I've never heard of that before (visible salt residue on the skin). You're really sweating out A LOT of salt!

    I've never had issues with salt from perspiration drying out my hair. I think it's because the sweat that comes out of the pores in the scalp has sebum (oil) in it, along with salt/water. Maybe my perspiration has more sebum than salt? Interesting. Thanks!

  • NaturallyNay says:

    Love this post! It's funny how some of our relaxed sisters get bashed for not wanting to work out because they may sweat their hair out but the reality is that all women have hair issues and struggle with what to do with our hair while working out. I am a 7-day workout a week person with a few two-a-days per week but I only wash once per week. If my hair starts to look really dry I rinse it in the shower and reapply my product, something I only do once per week unless I need to be extra jiggy-fly for something ;-) I'm a WnG girl so my hair is either out loose with product (I use KCCC) or up in puff with conditioner only. I've been working out 7 days a week for almost a year now and just figured out that my significant tangling is due my hair being loose and swinging all over the place while wet with sweat – I sweat like a mad woman on cardio and strength training days :-( Good news is it's never too late to change :-) I just discovered that I too can pineapple and I am loving it at night so I will start wearing my pineapple to the gym with a sweat band (I'm thinking of lining it with satin? anyone done this?) and taking the pineapple down as soon as the workout is done as mentioned above. I am hesitant to rock the scarf under the sweat band just because it seems like it would be extremely hot under there – lol! I am confident that this will significantly reduce the tangling I have on wash day! I'm so pumped!!

  • Tea Wash says:

    i usually workout with a hat on, thankfully i dont sweat too much. i also find it useful to deep condition and work out with my plastic shower cap and hair so that my hair get the most heat during the workout

  • Anonymous says:

    Salt residue ( from sweat )sitting on the hair for long periods of time is very drying and damaging to hair. The odor is one thing, but the presence of a damaging element on the hair cuticle is something altogether different.
    When I do a really intense cardio workout that works up a ton of sweat, I notice salt residue on my skin (and even on my ipod case and earplugs) by the time I get home from the gym to shower. If it is on my skin, then it is definitely on my hair. In addition, I've found that if I get lazy and leave this salt on my hair, the ends get dryer than they normally would (even with my usual moisturizing treatments and leave-ins).
    Granted this seems to be most noticeable when I run 10+ miles, but still.

  • Anonymous says:

    Any of you have a regime for working out with a sew in?

  • Brendita says:

    I workout 5 days a week and sweat A LOT. My scalp is the first place that starts perspiring. I only shampoo my hair once a week, though, and my hair/scalp never smell funky…I've asked people who would let me know :-) I work out as soon as I wake up, so my hair is already "pineappled".

    There are 2 types of glands that produce sweat. Sweat from eccrine glands is salt and water and has no odor. Sweat from apocrine glands (in the scalp, armpits, groin) is a combination of fats, water and salt. This sweat also has no odor but it can develop a smell when it comes in contact with bacteria. Even so, a bit of tea tree oil on the scalp would help prevent odor causing bacteria.

    Odor also happens when the sweat is “trapped” and has no where to go (sweaty smelly feet are a good example). They key, I’ve found, is to undo my pineapple and let the sweat evaporate. I do this right after my workout, when I’m cooling down. I use a great moisturizer, so the sweat doesn't dry out my hair.

    I think it requires a “leap of faith”. If you’re worried that you’ll be funky, you may be hesitant to try it. Unless your perspiration is unusually strong smelling, I’ll bet you’ll see that your head is not going to stink if you allow the sweat to evaporate after you’re done working out.


  • Anonymous says:

    OH my goodness check out this gorgeous little baby working out in her outfit. :)

  • Val Quay says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Anonymous says:

    I wear a twist out 99% of the time, and I am going to start a cycling class once or twice a week and I do Zumba once a week. I just pull my 3c-4b hair up in a puff and tie a bandana around my head and that's it! Once I get home, I just take it down and moisturize and twist as usual, and I'm back where I started. I only wash or cowash once a week. Wash and goes are a no-no for me!


  • hairscapades says:

    I do the same with the satin or silk scarf and a headband. But, the key for me is not taking the scarf off until my hair is completely dry, otherwise it'll frizz badly. But, if it does, I just slick it back down with some Eco or flaxseed gel and tie it down overnight. Since I keep my hair in protective styles most days of the week, this is pretty easy. I pineapple if my hair is loose, but because my hair hangs down to my neck and in my face (which both sweat profusely), I fold it in half and secure loosely with a satin scrunchie, forming a semi-bun with the loose ends out so that the curls don't get mushed!


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  • Anonymous says:

    I work out 6 days a week- really hardcore cardio. I sweat hard, look crazy doing it and don't give a sh–. I pineapple, wear a Lululemon wide sweatband during my workout and call it a day. I'm usually working out so hard that people are more interested in looking at that rather than my hair. Lol!

    I wash once a week and co-wash once or twice a week. Wet my hair daily.
    I can't do the astringent, dry shampoo or any other washing/wetting/cowashing substitute. I have to keep it real or my hair pitches a fit (ends get dry and start to 'split'- as in leave, break). Lol!

    Health is E V E R Y T H I N G!

  • marianela says:

    I love the way you gave me the best idea ever! I will be using the pineapple technique all summer long because sweating in the sun always ruins my hair and so does working-out. Thank you.

  • Anonymous says:

    I push it up into a high puff and tie a scarf around the edges.

    Nicol C.

  • Gwenn4ya says:

    I agree that my hair is too short for buns and pineapples too, but just once I would like to wear a wash and go without dealing with all the tangles after wearing a hat all day. (my current job). What I usually do is just wear two-strand twists and pin them back or away from my face and neck. What also doesn't work for me is cowashing with those same twists in. So that just equals extra work during the week if I sweat to death!

  • Anonymous says:

    My hair is still to short for buns and pineapples don't work for me. I just put in twists for the week (although they look horrible/fine hair girl here) we do what we have to for fitness.

  • watkinsabob says:

    when i work out i don't really sweat really in my head so should i worry about using an astringent?

    However, my friend does complain about rinsing/washing her hair after workouts and pulling it into a ponytail, and then later it has a mildew smell. Anyone else had this happen before?

  • Anonymous says:

    For the Anon @4:23 who asked "what do you spray/do to your braids after?"…Sometimes I would not do anything after my workouts, just pull them up for work. If they started to "feel gross" I'd rinse and apply some conditioner or a hair/body oil if I had some and then pull up for work. Braid sprays rarely worked for me and most had a real strong annoying, sticky scent and attracted bugs! I'd wash once a week with ORS uplifting and/or creamy aloe shampoo and then pile on ORS hair mayo, making sure it went down the length of the braid and let it sit for the rest of my shower. Rinse, wrap in towel, put in big chunky braids to dry and just go about my day. I've done this with synthetic, human, toyokalon and kanekalon hair.

    Have to admit that when I was still using the synthetic hair it was freaking heavy when wet!! And I had a lot of breakage when I removed my braids. Toyokalon is nice and super easy to remove, but too smooth for my texture. After 2nd wash you could see my hair poking thru the braid. I've found that wavy human and kanekalon work best for me. Plus since I'm a penny-pinching natural gal, I take extra care removing the human hair so I can gently wash it or let it set in a conditioner/water mix, allow to dry, braid and store for reuse later. I buy kanekalon in bulk, so no re-use necessary.

    Miss TeeTee

  • Anonymous says:

    I ponytail my hair then just put on a scarf so my edges dont curl up too much and I leave it on until I'm not sweating anymore. I still only wash my hair every 2 weeks.

  • elle says:

    I find working out and having locs harder than when I had loose natural hair. When my hair was loose I could wash whenever-everyday if i felt like it.
    Now that I have locs I usually wash once a week so I can keep my roots relatively tidy, so they dont decide to grow outside of the loc.
    The idea of using an astringent is not welcoming.

    So Ive turned to washing my hair in braids. It keeps my roots tight, I get a clean scalp, and a nice braid out on my rest days.

  • DiscoveringNatural says:

    I have not yet successfully mastered the art of pineappling my hair. LOL.. So, till then, I will be rocking some cute twists to the gym.

  • Anonymous says:

    Nice article. I do cardiovascular training 6 days a week and strength training 4 days a week. I usually have my hair in a bun or some sort of other protective style (usually twists or a braided style). Because I sweat like crazy, I usually end up washing my hair every other day. It's not a problem for me, because I prize my health and fitness over my hair, HOWEVER with that being said, I've noticed quite a significant change in my hair health and growth thanks to a healthy diet an exercise.

  • Anonymous says:

    I wet my hair everyday, so I have no qualms about working out and sweating. I wet my hair in the shower add conditioner and oil and go!

  • Anonymous says:

    For those who wear braids, what do you spray/do to your braids after?

  • tigertn73 says:

    I have a short cut and can not pull it back in a ponytail. I workout about 4 to 5 times a week. On my cardio days when I sweat alot I rinse my hair and add my products like on wash days.

  • TTsGurlBB says:

    This article is right on time. Although, I'm not a heavy sweater at all, I will be re-starting my gym regimen next week and it's a great idea to take some precautions just in case I do get a good one going.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was just thinking about this! I play soccer, and go running, so I'm active about 3-4 times a week. The best for me is to wear my hair in two strand twists, and spritz it with water using a water bottle after I work out, making sure to rinse my scalp to get away some sweat, then oil my scalp with coconut oil (use sparingly). I may have to redo one or two twists after, but so far, this is the best I've got!

  • Tamika B says:

    I rock a puff on my workout days and co-wash my hair in the middle of the week. I do a full wash and deep condition on the weekends. Non-workout days I wear a "wash n add product n go" :-)

  • kitka82 says:

    I will definitely try astringent.

    Oh, and I sweat like a beast when I weight train.

  • kitka82 says:

    Welp. I work out 5-6 days a week and my hair isn't long enough to do a pineapple OR a bun… it's not a TWA but it is long enough to be annoying to have to co-wash every single day. So I have braids for now and that will do for now. :)

  • LeaTheProductJunkie says:

    Thanks for the astringent tip.. I sweat profusely from my scalp while working out so I normally spritz with water and pat dry with an old cotton t-shirt, then follow up with a little oil.

  • Anonymous says:

    I normally wear braids, but right now I'm doing 12 hr shifts so I'm putting in two-strand twists. They have lasted 3 to 4 weeks, but we'll see once I start sweating.

    Miss TeeTee

  • Abby says:

    My routine is I put on a moisturize and seal then put on my silk scarf and enjoy the *side eye*. LOL. Jokes I don't really have a routine I just go with the flow but pineapple is a MUST!

  • Anonymous says:

    @Petula Wright- Health and Fitness comes before hair.

  • Petula says:

    By not working out! LOL
    Seriously, the last time I was working out I had braids so it was pretty easy. Just kept them pulled back and made sure to freshen my scalp.

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