Is It Always Necessary to Wash Your Hair After Exercising?
An exercise routine causes different amounts of sweat in people. The accumulation of sweat on the scalp can obstruct the growth of new hair. However, excessive shampooing is also not recommended. Therefore, in order to know if it’s necessary to wash your hair after exercising, several aspects must be taken into account.
First of all, you must specify what type of hair you have, as it’s not the same to have very oily hair or very dry or fine hair. In addition, factors such as the intensity of the exercise, the amount of sweat, and the environment where the activity takes place also play a part in the decision. Let’s take a closer look.
Washing your hair after exercise: the effects of sweat and shampoo
When it comes to cleaning your hair, there’s no general, one-size-fits-all formula. Since its characteristics are different, the regularity with which this process should be done varies from one person to another.
However, it’s true that after physical activity, the need to wash your hair thoroughly tends to increase. Even so, some recommendations should be taken into account.
Just as it isn’t advisable to let dirt accumulate in the hair, it’s not good to wash it excessively.
Exercise has many positive effects on the body, but it also generates sweat on the scalp. As a thermoregulator, it’s composed of minerals such as potassium, ammonia, and sodium; the hair hides the effects of these components in contact with the skin.
The roots become dirty, the hair becomes dry and excessive accumulation on the scalp can obstruct the hair follicles. This is the area where new hair grows. Therefore, if clogged, it hinders growth and can lead to alopecia or hair loss.
Frequent washing with hair products can unbalance the pH. This results in dryness, itching, and dandruff.
Many of these products are made with synthetic fragrances, too much of which is harmful to hair health. They can even cause irritation and disrupt the generation of natural oils that are beneficial to the hair.
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What to consider when evaluating the need to wash hair after exercise
If both over-washing and the accumulation of dirt and sweat can damage hair, is it necessary to wash hair after exercise? Since the solution is not unanimous, it’s worth keeping the following things in mind:
Thick hair usually has a wider margin between washes without damaging the hair. On the other hand, people with fine hair may not be able to go as long without cleaning it. Knowing the type of hair and the level of natural grease is important to establish a washing frequency.
Type of physical activity and level of sweating
While the intensity of sweat produced depends on each organism, the type of physical activity is also a determining factor. A study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that electrolyte losses in sweat during exercise vary among athletes.
One of the reasons for such variability, it suggests, is due to differences in exercise intensity. Thus, an intense cardio routine is not the same as a Hatha yoga session. When sweating is not excessive, it’s usually not necessary to do a thorough hair wash.
Consider the following:
- Mild exercise. Some people naturally generate less sweat. There are also undemanding routines in terms of agitation. Less perspiration on the scalp leaves a wider margin between washes.
- Intense exercise. In contrast, intense activity tends to generate more perspiration, and the distance between washes is reduced.
- Swimming. Swimming is a special case, as the skin comes into contact with substances such as chlorine. This chemical causes dullness and leaves the hair rough. It’s possible to apply oils beforehand to repel these effects.
- Outdoor routines. When exercising outdoors, exposure to heat and sunlight implies special care. For example, the use of a scalp protector.
The pH balance of the hair
A central aspect in determining the frequency of hair washing is to identify the pH level. The acidity balance in the hair can be measured digitally. When this level is between 4.5 and 5.5 naturally, it’s considered healthy hair.
Heat and humidity
Sunlight is not the only factor during outdoor routines. Another study from the European Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that sweating increases significantly under humid conditions compared to dry environments.
In such cases, sunscreen should be used to protect the hair strands and scalp. Post-exercise washing is also ideal, not only to remove product residue, but also excess sweat.
How to evaluate whether it’s necessary to wash your hair after exercise
Take time to evaluate whether it’s always necessary to wash your hair after exercise. Sometimes it’s difficult to make a decision, so it’s important to define what aspects are involved in your personal routine. So, consider the following questions:
- Do you spend more time exercising outdoors or indoors?
- Do you sweat a little or sweat a lot?
- Is your hair oily or prone to dryness?
The answer to these questions will help determine more precisely how often you should wash your hair.
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Tips for taking care of your hair during physical activity
Beyond washing, there are a few things you can do before and during exercise to take care of your hair without using chemical products.
- Tying your hair back. The first important measure is to tie your hair up. Whether with braids, ponytails, or knots, the hair should be tied back during the routine. In addition, wide elastics should be used and not too tight, otherwise, the hair can be damaged.
- Dry shampoo. Occasionally, the subsequent washing can be replaced by applying dry shampoo beforehand. This product favors the absorption of sweat during exercise. However, its excessive use is harmful to the hair.
- Conditioner. Use it only on the ends of the hair and avoid contact with the scalp.
- Towels. When drying sweat with towels during the routine, avoid using the same towel for the face and scalp.
- Sulfate-free shampoo. It’s a good idea to use products with fewer chemical elements, placing them directly on the scalp.
- Sweatbands. Beyond the aesthetic aspect, this accessory is very useful to contain and reduce sweat.
- Drying. After washing after exercise, hair should be left to dry naturally.
So, is it always necessary to wash your hair after exercise?
Washing away sweat on the scalp is as important as on the rest of the body. Accumulating dirt in this area can cause anything from dandruff to hair loss. Despite this, it isn’t advisable to fall into the habit of excessive washing.
Based on this premise, other cleaning measures can be implemented to avoid resorting to the daily use of shampoos or aggressive chemicals. Dry shampoo, ponytails, and sweatbands are some useful items. In addition, if there’s no excessive sweating, it’s possible to extend the time between washes.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Baker, L. B., De Chavez, P. J. D., Ungaro, C. T., Sopeña, B. C., Nuccio, R. P., Reimel, A. J., & Barnes, K. A. (2019). Exercise intensity effects on total sweat electrolyte losses and regional vs. whole-body sweat [Na+], [Cl-], and [K+]. European journal of applied physiology, 119(2), 361–375. Consultado el 5 de junio de 2023. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-018-4048-z
- Coelho, L. G., Ferreira-Junior, J. B., Martini, A. R., Borba, D. A., Coelho, D. B., Passos, R. L., Fonseca, M. A., Moura-Lima, F. A., Prado, L. S., & Rodrigues, L. O. (2010). Head hair reduces sweat rate during exercise under the sun. International journal of sports medicine, 31(11), 779–783. Consultado el 5 de junio de 2023. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0030-1262802
- Jung, D., Kim, Y. B., Lee, J. B., Muhamed, A. M. C., & Lee, J. Y. (2018). Sweating distribution and active sweat glands on the scalp of young males in hot-dry and hot-humid environments. European journal of applied physiology, 118(12), 2655–2667. Consultado el 5 de junio de 2023. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-018-3988-7
- Pros, H. (2020, julio 16). How to prevent and reduce chlorine damage. Hairpros.edu; Hair Professional Career College. https://hairpros.edu/chlorine-hair-what-happens/