How to Protect Your Hair at The Gym

The gym is fantastic for our bodies. It helps us get lean, strong and feel great. But for our hair? Not so much. When I went for my six-week month haircut recently, I picked the brain of my stylist, Megan Patterson of Robert Jeffrey Salon in Lakeview for some tips to protecting my locks despite my daily trips to the gym.

Hair at The Gym

Wash your hair less often

“The biggest issue I see with people who work out all the time is that their hair is often dry,” according to Patterson. “Especially if they wash their hair every time they work out, it gets incredibly dry. This is true even more for people who dye their hair. Try using dry shampoo instead of washing it if your can,” suggests Patterson. On days that you’re not working out, or have a less sweaty workout, try skipping the shampoo and just use conditioner.

Of course, there is a ton of variation in how often your hair can be washed based on your hair type. My fine hair tends to get greasy a lot quicker than people I know with thicker, coarser hair, so washing it every day has a different impact than it would on someone with a different hair type. If you just sweat too much to not wash your hair, or have hair that needs to be washed every day naturally (pointing fingers at myself on both counts!), it’s not the end of the world.

“Washing it every day is not necessarily that bad,” says Patterson. “Instead of washing all of your hair, focus on washing your roots and skip rubbing shampoo through the ends. As the water runs through your hair, it will pick up dirt and sweat on the ends, but by not scrubbing the ends with shampoo you’ll avoid drying them out. Then, focus the conditioner on your ends and not your scalp. In addition to adding moisture back in, the conditioner will actually wash your hair.” For added dryness protection, look for shampoos that are sulfate-free, which tend to dry the hair out less. Although these are sometimes more expensive shampoos, one, less expensive option is the L’Oreal EverPure shampoo. Look for your options in the “salon” section of the shampoo aisle.

Try a loose hairstyle, like a French braid

“Another problem I see for people who work out a lot is that they have breakage around their face and down low near the nape of their neck,” adds Patterson. “I always see people working out and they have this messy, crazy bun on top of their head and I just think, ‘No!’ Or you see those really tight ponytails. These hairstyles, which are tight and high on the head, cause damage. French braiding is the best way to go to prevent breakage while keeping your hair out of the way at the gym. But if you’re going to wear a bun, choose something looser instead of pulling your hair so tight.” I’ve tried to take her advice, opting for a French braid for the last year or so at the gym, and she noticed that my hair grew much more quickly than in the past.

In addition to choosing a hairstyle that is less prone to inducing breakage, Patterson encourages thinking carefully when choosing your hair tie, “When choosing a hair tie, choose something soft.” There are lots of options on the market now, like the ribbon style hair ties, which are less likely to rip your hair out when it’s pulled back, and are a lot nicer looking on your wrist.

Pamper your hair while you work out.

Patterson suggests using product to add extra protection while you’re working out, “Try putting a serum or leave-in conditioner in your hair just before you work out. You can even just rub in regular conditioner from mid-strand to ends, and then French braid it. The conditioner will help hold in the braid, plus you’re conditioning and treating your hair while you’re working out.”


Have you noticed damage to your hair from the gym? What has helped you to protect your locks when you’re working out?

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About Dani Kruger

As a proud New Englander at heart, Dani loves the outdoors and anything maple-flavored. After a decade in the Midwest, she moved to Seattle where she loves the mild temperatures and mountain views. Dani's competitive nature is no secret, whether she's trying to do yoga at all of the state capitol buildings (23 so far!) or seeing how much vertical she can run each month in the mountains of the PNW. By day, she nerds out behind the computer as a data analyst for a health care consulting firm, where she works to ensure all individuals have timely access to high quality health care services.