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How to Care for Curls Before and After Working Out

April 13, 2018


Verna Meachum

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 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

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Last Updated on October 20, 2022 by Verna Meachum

If you’re like me, working out is a necessary evil. I’d much rather be on the couch watching Netflix, but alas, I need to stay in shape.

Caring for your curls when you exercise can be a challenge. Between the sweat and the heat, it’s easy for your curls to go from looking fabulous to a frizzy mess in no time.

Thankfully, there are a few things that you can do to help keep your curls in tip-top shape without sacrificing your workout.

Exercise Does The Scalp Good

Exercising increases the temperature of your body and helps it to release toxins. It also boosts blood flow to your skin and hair.

Increased blood circulation to the scalp promotes hair growth by providing nutrition to the follicles. So working out is not only great for your body but also nourishes hair follicles.

What Does Sweat Do to Hair?

Sweating, in and of itself, is not harmful to your hair. It is a natural consequence of working out.

While sweating during a workout is inevitable, it can lead to an itchy scalp, dry curls, and clogged follicles. Clogged follicles can harbor bacteria and fungus, leading to inflammation on the scalp.

Infographic of scalp glands for hair care for curls blog.

Furthermore, sweat naturally has a high salt content which can be drying to the hair.

The most straightforward solution to cure a drenched scalp and greasy hair is to wash it. While frequent washing can potentially dry out your curls, this is not likely to happen with one extra shampooing session.

Stumbling blocks to working out – due to sweat

A survey of nearly 200 women with textured hair showed that 45% avoided working out due to concerns about how their hair would look and feel after sweating.

  • Many women with curly hair may find that sweating is a major stumbling block to exercise if they’re not used to working out.
  • Sweating can wreak havoc on your hair and ruin your style, which is why it may often be a major deterrent.
  • Not having time to do your hair after working out might be another stumbling block.
  • Needing to wash your hair more often is another stumbling block. We curly girls are intimately acquainted with the terror of a wash day, and just the idea of it makes us exhausted. The last thing we want is to wash and style our hair after a workout.

Fortunately, there are certain measures you can take to ensure sweating doesn’t ruin your hairstyle or cause dryness, and you can continue to engage in your workouts while having healthy curls.

Hair Care For Curls – Pre Workout

How you care for your curls before working out is just as important as how you take care of them afterward.

Apply Leave-In Conditioner

Using your favorite leave-in conditioner before working out can help to minimize the amount of sweat that accumulates on your hair. It can act as a barrier between the hair and perspiration, as well as keep your curls from drying out.

Look for a leave-in conditioner that will help to retain moisture, nourish your hair follicles, and minimize frizz.

What not to do

  • Do not apply heavy products to your hair before working out. The heat and sweat from exercise will cause the product to melt and can result in a greasy, limp look.
  • Do not tie your hair up in a tight bun or hairstyle, as this can cause breakage and damage. When your hair is damp, it’s also more prone to breakage, which means how you wear your hair while working out can have an impact on the health of your curls.
  • Do not wear tight hats or caps as much as possible.
  • Do not use a lot of hair spray while working out. The heat and sweat will make the product very sticky and difficult to remove.
  • Do not use a cotton towel to dry your hair after working out. The friction from the terry cloth can cause frizz and breakage, and the rough material can even cause split ends. Instead, use a microfiber towel or an old cotton t-shirt to gently pat dry your hair. The material will prevent frizz and breakage, while also working to absorb the excess moisture from your curls.

Headband/Satin Scrunchie

The next time you go to the gym, wear a cotton headband to prevent sweat from reaching the rest of your hair.

If you don’t feel comfortable wearing a headband around your head, then try wearing it around your wrist while working out.

If you want to use a hair accessory but don’t feel comfortable wearing it on your head, try using a satin scrunchie to tie your hair back. This will keep your curls out of your face.

Obviously, make sure to wash everything after each use to remove the sweat, germs, oil, and dirt before working out again.

Hair Care For Curls – Post Workout

The key to keeping your curls healthy while working out is to keep your regimen as low maintenance as possible.

Hair should be cleaned to remove the accumulation of sweat and salt on the scalp and to preserve the hair’s cuticles.

How often you wash your curls is to be determined by you.

Try a Dry Shampoo

For those who don’t have time to style their hair after a workout, a dry shampoo may be your perfect answer.

While they’re not replacements for your regular cleanser, they will help remove some dirt and grease on your scalp without drying out your curls.

Skip a wash or extend the life of your style with these formulas:

Innersense Organic Beauty – Natural Refresh Dry Shampoo

Acure Dry Shampoo

Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk

Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo

Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo Oribe Gold Lust Dry Shampoo
$48.00 ($7.62 / Fl Oz)
11/29/2022 02:38 am GMT

Refresher Spray for Curly Hair

Ouidad Botanical Boosting Mist is a great refresher spray for curly hair that you can apply before working out. It’s also great after a workout to re-hydrate curls, helping them bounce back to life.

The pH Stabilizing Spritz is another refresher spray for curly hair and is one of my favorite products to use after a sweaty workout! It’s perfect for getting your curls back on track and re-balances it to a comfortable pH level, where the cuticles are smoothed down.


Co-washing is great for maintaining hair. They are gentle and can lift most workout gunk from the scalp, and they won’t dry out your hair.

But, if you prefer to use a sulfate-free shampoo instead, that’s fine too.

A great shampoo that can be used literally every day without ruining your curls is the Righteous Roots Clarifying Shampoo.

You can find a list of other great clarifying shampoos here.

If you regularly use a co-wash cleanser regimen, I have only one piece of advice: alternate with protein conditioners because the co-wash cleanser is moisture intensive, and alternating with protein will help keep your hair strong and healthy. It’s all about balance.

Below are some things to pay attention to when washing your hair:

  • Pay attention to how your hair feels as you’re rinsing it out.
  • If it feels too soft, limp, or weak, follow up with a protein-based leave-in conditioner.
  • If your hair feels rough or hard after rinsing, then follow up with a moisturizing product.
  • If you workout daily, conditioning every single day and keeping the hair wet over long periods is not ideal for curly hair because it can lead to over-moisture. In this scenario, the hair begins to break down when it is continually wet from activity to activity, with no opportunity to recuperate and recover.

Other Tips

After your workout, dry your hair. Yeast thrives in humid moist environments and can become a major issue if it gets out of hand.

Make sure to spray your caps/hats with Lysol afterward to get rid of any bacteria or potential fungus.

As with any regimen, keep in mind to clarify your hair at least once a month because of the accumulated conditioning agents or oils on the hair over time.

Gym Hairstyles for Curly Hair

Cute hairstyles for curly hair while working out are many, but the key is to keep it simple and low-maintenance.

One style that I love is the high ponytail. This style has been around for a while and it’s perfect for workouts because your hair is up off of the neck.

Gym hairstyle for curly hair for hair care for curls blog

Another style that I love is the low ponytail. This style is great because it’s still up off of your neck but you have some wiggle room to pull back all of your hair if needed.

Gym hairstyle for curly hair - low ponytail

Another style to try is a bun. This style is perfect for all types of workouts, and it’s easy to do. Simply put all of your hair into a ponytail, twist it, and then put the bun over top.

Gym hairstyle for curly hair - bun

Lastly, all curly girls know that a pineapple always works in all types of situations. This style is perfect for all types of workouts, and it’s easy to do. Simply put your hair into a high ponytail and then gather all of your hair and tie it off to the side.

Gym curly hairstyle - pineapple

For more ideas on gym hairstyles for curly hair, check out my article on NaturallyCurly.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and found it helpful! Remember, when it comes to caring for your curls, always let your hair be your guide!

Keep on curlin’!

Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you’d like to see.

Curl care

 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

We think that people should take what information they need and leave what they don't. We suggest things we enjoy and believe are worth your attention.

Above all, we value your trust above anything else. We're so glad you’re here!

Hi,I'm Verna

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