Anyone who knows me knows that I have very specific ways of caring for my skin and hair. I’ve got (adult) acne-prone, fair Irish skin that needs abundant exfoliation, benzoyl peroxide scrubs, and organic moisturizer and sunblock to stay regulated.
Meanwhile my hair…that’s another story. For a lot of years I have relied on my hair just being “good hair” to get by. See, I have fast-growing, shiny, straight brown hair that naturally hi-lights in the sun and is generally the kind of hair that curly-haired people crave. But after a hairdresser recommended I take some precautions to prevent hair damage, I started looking at my products and habits a little more closely.
I’ve learned that anyone who runs or just works out consistently puts their hair through a lot of stress. There’s the sweat, first and foremost. Then there’s the ponytails, the pulling, the brushing. And then the constant showering and washing, of course. After my last training cycle, my hair felt dry and broken, and I knew I needed to do a little research and make some changes.
Here are the changes I made to make sure my hair stays as healthy as possible.
- Switch To Organic Shampoo and Conditioner: This was a slow and halting process, because let’s be real: parabens and sulfates really make your hair feel shiny. But they’re also not great for you. Parabens may act like pseudoestrogens in your system, which can really throw off your hormonal balance. And sulfates are drying long-term. I tried a few different organic shampoos before I found one that worked for me. Burts Bees smelled awesome, but left my hair greasy. Nowadays I use an Acure Organics 2-in-1, but there are TONS of great, all natural shampoos out there, and you can use the ThinkDirty app to fins a good one at your local Target.
- Once A Week Deep Conditioning Hair Masks: Deep-moisturizing my hair once a week has really helped keep it shiny and smooth without any kind of heat treatment. I love doing this after my long runs, when my hair is most gross and salty and needs a good drink.
- Rinse (but Don’t Wash) Post-Workout: We’ve all heard that your hair should only be washed two or three times per week. But honestly, I cannot come back from a summertime jog and not hop into a cold shower almost immediately. I used to shampoo every time but that was really drying things out. So one day when I was at the lake house I opted to just rinse my hair and use my fingers to massage and scrub my scalp a little. And you know what? MY HAIR LOOKED GREAT. It was perfectly not-quite-clean, not-quite-dirty. Also, when you want to make sure your hair smells awesome but don’t want to commit to a full wash…
- Skip the Shampoo and Condition Only: GUYS THIS IS AMAZING. I found this method on a women’s running message board at the beginning of the summer when I seriously thought the combination of marathon training and hot temps was going to make my hair fall out. Just rinsing and conditioning the ends in my post-run shower makes it so my hair smells clean and looks clean, but doesn’t get dried out from over-washing.
- Use A Wet Brush: I thought these were just for whiny kids, but as it turns out, they’re a lot easier on your hair. Hair is at it’s most vulnerable to damage when it’s wet, so I try to go easy when I towel dry it, then let it air dry for a little while before using a gentle wet brush to detangle.
- Sleep On A Satin Pillowcase: My hairdresser recommended I do this. It seemed super lame and old fashioned- my grandmother always used satin pillowcases- but once I tried it I noticed that I was waking up with fewer tangles and birds nests. I often go to bed with my hair still wet, so making sure that it’s safeguarded from damage when it’s at its most vulnerable point seemed like a good idea.
- BRAID it During Workouts (instead of ponytails): This one is kind of hard for me, because I love a good high pony or topknot. But I noticed that I was getting a lot of broken hairs at the crown of my head, so I’ve made a conscious effort to find less damaging ways of wearing it. I often do a French braid when I run; it keeps everything secure and out of my face, but it’s also super easy on my worn-out strands. It’s to the point now that the student running group I work with is
- Use Damage-Free Hair Ties: I like ribbon ties or soft spandex-y fabric ties. They won’t hold a high pony in, but since I am avoiding those these gentle options do the trick and NEVER get stuck or pull my hair out.
- AVOID HEAT STYLING!! This is my absolute biggest tip! In college I blow dried and straightened my already straight hair ALL. THE. TIME. I did it to get a smoother texture and more shine. What I didn’t realize was that the reason my hair wasn’t smooth and shiny was because I was treating it terribly. Now, I still sometimes have to blow dry, and I like to curl my hair for events. But I try to only hit my hair with heat once a month-ish. The less I heat treat it, the less I need to.
I recognize that my hair-care beliefs and habits have become something of a pseudo science. But I enjoy exploring the world of beauty so much, and finding information about haircare for athletes and runners was actually kind of hard. So I hope a few of you find this informative!
Have a great weekend!