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From dry winter wind to scorching summer sun, we runners expose our hair to punishing environmental stressors. Combine that with sweaty scalps, which require daily washings, and you’ve got the formula for frizz. Or maybe under-shampooing and resorting to the greasy ponytail-and-ball-cap-of-shame combo sounds more familiar?
Whatever your mane issue may be, it’s evident that hair care for runners should be a priority. If your hair is feeling a bit frazzled these days, it is possible to get your runner’s hair under control. Just follow these tips from insiders in the know.
Deep Condition On Off Days
Recovery days are necessary for body, mind—and hair. Chase your weekly yoga flow with a relaxing soak: Shampoo, then work deep conditioner into your hair, put your hair in a towel and let the formula do its magic while you unwind. Rinse and feel renewed.
Try This: Aveda Nutriplenish Conditioner Deep Moisture | $37
Find a Ponytail Alternative
Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube are great places to go to learn how to get your hair out of your face quickly without resorting to a damaging pony.
“Wearing braids puts less stress on hair while running. Most runners who put their hair in high ponies have experienced hair breakage around the area where the elastic goes,” says avid runner and triathlete Joy Kim. For her long, “stick-thin” hair that’s both fine and color-treated, Kim prefers French braids and a pigtail to prevent snagging and breakage.
If you’re looking for a true pro–hair braider and runner, that is–Colleen Quigley frequently posts her braid game using the hashtag #fastbraidfriday. Not only are the braids practical for running, “hair can be such a confidence booster,” she wrote on Instagram. Check out her IGTV to see some fun how-to videos.
Cover Your Tresses
Hair care for runners can be as simple as covering it up, just like we do with the rest of our body in unforgiving elements.
“I always run with a Buff, beanie, or a baseball cap,” says ultrarunner Mirna Valerio. She explains that in winter the covering provides warmth and protects against wind or rain, and in summer, a cap provides much-needed SPF for her hair and scalp. If, like Valerio, you have chemically relaxed black hair and limit shampooing to once a week or less, wear a sweat-wicking gym wrap during treadmill sessions too. By absorbing salty, dehydrating perspiration, you’ll keep your hair fresh and scalp itch-free.
Try This: Buff Original | $25
Don’t Skimp on Product Quality (Especially If You Swim)
Whether you swim because you’re a multi-sport athlete or just because it’s great cross-training, chlorine can be quite tough on your hair. Add in all the other stuff we’ve touched on already–sweat, sun, breakage–and that’s a recipe for less than desirable hair. This is a scenario where hair care for runners is even more important.
Melissa Dragoo, a runner and triathlete knows exactly what that’s like. She also knows how important it is for her to use high quality hair products.“The one product I can’t live without is a high-quality conditioner. I go through conditioner twice as fast as shampoo,” she says. Because of her training, she swims, showers, and shampoos frequently. If you cross-train in chlorinated water, invest in a high-end moisture-boosting shampoo and conditioner duo.
Runners with short or medium-length hair can find that chopped tresses can be as hard to tame as long hair. What do you do when you can’t easily pull it all back?
“Mine sits just above my shoulders, and my biggest issue is trying to keep it out of my face during runs,” says runner Amy Aschenauer. To combat flyaways, Aschenauer uses a volumizing foam when she blow-drys her hair to help keep her hair in place when it’s pulled back.
Try This: Aquage Uplifting Foam | $20
Give Co-Washing a Go
This translates to ditching your shampoo and cleansing with conditioner instead. The detergent-free method doesn’t strip hair of its natural oils or (for color-treated hair) its pigment. Co-washing is great for dry hair, curly hair, or Black women’s hair (whether chemically relaxed or natural), but fine or oily hair may get weighed down. Any lightweight conditioner can be used, or try a dedicated co-washing product.
Note: Chemically relaxed black hair may need extra moisture; Valerio shores up her cowashing regimen with an application of leave-in, pomade-style conditioner.
Try This: Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus Co-Wash Conditioning Cleanser | $11.99