How to protect curly & afro hair whilst working out

Gyms re-opened today and we’re ready to shake off that lockdown body. 45% of people with curly and afro hair avoid exercise and working out because of their hair. Finding the strength to commit to a regular workout session is already a lot to contend with, having afro or curly hair to worry about too should not be the barrier to health and fitness that it is.


This has shaped the mindset of many curly haired women and men who believe that working out is not for them. Some will easily tell you "working out is not for curly girls and men with curly hair need to keep it short". Well, they’re so wrong! And so, what’s the best approach to take care of your curls and workout? That’s the question we have the answer to.


Six Protective hairstyles for any workout


There are many hairstyles to choose from, but I will focus only on style patterns that are suitable for men and women and can conveniently be carried to the gym and get you through your workout with no worries at all. We added a pre-workout checklist for your hair and 3 post-workout treatments so you know exactly what to do to look after your hair and get the best out of your workout. Let’s quickly see a few of them;


1. Top knot

Protective hairstyles for men and women
Top knot

Loved by men and women the top knot is a dynamic look that keeps your hair high and away from your body to keep you cool during your workout. Achieve this look by using a leave-in conditioner and securing your hair with a snag-free or seamless hair band. The sides and edges can be smoothed with an alcohol-free edge balm or covered with a sweat-wicking headband. This style is best for mat workouts to keep your hair off the ground. Avoid this style if you are running or doing high intensity training as the knot will have to be tighter to resist the movement and this can damage your curls.


2. Ponytails & Pigtails Braids

Ponytails & Pigtails

Parking your hair in a ponytail is one very easy way to prevent or at least reduce sweat intensity. This can be done easily by using a ribbon or snag free band to hold your hair in place firmly and securely. You should also ensure that the hold isn’t too tight, or you'd be at the risk of scattering the set patterns of your naturally curly hair. This option is best for women and men who prefer to keep their hair bone straight after a blow dry, perm, sew-in, or silk press. Apply an humidity resistant serum to ensure your hair does not revert, especially from its root.


3. Buns & Man Buns

Buns & Man Buns

Probably one of the most popular hairstyles common with gym enthusiasts. It’s easy and can be done within minutes. All you have to do before hitting the gym is, mist your hair, preferably with mist or spritz sprays or a conditioner that does not require washing or combing. You can as well apply serums, edge creams, or balm for a sleek look and to stop any movement, but those are not essential; they will only make your bun last long enough till after your gym session. Wear your bun high or low.


4. Braids


So working out with freshly braided curls can be scary, but you have nothing to worry about. You can easily apply serums, edge balm, or pomades to prevent and treat frizz if it occurs. Try not to use an oil before a workout as your scalp needs to breathe during a workout and oil and sweat do not mix and can lead to an itchy scalp. Instead try a light-weight root refresh after your workout.


5. Cornrows


Cornrows are a great style, especially for the gym and busy lifestyles, as it helps your scalp breathe when your generating a lot of sweat while you work out. This style stops you over heating and allows you to look after your scalp which is the birth place of healthy hair. You want to make your cornrows last long but make sure they're are not too tight. To avoid damaging your hair, apply a leave-in conditioner before braiding and follow with light balms/pomades. After a workout you can also apply spray conditioners that do not require washing and soothe any itiching.


6. Twists


This is one of the most advisable hairstyles to hit the gym with. It requires little to no maintenance at all. All you have to do is, part your hair into 2 - 4 sections, apply a leave-in conditioner to each section. Use a small amount of serum and part each section into two strands and twist them together smoothing the strands and serum with every twist. Secure the ends with a little hair balm. You can touch up your edges after your workout sessions.

Extra tip: If you like to apply an oil to your hair do so further down the hair shaft and not to the scalp or root. And ensure that you do not use hard brushes, especially in cases of baby hair, to avoid breaking. If you're using this style after regular workouts follow up with a refresh spray with minimal styling hold and re-twist. When you loosen the twists your curls will look great too.


Pre-workout hair treatments Check-list


We've created a quick and easy check list of hair products for each particular style for you to use when you're about the hit the gym.


Top Knots: serum + edge balms + snag-free hair bands and sweat wicking headbands


Ponytail: Leave-in-conditioner + humidity resistant conditioner + snag-free hair bands and sweat wicking headbands if you want to keep your hair straight


Buns & Man Buns leave-in-conditioner + curl refresh + edge balms.


Twist: leave-in-conditioner + curl refresh + styler. Avoid gels packed with heavy alcohol.


Cornrows: serum + light edge balm/oils + leave-in-conditioner

Braids: leave-in conditioner + serum + edge balm and pomade, only if they are necessary.



3 Post-workout hair treatments

After your workout use these 3 easy treatments that you can do quickly to restore your curls and keep your hair and scalp healthy


1. Curl Refresh

We all need a tall glass of water after a workout it’s not that different for your hair. You must appreciate the moisture that comes with your hair and select products that will rehydrate and restore your hair moisture to ensure it is as curly as it should be. Look for products with aloe vera, agave nectar, maple and glycerin especially, as they will ensure you keep your hair moisturized at all times. Try DFY Curl Refresh, £14.95


2. Co-wash: If you’re the type that feels a need to wash your hair after every workout session, you’ll prefer leave in sprays or co-washing. Going with any of these two options depends totally on what your wash cycle looks like at that moment; either way, a co-wash can leave you refreshed and energized. Try PHiT - Protein Hit Wash & Go, £18.40


3. Shampoo: You might also consider a good shampoo wash, especially if it’s a weekend and you have enough time on your hands follow with a leave-in conditioner or curling cream to replenish lost moisture and lock it in with a serum. Although a shampoo wash should never be replaced with a co-wash, co-washing is the better choice after regular exercise especially when the time you have is just too short.


Looking good should not be detrimental to keeping fit. Living a healthy lifestyle can and will lead to healthier hair if you treat your hair like you would your body. I am sure from this article you have been able to see that it's not impossible to look great and still hit the gym.


Want to know how to look great after leaving the gym? We have some tips on how you can go straight out for your meeting or date at the gym bar without worrying about your hair.

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