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Should You Wash Your Hair Every Day If You Workout?

A woman makes a ponytail with her hair
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

It’s the age-old question: do I wash my hair if it’s just going to get dirty again while I work out? If you’re an active person who works out every day, you may be wondering whether you need to cleanse your hair every time you exercise.

The answer to this question isn’t straightforward, as several factors can influence how often you need to shampoo. We spoke with skin and hair experts to figure out how to best care for your hair after hitting the gym.

Should You Wash Your Hair After Every Workout?

Three women work out
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether you need to wash your hair after every workout. Some people may need to wash their hair daily, while others can go several days without washing.

“Cleansing your hair after each workout is a personal choice and multiple factors should be considered,” said Janelle Sands, a Licensed Stylist and CURLS Brand Educator.

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The frequency with which you should wash your hair depends on several factors, including your hair type, the intensity of your workout, and how much you sweat. For the average person, Sands recommends washing after every other workout.

On days you get particularly sweaty workout hair, Sands suggests using a basic cleansing shampoo. On regular workout days (or if you’re not a very sweaty person), she recommends a highly moisturizing shampoo like CURLS Powerhouse Sea Moss Curl Cleanser to replenish needed moisture.

While it is good for your hair to go a day or two between washes, you should also feel comfortable and clean. If you want to wash your hair every day after working out, go ahead. If you don’t notice any oiliness, flaking, or funky smells, it’s also okay to skip a wash.

How Does Working Out/Sweat Affect the Hair?

A couple works out together
Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

In the grand scheme of things, sweating is a good thing, says Sands. It is a necessary function that helps to keep us cool and detoxify the body. However, sweat isn’t great when it is left on the skin for too long.

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“Your sweat can plug up the pores and hair follicles in the scalp,” said Dr. Ben Behnam, MD, FAAD, and co-founder of Happy Head. “If this is mixed with the bacteria that is already there, it could cause scalp irritation and could potentially lead to your hair being damaged over time and maybe even hair loss.”

In terms of aesthetics, sweat can leave your hair and scalp looking oily and greasy. For some people, sweat leaves hair looking dull and lifeless as it contains salt. Furthermore, sweating can trap moisture on your scalp and encourage bacteria growth, which may lead to skin problems.

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This can help improve scalp health.

How Can You Refresh Hair After a Workout?

A woman uses dry shampoo on her hair

If you don’t have time to wash your hair after a workout, there are several ways to refresh your hair and keep it looking and feeling clean. One way to refresh your hair is to use dry shampoo, which is a powder that you apply to your scalp to absorb excess oil and sweat. To use dry shampoo, simply apply the powder to your roots, let it sit for a few minutes, and then brush it out.

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A popular brand that instantly refreshes hair.

Dr. Behnam recommends rinsing your hair with water if you don’t want to shampoo and condition it, as this can help to keep your sweaty scalp cleaner than doing nothing.

Sands suggests adopting the tried-and-true method of using witch hazel to freshen up your scalp between washes. There are two ways you can use it. First, pour a small amount of witch hazel onto a cotton swab and dab it along the scalp, parting your hair in different spots around your head to cover a large surface area.

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Great for lots of skin problems.

Or, you can combine two parts witch hazel with one part water in a spray bottle. Part your hair multiple times across your head and spray the scalp generously. Use a cotton swab to clean up any excess solution.

How Often Do You Need to Wash Your Hair and How?

A woman washes her hair
Ground Picture/Shutterstock.com

As mentioned earlier, the frequency with which you should wash your hair depends on several factors, including your hair type, the intensity of your workout, and how much you sweat. If you have oily hair, you may need to wash your hair daily to keep it looking and feeling clean. On the other hand, if you have dry hair, you may only need to wash your hair once or twice a week.

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Moisturizing shampoo and conditioner for people who wash frequently.

When washing your hair after a workout, it’s essential to use a gentle shampoo that won’t strip your hair of its natural oils. Look for shampoos and conditioners that are free of sulfates and parabens, as these can be harsh on your hair and scalp. Additionally, be sure to rinse your hair thoroughly after washing it to remove any residue or product buildup.

According to Sands, people with wavy and curly hair should wash every 1-3 days at a minimum, and people with coily hair should wash every 4-7 days at a minimum. Those with active lifestyles should wash more frequently.

PATTERN Beauty Hydration Shampoo

A great option for curly and coily hair.

To wash your hair, saturate it in water. Add shampoo to your hands and rub them together to create a lather, Sands says. Rub the shampoo on your scalp in circular motions using the pads of your fingers to scrub without causing damage. Rinse thoroughly. Sands recommends cleansing twice to thoroughly clean your hair and scalp. If you find that this dries out your scalp, switch to a gentler shampoo.

Figuring out how often to wash your hair is often the biggest struggle of any frequent gym-goer. Here’s what experts say about how to keep hair clean after breaking a sweat.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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