It is no secret that there is a long standing struggle with Black women between maintaining great looking hair and exercising regularly. In the June/July issue of Sophisticate’s Black Hair Magazine, I was shocked to read the following advice from the “experts”:
“When you’ve had your hair freshly styled, let that style set in for a week,” offers stylist nadine branch. “Get your money’s worth the first week out of the style.” Hair pro Faye Bailey agrees, “I prefer waiting a week to exercise after having the hair styled,” she says, “but I understand that athletes have ambition and discipline and need to train everyday. For very committed [fitness] people, I’d say wait at least three or four days.”
A week?! And this is coming from a professional! Yes, hair is important – I don’t care what anyone says looking crazy for the sake of working out is just not an option for most of us. But our health is equally, and some would argue more, important. Waiting a week for a person who washes and styles her hair weekly means you will NEVER workout! Really? I’m not here to berate you for struggling with this issue because I’m right there with you, but to think that we can afford to take a week off to allow a style to “settle” is a little extreme to say the least. For me, it is also completely unnecessary.
Furthermore, I want you to know this isn’t an issue with just women of color alone. Black men struggle too! I realized this recently during a conversation with a friend who has began working out rather vigorously; The friend hurt his knee so I suggested swimming rather than taking a break from exercising altogether. He immediately said “Nope, I’m not going to swim. I’ll walk the length of the pool but I’m not getting my hair wet.” Puzzled I asked why to which he responded “I’m trying to loc my hair and the water will mess up my twists.” I laughed loud and long because I realized this isn’t just our issue.
So, having undone hair isn’t an option but neither is not exercising. Guess what? Those aren’t the only two choices. I promise you can look great, both body and hair and maintain both, no matter what your hair type is, if you are relaxed or natural. Here are my tips:
- Try a low maintenance protective style: Braids, wigs, and weaves are awesome options for giving your hair a break and you can wash your hair as often as you need to without being concerned with styling your hair afterwards.
- Don’t fight your texture: If you are natural, keeping your hair straightened during workouts will only end up frustrating you. If shrinkage is your enemy whether for aesthetic purposes or because of single strand knots or other issues, try keeping your hair stretched with braids or banding during your workout. If you have a lot of new growth as a relaxed head, go with buns or braid/twist outs.
- Cleansing conditioners work: There are a number of conditioning products that also cleanse the hair gently, so the problem of the time required to shampoo and deep condition your hair after working out has eben solved. These magical all-in-one formulas work to rinse the sweat and dirt accumulated during an intense workout while conditioning your hair in as little as five minutes. Popular choices are Wen Cleansing Conditioner and Hair One, but there are other on the market. Personally I adore Hair One.
- Invest in a moisture wicking head wrap: Actress Nicole Ari Parker recently launched a line of specialty fabric hair wraps called Save Your Do, which does as the name implies. Her items retail from $25-30 with a small amount donated to her charity for Spina Bifida. If that is too pricey for you another Black owned company, First Line Manufacturing Corp, offers equally stylish moisture wicking hair wraps called Dri Sweat, available at most retailers for $4-5.
Understanding that no hairstyle is so valuable that your health can take a back seat is the first step to overcoming the mentality of there being a choice between health and hair. The Black Hair Media forums are full of ladies with advice and experience doing their own hair, achieving health and length while working out the entire time. It can be done, you just have to make the decision that it is important to you.