Your Hair & Exercise: You’re Going to Sweat!

by Diane Stevens

After a great workout with my personal trainer, Kuti, I feel great; but my skin feels sweaty and dirty.  So I head straight to the shower. What about my scalp? Isn’t my scalp an extension of the same skin on my face? Yes! What does the salty sweat do to my scalp and hair?

Before we get started, there are some hair FACTS you should know about the structure of your hair. Hair has strengths and weaknesses and the more knowledge you have about your hair the healthier your hair and scalp will become. Hair is composed of keratin, a sulfur-rich protein that provides the hair with the strength it needs to withstand flat ironing, blow drying, combing, brushing, and chemicals. Each strand of hair emerges from a tiny tube-like pit in the skin called the follicle. At the base of the follicle is the papilla, the hair’s source of blood, oxygen, new cells, and other nutrients. The cells multiply in the papilla and become an individual hair with three separate layers..

The outer layer is the cuticle and its main job is to protect the inner layers from moisture loss; just inside the cuticle is the cortex which contains the pigment that gives your hair color; and the innermost portion is the medulla and its small core of cells run the length of the hair shaft.

So the question is what does salt and sweat do to my hair and scalp? Let’s start with what happens to the scalp. Your scalp naturally produces sebum from the sebaceous glands. In fact, sebum is responsible for keeping the skin and hair moisturized. On silky, straight hair, the sebum travels down the hair shaft and many people with straight hair have to shampoo every two days because the sebum makes their hair look oily and limp. Not so much with African-American hair. The sebum is unable to travel down the ridges of the curly hair shaft and the oil remains at the root area. Then, add in the factor of environmental residue–dirt likes to collect more dirt. This is one reason why many clients have aging skin-scalp and dermatological issues because the pores and follicles become clogged. For my African-American guests that work out frequently, we schedule an in-salon treatment called Nioxin Scalp Renew every 6-8 weeks. This treatment is a scalp treatment that gently exfoliates the scalp, removes build-up around the hair follicle and helps regenerate the scalp. (If you’re not close to one of Cole Stevens Salon locations, go to to find a Nioxin accredited stylist in your area.)

Now, what does sweat do to the hair? The sebum cannot travel down the hair shaft to protect and moisturize the strand, and to add insult to injury, the salty sweat travels immediately down the hair shaft to the porous ends and causes the hair to become dehydrated, dry and brittle. This causes damage and can shorten the life of the hair strand.



I always do my cardio workout and intense workouts on early Friday morning and early Saturday morning (which causes me to really sweat). Then I have my salon experience at CS on Saturday and my hair is hydrated, bouncy, and beautiful. I do low impact workout Monday and Wednesday and I use 2 two pumps of Sebastian Liquid Gloss or Wella Mirror Polish from mid shaft to ends to protect my hair from any salty sweat.

One fact is your hairstyle will change when you sweat. Wearing your hair in a straight style and expecting it not to change when you sweat is unreasonable. Prior to your workout, apply two pumps of Sebastian Liquid Gloss or Wella Mirror Polish to the hairline, root area, mid shaft to ends, then pin curl hair. Wear a cotton sweatband to absorb sweat around hairline–such as Save Your Do Gymwrap. Leave hair in pin curls until hair is completely dry. Products with light amounts of avocado oil, shea butter and/or jojoba oil are also recommended.

The best quick fix would be:

1. Cleanse, optimize and treat with Nioxin System 5 (, which has Smooth Plex, a unique blend of Kukui Oil and silk amino acids, gives hair moisture, shine and smooth control.
2. Treat hair with Nioxin’s Diamax hair Thickening Xtrafusion Treatment at roots (8-10 pumps)
3. Use Nioxin Silk Elixir as a leave in conditioner and smooth hair into a ponytail (even add a bun or draw string ponytail).

Stay away from pure olive oil, pure coconut oil and other pure form kitchen oils and home remedies as they are not water soluble enough and over time build up a filmy residue on the hair and will quickly attract environmental residue and dirt. When guests come into the salon with this build up it is impossible to remove in one salon visit and hair remains dirty.

Rather than always wearing your hair in a straight style, opt for a style with more texture. Flexirod sets, perm rod sets, two strand twists can hold up better throughout the week. The images below are of flexirod sets done by Renee Williams and Camille Austin, Senior Stylists at Cole Stevens Salon.

Braids are hot this season! The newest way to incorporate the braided texture is with a smooth, clean texture on top, very deep side part, and the loose braid low around the hairline. Use Nioxin Silk Elixir to smooth hair with a blow dryer. Before braiding, apply 2 pumps Sebastian Liquid Gloss or Wella Mirror Polish to the hairline, root area, mid shaft and ends, the loosely braid on both side and create a chignon or braid in back with remaining hair. Products with light amounts of avocado oil, shea butter and/or jojoba oil are also recommended.



2 thoughts on “Your Hair & Exercise: You’re Going to Sweat!

  1. I have a question. I get this salty sweat in my roots that look like dandruff that I can not seem to get out with washing after my work outs. I have tried many shampoos and conditioners but nothing has quite worked. Does this product help wash all that salty residue out completely? If not, do you have any tips for this? It is quite embarrassing!

    1. Residue on the scalp can be caused by product build-up, perspiration, chlorine, saltwater or scalp disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, dandruff.

      Cole Stevens Salon has a couple immediate solutions for you:

      1. It is always important to check with your dermatologist on any recurring scalp concerns/challenges.

      2. A great solution is an in-salon treatment called Nioxin Scalp Renew, a 10-minute treatment that gently exfoliates, sloughs off and whisks away follicle clogging sebum, debris and build up. The technology in Scalp Renew Dermabrasion has three sugars that gently exfoliate, fruit extracts, an aloe blend and moisture-retaining humectants. This is an in salon service that is recommended every 6-8 weeks. Available at Cole Stevens Salons in MD & DC

      3. Nioxin Clarifying Shampoo gently removes the chlorine, styling products, and other environmental buildup. Tip for curly hair: before getting in the shower, put Nioxin Clarifying Shampoo in a tint bowl, part hair and apply shampoo on scalp with your finger PRIOR to getting in shower (do not wet hair yet). Massage scalp so product distributes on entire scalp. Then get in shower and wet hair to create lather. Rinse. Next shampoo then condition with your regular shampoo for your hair type, ie Nioxin System 5 for medium to coarse hair to cleanse, optimize and treat.

      4. Eliminate flakes and sooth a dry scalp with Nioxin Scalp Recovery line which includes a medicated shampoo (an anti dandruff shampoo to cleanse the scalp), a conditioner to reduce dandruff and a soothing serum (A leave-on treatment) to relieve itching. Scalp Recovery is designed for scalp-related problems including seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff. It provides moisture balance, eliminating irritation and flaking.

      These treatments are available at Cole Stevens Salon.

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