12 Do’s and Don’ts of Exercising with Natural Hair (Natural hair AND self-care tips from NaturAll Club)

If you have natural, curly/kinky hair, chances are you have a frustrated relationship with exercise. When you put time and money into your hair, the last thing you want to do is ruin it with 30 minutes of excessive sweat- and if you only wash your hair once a week, how on earth are you supposed to work out several times a week?!

natural hair struggling to exercise regularly

According to a 2014 study, 45% of African American women avoid exercise because of their hair. Don't get us wrong- there are so many naturals who do work out and stay healthy! But sadly, there are many others who struggle to exercise sufficiently.

Exercise is essential in preventing heart disease and other illnesses; it keeps your weight regular and under control, and regulates other aspects of life including sleep, mood, memory, strength, and energy levels. If you were ever on a sports team or went through a season of exercising frequently, you’ll remember feeling better and happier on a daily basis when you exercise regularly.

exercise health benefits

Also, did you know that the health of your hair correlates with the health of your body? So exercise is actually good for your hair in the long run! Natural hair absolutely should not prevent you from experiencing all these benefits of exercise, but we also know that sweat and excessive washing can damage natural curls.

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or run 20 miles a week to stay healthy, but doctors across the board do recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to maintain your health. That’s a little less than an hour, three times a week, which might sound like an unreasonable goal. Does 150 minutes a week sound unattainable? Here are our tips for exercising with natural hair. 

put up natural hair while running

1. Do put your hair up.

Try a bun, ponytail, or pineapple to keep your hair off your face and neck, which will reduce contact with sweat and sweat overall. You can also try a low-manipulation protective style (such as twists, cornrows, or braids using your natural hair) and leave it in for the week until you're ready to wash your hair.

natural hair don't be afraid of sweat

2. Don’t be afraid of sweat!

With the right exercise and washing routine to keep your hair moisturized, you don’t need to hold yourself back from a good workout.

exercise in the morning to reduce sweat

3. Do optimize for cooler environments if sweat and frizz continue to be a problem.

If you live in a warm climate, work out early in the morning or in the evenings when it’s cooler, or turn the heat down in your house while you do weights.

let your natural hair breathe when you exercise

4. Don’t tie your headband or scarf too tight.

While satin protects your hair from breakage, it can increase and trap sweat if you overdo it. Let your scalp breath!

protect natural hair from frizz with satin headband

5. That said, Do use a satin-lined scarf or headband. 

This will prevent your edges from getting frizzy. Satin will reduce friction and breakage during your workout.

don't touch natural hair after exercise

6. Don’t touch your hair or take out your scarf/headband until your hair is dry.

Taking it down while it’s still wet will increase frizz. You can use the cool setting on a blow dryer to speed up this process!

refresh or cowash natural hair after frequent workouts

7. Do refresh your scalp and hair.

Use a cowash or essential oils if your hair feels dirty or sweaty in-between workouts. Many naturals who work out frequently opt to shampoo once a week and cowash mid-week. Use a moisturizer or leave-in conditioner every day to prevent dryness and breakage.

black girls run!

8. Don’t shampoo your hair after every workout.

Sweat already dries out your hair, and using shampoo in addition will remove natural oils from your hair and dry it out even more.

make a schedule to take care of your body and natural hair

9. Do make a schedule and stick to it.

A schedule will help you coordinate your hair and workout schedules. If you plan ahead, you won’t have to make a choice between caring for your health and your hair.

eat healthy foods and drink water for health and natural hair care

10. Don’t forget to drink water and eat well.

Not only does this keep your hair healthy, but healthy foods and sufficient water will make your workouts more effective and help you get stronger.

deep condition to protect hair from damage and dryness

11. Do deep condition every two weeks.

A deep conditioning routine is essential to replenish your hair with moisture and protect it from damage and sweat. Our avocado deep conditioners are especially formulated to protect and repair dry, damaged, or dull hair with natural nutrients and moisture. Check our our selection here.

don't sacrifice health for hair

12. Don’t get discouraged or sacrifice your health for your hair.

You’ll feel better as you get used to a coordinated routine that makes you look and feel your best.


  • Kimberly

    I really like going into the sauna after a good workout. How can I protect my 4c hair?

  • Jamie Cooper

    @onyi, thanks so much for your comment. You’re right that you can’t use a leave-in every day if you’ve already styled your hair, but you can use a moisturizer like a shea butter mix to moisturize your hair after a workout. I’d also recommend Jamaican black castor oil to heal and protect your edges. Remember, even if you wear your hair in twists or braids, it’s best for your hair if you take them out every two weeks so you can wash and deep condition your hair before putting it back into the style. The other tips should still apply to you! Thank you again for your feedback- it’s really important, and I’m sure many other readers had the same issue as you with the blogpost.

  • onyi

    this tips would be great ! if i did wash n go’s. i feel like most of the natural hair community doesn’t cater to twist/braid out girls who can’t use a leave in everyday cause it’ll ruin the style. i’ll try to take some of these into consideration but for the most part, this wasn’t very helpful.

  • DJ

    This was super helpful. On the hunt for satin-lined headbands right now. The co-washing and leave-in part was ace.

  • Loretta Marshall

    Thank you so much for this information. I have been natural since august of this year. I am a little nervous because I want to make sure I am taking care of my hair.

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