How To Perfect Your Haircare Routine For The Gym

By Charlie Colville

2 weeks ago

There's more to it than throwing your hair up in a ponytail


While you might have your post-workout skincare routine down to a fine art, can the same be said for your haircare? We asked the experts what we should be doing before, during and after our next gym workout to ensure our hair stays in tip-top shape (and spoiler: yes, you are meant to wash your hair after).

Skincare At The Gym: A Guide

Gym Haircare 101

Should We Wash Our Hair Before Or After A Gym Session?

It’s an age-old question: is it better to get that shower out of the way before or after hitting the gym? ‘Definitely after,’ says Anabel Kingsley, a Consultant Trichologist and Brand President at Philip Kingsley. ‘Would you wash your body before you worked out instead of after? Likely not. It is a bit pointless to wash your hair before, as your scalp will sweat.

‘Depending on what you do at the gym, you may also rest your hair on a dirty workout mat or other exercise equipment, or keep touching your hair with sweaty, oily, dirty hands.’ So, that settles it.

There’s only one event in which Anabel recommends washing your hair first: ‘However, if it’s a choice between washing your hair before or not at all, then wash it before.’

Your Pre-Gym Hair Routine

Since you won’t be washing your hair until after your gym session, Anabel recommends treating yourself to a leave-in product that can do it’s thing while you do yours. ‘Gym time is a great time to multitask with a hair mask,’ she says. ‘Before working out, dampen your hair and apply a pre-shampoo deep conditioning treatment. The heat from working out will help the product to penetrate.’

Your Post-Gym Hair Routine

As previously mentioned, your post-gym routine is where you should focus on washing your hair properly. However, before getting in the shower, Anabel recommends checking for any lingering tangles. ‘Hair can be more tangled after a gym session – and if you start out with tangles when you shampoo, you’ll end up with more,’ she says. ‘Either detangle your hair before getting in the shower with a wide -tooth comb and detangling spray, or detangle your hair when it’s wet in the shower with conditioner before you shampoo. (But if you use a pre-shampoo treatment while you’re at the gym, there’s no need to detangle before shampooing.)

‘Then, wash and condition your hair as usual,’ she continues. ‘If you shampoo every day to every other day, shampoo once, if you shampoo less than every other day, shampoo twice and then condition as usual.’

If you’re unable to hit the showers after a workout, don’t worry – Anabel has some tips to keep your hair looking and feeling fresh. ‘If you aren’t going to wash your hair after the gym, apply a dry shampoo with scalp benefits,’ she says. ‘Also, if you don’t mind getting your roots damp – although they probably will be anyway for the sweat – swipe on an antimicrobial scalp toner beforehand.’

Your routine should also go beyond direct haircare. ‘Remember to refuel by eating a nutrient dense meal or snack after working out,’ says Anabel. ‘Good nutrition is incredibly important for hair growth.’

Woman lifting weights

(c) Sushil Ghimire, Unsplash

What About During A Workout?

There are a few things you can also do while at the gym to look after your hair. ‘It’s best to put your hair up to prevent it from tangling, stop it from being accidentally yanked out or even caught in equipment,’ highlights Anabel. ‘A low-traction braid or a bun work well.’

How To Tackle Scalp Health At The Gym

‘Like any area of your skin, your scalp can become dehydrated,’ says Anabel. ‘At the gym, make sure to hydrate by drinking enough liquid. You can also cleanse your scalp afterwards with a shampoo suitable for your hair texture, and apply a scalp mask before working out – but check the instructions on the back of the product as some of these are only meant to be left on for 20 minutes.’

The Products To Have On Hand

Below, Anabel shares her haircare checklist for the gym:

  • Pre-shampoo conditioning masks are great to use at the gym. I love the idea of conditioning your body and hair at the same time.
  • Detangling sprays and a good dry shampoo are essential if you aren’t going to be shampooing and conditioning afterwards.
  • While your gym may provide shampoo and conditioner, it’s usually best to bring your own as the one they have may not be suitable for your hair texture.
  • If your scalp gets itchy after a work-out session, use a soothing anti-microbial shampoo.

Featured image: Emy, Unsplash