African American women cannot afford to let the excuse "I don't want to mess up my hair" keep them from meeting the recommended guidelines for physical activity. It is well know that African American women have higher rates of being either overweight or obese when compared to their peers. A main contributor to this occurrence is lack of exercise. Several barriers have been cited as reasons why African American do not workout including time, environment and finances. A new barrier recently researched is hair care maintenance. A survey conducted by Wake Forest University showed that 31% of the women surveyed were less active on purpose out of concern for their hair and style maintenance. This is a valid concern since African American women spend and average of $100 on salon visits or the negative effects sweat has on their hair. Salt in the sweat can dry the hair and make it more fragile. In addition, applying excess heating due to the use of hair dryers and flat irons may cause the hair to become brittle and lead to breakage. Many hair stylists believe that high heat applied to the hair should not be done several times during the week. Below are several tips for active African American women to protect and maintain hair before and during and after workouts.
Before the workout:
For long hair, either clip the hair off the neck, with a butterfly clip or ribbon tie. Neither method will leave indentations in the hair. Women with long or short hair can tie the hair up in a cotton bandanna or scarf. However, this is not advised for those who sweat excessively in inner portions of their head. This will cause swelling for women with natural hair and will cause the hair to feel brittle for women with relaxed hair. The bottom line is to make sure the hair is off the neck and hairline.
During the workout:
It is important to stay hydrated. Without enough water, the hair will lack moisture. For women who sweat a lot, periodically pat dry the hair to remove excess sweat.
After the workout:
For all hair types and styles, apply a small amount of leave-in moisturizer. For those who wear straight hair, after applying the moisturizer, wrap the hair and keep it tied tightly till you are ready for styling. For curly hair styles, after moisturizing, wear a bonnet if the plan is to blow dry and style. No bonnet needed if the plan is to keep it curly. For those who did not sweat a lot, after unwrapping the hair, finger style or flat iron with a light serum or light pomade to add moisture and shine back to the hair. For the heavy sweaters, apply a leave in thermal conditioner before blow-drying the hair on low heat. Then apply a small amount of serum before styling.
The active African American women should wash and condition their hair weekly and deep condition bi-weekly. Let the conditioner sit on the hair for 15 minutes before rinsing. Make sure to get protein treatments and conditioning treatments by a stylist. This will help you maintain great looking hair.