HAIR REVELATIONS: Working Out and The Effects of Sweat on Hair
HAIR REVELATIONS: Working Out and The Effects of Sweat on Hair
HAIR REVELATIONS: Working Out and The Effects of Sweat on Hair
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Love it or loathe it, exercise is necessary to maintain a healthy body. With exercise comes sweat, made of salt and water. And with salt and water comes a rush of endorphins... and wet hair.

For our third Hair Revelations story, we consulted with two pros. We met with San Francisco Pilates instructor Karen Henderson and discussed how she cares for her hair as someone who breaks a sweat 6 days a week. Our in-house hair specialist Karis Staley shared some facts about the effects of sweat on scalp and hair health. Read to the end for pro tips on workout hair care and an at-home Pilates technique anyone can do. 


Sweat. Wet, drippy, salty sweat, the kind that starts from the scalp and streams down the face, into the eyes and down the chin, proof that our bodies are working hard and leaving our hair soaked with salty water.

Whatever your favorite exercise may be, running, high-intensity-training, Bikram yoga, mini workouts with your favorite Instagram fitness guru, you will inevitably sweat. Sweating helps regulate body temperature, it keeps us cool and prevents the body from overheating and it’s tangible proof that you’re working hard. All that exercise releases endorphins, peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors and act as the body’s natural stress and pain reliever. It also generates skin cell turnover and helps with hormone regulation. Plus, it just feels good.

We visited Karen in her studio during a client session. She’s training to climb Mt. Rainier in late spring and is focused on strength training and cardio. We are in awe. Check out her typical workout week:




Humans have approximately 2 - 4 million sweat glands found all over the body, except on the nails, ears and lips. Even our scalp sweats.

A few important facts:  

  • Eccrine glands are the most numerous, distributed across nearly the entire body surface area, and responsible for the highest volume of sweat excretion.
  • Apocrine glands open directly into hair follicles instead of onto the skin surface and release sweat directly through the hair follicle. They release a heavier, fat-laden sweat that carries a distinct odor which occurs when apocrine sweat breaks down and mixes with the bacteria on your skin or scalp.
  • Sweat is moderately acidic to neutral pH (4.5-7). The best pH for hair is around 5, so if the pH of sweat leans more towards 7, it could cause the hair cuticle layer to swell.

We can smell the gym now… ew. 


Sweat left on the scalp can contribute to buildup which can cause hair loss if left untreated. We plan on keeping our hair for as long as possible. Here are a few things to know about the effects of sweat and salt on hair:

  • Bacteria loves moisture. A scalp wet with sweat can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can make dandruff and itchy scalp conditions worse.
  • The salt in sweat can be drying if left on the scalp and hair too long.
  • About one percent of sweat is a combination of salt and fat, the remainder is water. That water causes hair to stretch and swell, raising the hair cuticles, causing frizz and leaving hair vulnerable to snagging and breakage.

We asked our Pilates pro Karen about her haircare routine. Because of her early morning training schedule, she washes her hair at night, twice a week, and then wears it down the day after washing. When it hasn’t been washed in a couple of days she wears it in a low ponytail. When she’s working out, it’s up in a high, top knot with a headband to manage both hair and sweat. We love a good hair routine.

We were inspired by Karen to take care of our bodies as well as we know how to take care of our hair. Here’s an easy at-home Pilates move that anyone can do: 


As with our bodies, so with our hair, taking preventative measures is key to preventing injury, maintaining health, and reaping the benefits of a fit body and healthy hair.

Follow these tips for your healthiest workout hair:

  • Wet hair is weak hair. Wear a headband to help absorb sweat when exercising (a little 1980s vibe doesn’t hurt).
  • Be proactive. Try dry shampoo to absorb sweat after a workout – be careful not to overdo it as too much dry shampoo can also cause hair follicles to clog. 

Don’t sweat it, just sweat. 

Karen incorporates creative and intelligent movement into her sessions, ranging from traditional Pilates exercises to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). She loves helping her clients discover and maintain proper alignment in order to work efficiently, deeply, and pain-free.

To find out more about Karen Henderson you can follow her on Instagram @kgh_pilates and her studio @embracehealthsf.