When Black Women Avoid Working Out Because of Their Hair
by Asia Milia Ware
13 December 2018
by Asia Milia Ware
If you've ever had to choose between keeping your edges laid and going to your morning spin class, you're not alone. This is a common battle for Black women who want to look good. While our hair is our crown, it can also be one of our biggest obstacles. A recent Nielsen study found that Black shoppers spend a whopping $473 million on haircare in 2017.
Hair is more than a look, it's an investment for Black women— expensive treatments, time consuming and pricey weave sew-ins, monthly trims, the list goes on. Who wants to turn around and sweat that out immediately after? It's important to look and feel good about ourselves and our hair is a huge part of that. "Some women might want to try and plan to be more active at times before they're about to style their hair, and maybe less so right after it's done," said Gary Bennett, the director of Duke's Obesity Prevention Program in the Archives of Dermatology. "Because in the end, it comes down to helping women balance their lifestyle needs with an interest in being healthy. And sometimes that requires a little bit of a trade-off."
Beauty expert Danielle Gray admits to adjusting her workouts to accommodate her hair care. "I plan my workouts to fall when my hair isn't 'done,' and then I'll take a 2-3 day workout break after my hair appointment," she explains.
If you prefer not to modify your schedule, protective styling proves to be the most beneficial option for balancing a healthy maintenance of hair and an active fitness life. Hairstylist Shannon Hampton specializes in protective styles that promote growth even through the sweaty cardio sessions. "Finding the right style can be challenging at first. A good custom wig unit is one of my favorite go to's," Hampton says. "It's so easy to take on and off over your cornrows before and after a good workout. You can also remain fabulous with long tresses."
The issue is deeper than a hairstyle, though, and adds a dimension to the obstacles Black women already face in the corporate space with hair — it also affects our health. According to NPR, African American women have higher rates of obesity. "We have health disparities, and obesity is just one of them," Dr. Regina Benjamin told NPR. "Part of it's lifestyle. Part of it's genetics. Part of it is improving the way we eat, the way we exercise, the way we make things a part of our everyday life." This doesn't mean that hair is the sole reasoning behind a lack of movement, but it should encourage more African American women to create a lifestyle supporting personal priorities — health being one, regardless of the repercussions it may have on hair.
Workout connoisseur Lashanda Jackson says she alters her hair due to daily exercising. "We [Black women] can't just hop in the shower, wash out hair, and go without it being a whole process," she explains. "A big part of why I keep protective styles in my hair is because I don't want to deal with what sweating and saunas do to my hair. I don't need one more excuse to not workout."
The bottom line is that though we may let our hair disrupt our health, but we don't have to. There are products that can make your decision easier — sweatbands are one. Gymwrap scientifically-designed headbands absorb and transfer sweat away from the hair allowing your edges to stay intact.
The beautiful thing about ethnic hair is that you can style it in so many different ways. If you don't care about securing your silk press with a sweatband then you may opt for a sleek ponytail or bun. EcoStyler Gel is always a winner for a nice slick back. It holds natural hair well while simultaneously moisturizing. Slip a satin-lined scarf on for extra hold!
If you have a lot of length, then your best option is a high ponytail to avoid sweat on your ends, in addition to your edges and roots. A lot of women fear creases and dents from ponytails, but the latest spiral hair tie trend eliminates all of those fears.
Oils should be your best friend as you commit to maintaining your hair while chasing a healthier you! Sweat dries out your scalp, but shampooing your hair every other day isn't the answer — it's too consuming for Black women with natural or relaxed hair. Mielle Organics Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Oil's intensive formula provides essential oils that can help your hair remain fresh and healthy.
As we quickly approach the new year and you pen a list of goals including a snatched waist for summer 2019, remember to prioritize what matters. I know nothing feels as good as walking down the street with your long tresses blowing in the wind or your curls finally behaving for a bomb twist out, but being internally healthy feels just as good. It all boils down to your health versus your hair. Braids can be a great exercise-friendly style and recently I've jumped on the wig trend. Neither are my preferred styles, but working out frequently is important to me. Black women are in a relationship with our hair and just like any other relationship, compromise is key. Don't let your hair hold you back any longer.
Photo via Getty