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Like it or not, sweating is something that pretty much all of us do (when people can’t, it’s called anhidrosis). And contrary to the popular belief of some, sweating’s purpose isn’t to remove toxins from your system (your liver and kidneys do that); no, sweating is designed to regulate your body’s temperature.

Since this is the time of the year when we typically sweat the most, I thought it would be a good idea to explore some of the ways that sweat can affect our scalp and hair. Because, believe it or not, there are several. 

Sweat Can Dry Out Your Hair

There is quite a bit of sodium in sweat which is why it tastes a lot like saltwater. Saltwater isn’t great for your hair or your scalp because it zaps all of the natural moisture that’s in both. And when your hair is dehydrated, that can lead to dry and brittle hair (which can also cause split ends and breakage) and/or a dry and itchy scalp. Neither of these are good.

Sweat Can Clog Up Your Hair Follicles

You probably never thought about the fact that there is a link between sweat and hair loss. But the reality is that when sebum and a buildup of sweat combine, that can create a substance that ends up clogging up your hair follicles. And yes, over time, that can result in hair loss if you’re not careful. How wild is that?

Sweat Can Lead to Scalp Inflammation

Something that is present in sweat is lactic acid. When you sweat excessively, this kind of acid can irritate your scalp. Then, when you scratch your scalp in order to find some relief, that can actually make the itching a lot worse — and that can result in scalp damage due to dirty fingernails and/or creating lesions on your scalp.

Sweat Can Alter Your Hair Color

So, here’s a doozy. Did you know that sweat can fade your hair color? Yep. Just like with saltwater, if you let sweat stay in your hair for too long, it can strip your hair of the dye that’s in it which results in your needing coloring touch-ups more often (which could also lead to more hair damage).

Sweat Can Weaken Your Strands Over Time

Remember what I said about lactic acid earlier? Something else that it has the tendency to do is bind itself to the keratin in your hair. When this happens, not only will it dry your hair out (as stated before), it can also weaken the bonds of your hair as well. And eventually, that can cause hair loss too (wow!).

How to Protect Your Hair from Sweat

So, now that you know some of the ways that sweat can wreak complete and total havoc on your hair, what are some things that you can do to prevent that from transpiring — especially during a season when sweating is pretty unavoidable?

1. Rinse your hair after working out

One of the best ways to get “saltwater” out of your hair is to rinse it out with fresh water. So, after working out or spending a lot of time in the sun, consider giving your hair a good rinse with some cool water (you don’t wanna use hot water; it dehydrates hair too).

If you’re planning on wearing a wash ‘n go, this shouldn’t be a problem because the water will help to hydrate your natural curls. If you’ve got your hair in a protective style (like some box braids), a quick rinse should be relatively easy to do too. On the other hand, if your hair is in some other style and you absolutely don’t want to wreck it by rinsing it, I’ve got another suggestion towards the end of this piece.

2. Exfoliate your scalp

If you want to keep sweat (and product buildup) from clogging up your pores, exfoliating your scalp is always gonna be your best bet. Not only will it help to keep sweat from irritating your scalp, it will soothe your scalp too. If you’ve never done this before, we’ve got some helpful tips and recipes. Check out our articles “This is Why You Need to Exfoliate Your Scalp”, “Don't Scratch, Scrub: 5 Scalp Scrub Recipes” and “10 Masks & Scrubs that Make Your Scalp Feel Amazing”.

3. Apply a leave-in conditioner

Whether you’re in between wash days or you want to add some moisture to your hair after exercising but you don’t want to go so far as drenching it with water, a fair compromise is to apply a leave-in conditioner. If it’s water-based, it can bring some hydration to your hair without adding a ton of product build-up. It will also make it more difficult for lactic acid to damage your hair strands.

As you can see, sweat in the hair is common but it’s not something that you shouldn’t prepare your hair (and scalp) for. And if you follow these tips, your tresses should be able to successfully withstand the heat — and the sweat — that this summer will be sure to bring.