As the ancient, sagacious Home Goods framed print proverb goes, "The cure for anything is salt—sweat, tears, and the sea." While my inner cheugy self won't argue with the latter two (I'm a Cancer, after all), I raise eyebrows at "sweat." I don't like it anywhere, and rarely consider it "a cure," especially if it comes anywhere near my scalp. But as the temps start to climb and summer inches closer, greasy roots and oil-hiding ponytails are inevitable... or are they?
According to cosmetologist and SalonCentric store manager, Carlie Kazimir, they're actually not. "That's the magic of dry shampoos—they save you from having to wash your hair for days on end," she says. Yes, even on the sweatiest, swampiest days of summer, the right products can save your hair from another wash.
The dirt on sweat, according to the pros
If you're like me, sweat might conjure a negative connotation. Turns out, Home Goods was right—sweat *can be* a positive thing, even in our hair. Mitigating that in warm climates or during exercise, though, is key.
"When it gets warmer, we sweat a bit more, making sebum—the oil our scalp naturally produces—easier to move around, causing greasiness," explains Stephanie Sey, trichologist and specialist for hair-care brand Grow Gorgeous. "This may affect some more than others, with other factors, such as hormones, causing some peoples scalps to produce more oil."
For some, this might not cause any issue at all. For others, though, it might change the appearance and texture of hair (aka that greasy, oily look), cause odor, or a susceptibility to dandruff. "Sweating is a healthy bodily function, however, we do need to rinse sweat from our hair as it can cause dryness. Once the water evaporates it leave salt residue which can dry out the hair," Sey says.
You can definitely take a shower and wash your hair—just be sure not to over-wash it. This might sound counterintuitive, but the more you wash, the drier your hair and scalp become, which can lead to more oil production and defeat the purpose of washing it the first place. Sey suggests washing normally with non-drying products. "Shampoos with salt/sodium chloride as one of the first 3-5 ingredients can be problematic," she says.
Other red flags include words like "moisturizing" or "hydrating," says Kazimir. "When your scalp gets sweaty, it produces an excess of sebum, which means adding more oil will only make it oilier," she says. "Don't use coconut oil, argan oil... don't put conditioner on your scalp, and use product on the mid-shaft [of your strands] to your ends."
As for green flags you want in hair products for sweaty scalps, Kazimir recommends looking for words like "clarifying" or "purifying," and ingredients like mint and eucalyptus (just as long as you don't overdo it, which can further dry out scalps). Absorbent ingredients, like charcoal or rice starch, are great too. Sey also swears by niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3. "It helps with collagen production improving the quality of the skin, and also helps the scalp create a lipid barrier on the surface of the skin meaning it helps retain moisture for longer, helping with the drying effects of sweat," Sey says.
For some, sweat is a cure. Others are looking for a cure for sweaty scalps. Stock up on these products for a clean, dry scalp all summer long.
The 8 best hair products for sweaty scalps
Best spray dry shampoo
If you were to ask the W+G team what their go-to dry shampoo is, you’re bound to hear “Living Proof Perfect Hair Day” unanimously. While other dry shampoos just sit on top of the follicle to absorb grease and sweat, Living Proof cleans your hair, giving it a fresh wash without the actual wash. Its high-tech formulation de-greases your scalp while you wear and releases a burst of fresh-smelling goodness on a time-release, so your hair always smells good.
Best powder dry shampoo
If you prefer sucking up grease and sweat with a powder dry shampoo, do it with R+Co. It comes in a pump (though it’s not an aerosol) that allows you to get really technical about what parts of your scalp need a little TLC. Its super-absorbent formula is boosted with mane-loving ingredients, like burdock root extract known for its antioxidant properties and jojoba seed oil, a weightless conditioner that adds shine but not weight. Its fresh, clean scent doesn’t hurt either.
Best post-gym spritzer
For the days when your hair just needs to hit refresh, get Davines’ Hair Refresher. It’s technically a dry shampoo, but it goes on a little mistier and less spray-y than your typical aerosol can. It’s star ingredient is rice starch which automatically sucks up sweat on even the hottest, swampiest days, giving you a, “I swear I showered this morning,” fresh ‘do. A warning: using it will make you almost never want to shower again. Almost…
Best scalp treatment
Kazimir recommends the entire Awaken Surface line for oily hair, but if you’re really struggling with sweaty and grime, this treatment should do the trick. “It’s designed to change the pH balance of your hair and scalp,” she explains. “So whatever that challenge is—oiliness, dryness, or any other problem—it helps balance your scalp to get it back to a healthy point.”
Best scalp booster
As Sey mentioned, products with niacinamide are key for regulating oily scalps as they aid in collagen production and help retain moisturizer. If you struggle with sweat and oil and want to stimulate hair growth, she recommends laying the foundation with this booster from Grow Gorgeous. Using it is simple: after your wash, massage it into your scalp and let it work its magic (don’t worry—it won’t dry greasy). Your hair will be set up for success, quite literally, from the ground up.
Best clarifying shampoo
The days when it’s so hot you seem to get out of the shower sweating? Use this stuff. This purifying shampoo by Christophe Robin is ultra-clarifying, blended with sea salt to really detoxify and de-gunk the sweatiest, stinkiest scalps. Your scalp will thank you for rubbing this minty, tingly stuff all over it, and your strands will be clean as a whistle, ready to stave off oil and grease even when the temps turn up.
Best texturizing spray
As Kazimir mentioned, those who suffer from a sweaty scalp have to be really careful about the products they add back into their hair once it’s dry. This matte texture spray from Amika answers the call for a less oil-inducing product that gives hair volume and life. Instead of salt, it uses zeolite (another natural mineral) to give hair that windswept, “undone” look without weighing it down.
Best root reviver
No gym bag or yoga duffel is complete without this tangy root refresher that strands suck right up. It’s formulated with apple cider vinegar which has been shown to help with balancing scalp pH and bacterial growth. After your sweatiest sesh, spritz this stuff on your roots and use your fingers to distribute the product—you’ll notice almost instantly how well it brings hair back to life (and makes it smell fresh, too).
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