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Is Sweat Bad for Your Hair and Scalp?

• May 9, 2013


Sillabear says…I am looking for ways to minimize the amount of times that I wash my hair and I recently came across information that utilizing a mixture of 1:2 parts of peppermint oil to jojoba oil will break down the salts that are deposited on the scalp from pores after a strenuous exercise. Is this true? If not, do products such as dry shampoo rid one’s scalp of these potentially damaging salts?

The Beauty Brains respond:
Before we talk about sweat removal let’s do a quick recap of what’s in sweat.

Sweaty chemistry
Our bodies sweat through two different glands: eccrine (which are found pretty much all over the body) and apocrine (which are concentrated where there are hair follicles.) Both glands produce sweat that consists of water and minerals (or salts). Specifically, sweat contains sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. But only the apocrine glands product lactate, urea, and other substances which make this milky sweat so tasty to odor causing bacteria.

Peppermint oil or jojoba oil have no special ability to breakdown or remove sweat. Peppermint oil could have some antibacterial properties which might inhibit some of the odor associated with eccrine gland perspiration but it is also a mild irritant and may end up making your scalp inflamed. The “stuff” you’re trying to get rid of like salts, Sodium lactate and urea are water soluble so jojoba oil won’t do much to remove them either. A dry shampoo which contains a water absorbent starch might help “soak up” some of these materials if you’re that determined to get them off your scalp. Which brings us to the main point of this post…

Is sweat bad for scalp?
Why do you think that salts from sweat are damaging in the first place? And what exactly do you think is becoming damaged? Your skin? Your hair? That may not be the case! In fact, some of the components of sweat have skin moisturizing properties. (Lactate and urea are found in many skin lotions.) And there’s some evidence that suggests sweat may actually keep you healthy by helping to ward off certain microorganisms.

The Beauty Brains bottom line
If you’re sweaty and stinky you should certainly clean up as needed. But if you’re just worried about sweat “damaging” your scalp or hair it’s probably less of a problem than you realize.

Ladies who work out regularly: how do you handle the sweat factor?

“Sweat mineral-element responses during 7 h of exercise-heat stress,” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2007 Dec;17(6):574–82.
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26 Comments on "Is Sweat Bad for Your Hair and Scalp?"

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It’s pretty harmless aside from the potential odor factor. If it weren’t I would be completely bald by now, I sweat like a racehorse from my scalp and always have, like if I walk around the block I look like I just shampooed no matter how long my hair is. Thinking shorter would mean cooler and drier, I cut it and was wrong-it only made me less absorbent! The only issue I could see as potentially damaging is, if you use a lot of heat or tension on hair filled with the salts and minerals from the sweat, but that’s… Read more »
I agree with Mskat. I sweat a lot too. I just make sure I wash my hair at least once a week, no longer than two weeks. If I don’t, my scalp itches and I hate an itchy scalp. In between washes, I clean my scalp with the Taliah Wahjid moister cleanse spray with spearmint and peppermint. It does a good job refreshing my scalp. I heard seabreeze and witch hazel are good too. I try not to wait too long to wash the sweat…I don’t want to be the lady with the smelly hair! For me, my protective style… Read more »

I brought this up in a forum with Felicia Leatherwood. She told us that we sweat toxins that we shouldn’t let dry on our hair after a workout. She recommended Shea moisture detoxifying shampoo. It does the job, but I prefer to cowash more often, so I may try the detox conditioner instead. I too am not a fan of over-cleansing my hair. Still trying to figure out how to refresh after workouts myself!

I sweat from my head like crazy and I used it as an excuse to avoid the gym. Permed or natural,I hate moist scalp. I want to be healthy so I go to the gym so I just split my hair down the middle into pony tails and tye a bandana on my head real tight to absorb the sweat as much as possible. Once I’m done I shower & then untie & shake out my hair to let my scalp breath and allow the residual sweat to dry up. Real wash day takes hrs so sometimes I just do… Read more »

i just spritz my scalp with water w/ tea tree oil and go on about my life. my scalp is cleaned once every 3 days anyway, so i dont worry about it too much. Even if sweat is bad for your hair, its not a big deal. If i had to choose between my hair and my health, i’d choose my health. my hair can fall out. i can just make an awesome wig. lol.


I exercise 5–6 days a week.

When I exercise, I’m either rocking twists, a bun or a puff. For twists, I wear a satin scarf with a funky bandana on top. For buns or puff, I wear a bright headband.

After exercising, I shower and either untwist my hair or reapply a bt of el to my bun or puff.

I wash my hair weekly with a sulfate-free shampoo. I don’t do anything else to it — or my scalp — during the week.


anything else = washing or treatments (oiling, etc.)


plain water rinse after workout, red meat free diet everyday. small dab of castor oil to scalp occasionally.


I work out 3–4 times a week. I wash my hair every week to two weeks depending on how my scalp feels. I put my locs up in a bun on top of my head and wear a sweat band when I work out. I want to try a new method from an article I saw on this site “How to Wash Twists without Getting them fuzzy which involves washing the scalp and only with an applicator bottle except I’m going to do an acv rinse.

Amber from TN

The hair benefits you get from working out (increased blood flow of nutrients, oxygen, vitamins, etc) outweigh any damage caused my salts in sweat.


I sweat a great deal in my hair when I workout regularly, and the difference I saw was that my hair was much drier, even though I was taking care of it as usual. I added vegetable glycerin to my water bottle to combat this, and now I do not have that problem. Other than that, I saw no damage to my hair. Hope this helps.


I think it varies from person to the past my hair was very tolerant of the sweat but now if i go to the gym daily and allow it to stay on myscalp i suffer from extreme shedding.


I played basketball all through highschool and college so i worked out 6 days a week for a least 2.5 hours a day for about 8 years. I sweat so much I could wring it out of my hair. I only washed my hair once a week and saw no problems. At one point I did wear two strand twists and rinsed my hair after every practice but it did not seem to make a difference.


I typically just wore my hair in a ponytail or bun to keep it off my neck


Lactate and urea are found in many skin lotions.” Isn’t urea found in urine?


Yes, urea is a nitrogenous waste found in urine, but it is also found in quite a few cosmetic products.

You’d be surprised about all of the “gross” chemicals that are incorporated in an ingredients list. Most red dyes come from the crushed up shells of beetles. Some cosmetic product incorporate placenta. There is an FDA-approved amount of insect parts in our food. Such is life 🙂


I work out 5–6 days a week. Heavy duty bootcamp types of things, so I sweat. I have found that it has no affect on my hair. I wash once or twice a week. I don’t have any odor in my hair and I believe its because I brush or comb it out after my workout and wear sweatbands to help absorb moisture. The only thing that ends up smelling at the end of the week is my laundry basket! haha. Tide febreze sport helps with that though (but thats a different article for a different website!)

I have to disagree with this article in that sweat moisturizes your hair. Sweat contains salts, and salts always suck out water from surfaces that they’re on. That’s why salt is so effect at killing slugs and snails; it literally sucks out all the water that those creatures need in their cells. Since bacteria seems to accumulate where sweat is, more bacteria in hair follicles in addition to salt drawing moisture from the hair, means that there is no way that sweat is beneficial to the hair… In my personal experience, sweat on my scalp is really bad. It makes… Read more »

You totally misunderstood the meaning of the word ‘salt’ in this context. The salt that you’re talking about is only one specific type of salt, sodium chloride. The article used the chemical definition of salt, which is similar to minerals. As far as I know, not all minerals absorb water and dry out the hair.

Do what works for your hair, but don’t spread false information based on misunderstandings. The natural hair community has enough myths to dispel.

I am going to second Jennifer. Salt water is what I used on my body piercing when it got infected to dry it out. Salt is often sprinkled on fish to cure it aka dry it out. This is what people did with meats before refrigeration became the thing. It draws water out of the cells of the meat and the water is where the bacteria lived, thus keeping the meat fresher. I teach and practice hot yoga in a 100+ degree room. If I don’t rinse my hair, it gets dry and brittle. I think it depends on how… Read more »

WATER is our friend.…water grows and hydrates things…If you are working out 2 to 6 days, washing your…at least your scalp, isn’t an option.


What a great response. Very well grounded in biological and chemical principles. Thank you! By the way, when I swim in salt water, my hair is softer. Many of the salts found in sea water are excreted by our sweat glands, so scalp sweat may be a plus for me.


I’m fortunate, I think, in that I only need to wash my hair every 4 or 5 days. My hair is healthier for it. I bicycle every day and so sweat alot. So I will run water through my hair every other day but I only use shampoo, conditioner, and other hair products once every 4 or 5 days.

There is a new product out called Hair Warrior. It is a product that protects your hair from sweat while you work out and is applied before you exercise to dry hair. It is absorbed immediately into the hair and will not run into your eyes or face. Hair Warrior is body heat activated and, it not only hydrates hair but protects it from the salt produced from sweat which leaves hair brittle, dull & dry. The best way I can describe it is an electrolyte for your hair. Hair Warrior helps eliminate the “frizzies” and holds color for approx.… Read more »
Looks like the opinions are split about it being good or bad for our hair. My experience is after severe hair loss at my nape for years I finally came across a post that said the minerals dry out hair. I’d tried everything else so, I started co-washing my hair at the end of every work out day as a full-time sweat-monster Zumba instructor. Its the only year I have not lost my hair. Even when I tried to wash my hair less and skip a day my hair started itchy and broke with in days. My hair HATES sweat!… Read more »
Yeah,I hate sweaty scalp.I have dense curls so I have issues not washing it.I get moist itchy& I scratch so much I can’t take it for 2 long.I usually wash weekly but if I got 2 the gym 2–4 times that week,I gotta wash.even if its a half assed rinse.I’ve tried acv as a post workout rinse to avoid a full wash works ok but nothings like a full wash.I find the sweat maynot be harmful but it sure causes me to get nasty dandruff after a day or two! Ick!I’ve done the scalp only wash which usually ends… Read more »

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