Donna Kim-Brand

Sweat and Hair Loss

Think sweat and some of you will gag and gasp, thinking of wet, sticky and smelly bodies. Others love the notion of sweat, thinking of detox, cleansing and cooling bodies which have exerted themselves on a path to perfection.

Have you ever thought of sweat in relation to hair loss? Believe it or not, some aspects of profuse and prolonged sweating can actually lead to hair loss. Here’s the scuttlebutt…

When sweat is doing its job of releasing bodily toxins through the skin and scalp, lactic acid in the sweat can mix with the keratin in hair and cause damage or even eventual hair loss. Add to that ‘sebum’, secreted by the sebaceous glands, which combines with sweat and oils to form an acidic coating on your scalp. It acts as a barrier which can prevent viruses and contaminants from making their way through your skin, but can also clog your follicles if left there too long.

In addition, sweat glands all over your body and scalp release sweat which can mix with pre-existing bacteria and cause nasty fungal formations. This is a major cause of the vile smell associated with sweat. Worse, these infections can set the stage for hair loss if not eradicated or treated.

A third causal relationship between sweat and hair loss is said to be that excess sweating can lead to dehydration of the hair follicle. Ironically, the wetness of the sweat can mix with dry skin flakes and cause the pores to be blocked and choke off the hair follicles. In time, if not handled, your hair can fall out.

How are we to protect our lovely locks from damage or loss in the hot sweaty summer or when regularly participating in sweat producing activities? One approach is to reduce scalp sweat in the first place, and a second is to deal with an already sweaty scalp.

To Reduce Scalp Sweat:

  • Reduce stress, tension and anxiety in as many areas of your life as possible
  • Include episodes of deep breathing and gentle stretching in your daily activities
  • Stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in alignment for ‘healthy’ sweating
  • Maintain a level of fitness and an active lifestyle so your threshold for sweating is higher
  • Wash your hair after exercise or prolonged exposure to heat, especially if hair has been trapped under a hat

To Minimize Damage from a Sweaty Scalp:

  • Improve circulation and blood flow by brushing your hair or scalp frequently, which stimulates  pressure points of your hair follicles and helps remove scaly skin. Dry brushing your skin all over your body and head is known to help flush out toxins. Just remember to brush towards lymph channels to help with drainage and prevent stockpiles of toxic gunk.
  • Keep your hair loose and free-flowing in sweaty environments (when appropriate) rather than tightly styled for hours in ponytails or buns that can trap sweat and prevent evaporation of moisture. Left too long without proper air or ‘breathing space’, the accumulation of sweat, oils, dirt and bacteria can cause the damage or hair loss mentioned above. If you need to keep your hair out of your face and eyes for specific activities, remember to release your locks as soon as safe to do so.
  • Use steam on your your hair, either in a sauna or tabletop steamer, to open the pores on your scalp and more easily release scaly skin, dirt, accumulated oils  and toxins.
  • Massage your scalp with moisturizing conditioners or rich oils which will nourish both hair follicles and hair strands and soften accumulations of dry skin cells. Argon or Moroccan oils are now readily available over the counter in most pharmacies or salons.
  • The main treatment to prevent sweat from causing hair damage or loss is simply to wash your hair more often with enhancing shampoos, or at a minimum, rinse sweaty hair with clear, fresh water. This will, in a manner of speaking, wipe the slate of your scalp clean with each washing.

So take advantage of the benefits of sweat and sweating to cleanse your body and scalp from the inside out. But do take care to minimize excessive sweating or follow through and remove sweaty residue before it causes hair damage or loss. Otherwise, the resulting hair loss would really stink…!

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