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African-American Hair and Exercise: Does One Affect the Other?

There are known disparities in the amount of exercise African American women are engaging in compared to other ethnic and racial groups in the US. Researchers are exploring what some of the factors may be that cause African American women’s exercise habits to lag behind. In a previous study, nearly 40% of women surveyed stated that they avoided exercise to preserve their hair and 50% felt they needed to modify their style to accommodate exercise. A recent study looked at the hair-care practices and concerns of physically active African American women in the hopes of identifying a recommended regimen.

About 60 women in a community physical activity program were surveyed about their hair-care practices and concerns. Scalp itching, hair breakage, and scalp flaking were the most common concerns among this group. More than half the women wore their hair in a natural or relaxed style; a third used braids or a natural style while exercising. Women wore their hair in buns, ponytails, or hair wraps during exercise and after exercise kept these same styles. Though exercise did not worsen scalp and hair complaints, 18% of women stated that, in fact, they did exercise less than they would like because of the desire to maintain their hairstyle.

The researchers conclude that dermatologists can provide suggestions for ideal hair care during and after strenuous physical activity. The authors suggest the ideal hair styles for exercise include natural, ponytail, or bun, and avoid tight braids, wigs, weave, wraps, or scarfs as these can increase scalp sweat and exacerbate symptoms of itchiness or flaking. The authors suggest that a future area of study could focus on a detailed postexercise management regimen, such as dry shampoos or other products.

Byline: Martha L. Sikes, MS, RPh, PA-C

Posted: June 16, 2016

Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information / JAMA Dermatology

[Image: Pixabay / Sabine Mondestin]