Experts Reveal What Excessive Exercise Does to Your Hair

Are you wanting to get back into a high-intensity workout regimen? Are you already working out enough for your entire family? Before you pump any more iron, you should be aware of what excessive exercise does to your hair.

Working out has its benefits, though doing it too much can do quite a number on your strands. We reached out to two trichologists to discover how excessive exercise affects your tresses.

Scroll below to discover what they had to say!

What constitutes excessive exercise?

Stylist and trichologist Arisa Watanabe notes, “excessive exercise is more than three to four hours every day.”

Consultant trichologist Kate Holden offers a broader definition of what excessive exercise is.

“I would define excessive exercise as exercise which negatively impacts your daily life or causes injuries or exhaustion,” she says. “Excessive exercise can be associated with negative feelings, such as depression, guilt, and shame. And it can be a sign of serious psychological disorders, such as orthorexia.”

Still, Kate notes that excessive exercise can be different for everyone.

“The amount of exercise that can be classed as excessive is subjective. It definitely depends on your individual lifestyle and the feelings you have around the amount or intensity of exercise you’re doing.”

How does excessive exercise impact your hair?

You’ll want to take some notes as you read through this next part, because there are a ton of ways excessive exercise impacts your hair.

Leads to Telogen Effluvium

Kate shares that too much exercise can lead to telogen effluvium, otherwise known as increased hair shedding.

“People with telogen effluvium notice more hair in their hairbrush or in the shower, a general thinning in volume and density of the hair, and eventually frizziness and flyaways as the hair regrows,” she shares. “Telogen effluvium is usually temporary. The hair regrows as normal once the causative factor (for example, excessive exercise) is addressed.”

Arisa also points out how excessive exercise contributes to stress and telogen effluvium.

“Doing excessive exercise over long periods of time can actually lead to chronic stress,” she says. “This is because high-intensity exercise increases levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Chronic stress can lead to telogen effluvium. This occurs when the hair’s natural cycle of growth, rest, and shedding is interrupted, causing hair follicles to enter the rest phase and shed prematurely.”

There are a few other factors that contribute to telogen effluvium, though Arisa has some tips on managing the condition.

“Telogen effluvium can also be caused by a poor diet, chronic illness, certain medications, and shock. Reduce gym-related stress by not pushing yourself too hard and taking rest days in between sessions.”

Contributes to Hair Loss

Arisa notes that not only does excessive exercise cause increased hair shedding, it also leads to hair loss. This is due to a number of different factors, including sweat, chlorine, stress, and even steroids.

“One way in which exercise and hair loss are related is through sweat,” Arisa shares. “Sweat buildup on the scalp can cause hair cells to lose vitality. The hair becomes dull and dry, leading to breakage and shedding. It can also increase the chance of bacterial or fungal infections.”

Arisa recommends washing your hair after every workout to combat this. She mentions that you don’t need to use shampoo every time.

“You do not need to use shampoo every time, as this can strip your hair of its natural oils and cause more problems. Simply rinse with warm water after a visit to the gym and shampoo every other day using a mild, pH-balanced shampoo. Condition once a week and rinse out thoroughly.”

Increases Cortisol Levels

Again, too much exercise leads to excessive stress. And that is not good for your body or your hair.

Arisa mentioned the impacts of increased cortisol levels. Now, Kate is here to hammer that point home.

“Excessive exercise may also increase your cortisol levels,” Kate reminds us. “Cortisol is our stress hormone. In the short term, increased levels of cortisol are unlikely to impact your hair. However, if cortisol levels are elevated for a long period of time, it can cause health issues such as high blood pressure. This can lead to telogen effluvium, as well as potentially increasing testosterone which can exacerbate genetic hair loss.”

Spawns Lack of Nutrition

Both Arisa and Kate point out that exercising more than necessary will likely promote poor nutrition.

“Frequent or intense exercise is likely to be linked to inadequate nutrition,” Kate shares. “This is either through not consuming enough food for the amount of exercise you are doing or by intentional dieting and restricting. Nutritional deficiencies are a common cause of increased hair shedding and poor hair shaft condition—for example, brittle and dull hair.”

So what should you eat to make sure your body is getting what it needs?

“It is especially important to increase your protein intake following a workout,” Arisa notes. “It is also important to ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals to keep your hair healthy, as well as your body. The best way to get enough of these is by eating a balanced diet, but there are also many supplements available. Dehydration can also lead to hair loss, so be sure to sip plenty of water during and after your workout.”

Causes Traction Alopecia

Use a rubber hair tie to keep your strands at bay? Kate urges you to rethink that.

“If you are exercising a lot, you are probably also tying your hair up. Regularly putting your hair in high or tight hairstyles can cause a condition called traction alopecia, which is where persistent pulling on the hair shaft leads to hair breakage and hair loss.”

Kate stresses opting for a ponytail holder that won’t cause more damage than necessary.

“If you are worried about consistently putting your hair up, using a soft scrunchie and making sure your hair isn’t pulled too tightly will help prevent traction alopecia.”

Are there any positive benefits excessive exercise has on the hair?

There are some benefits of exercising more, though they are few and far between.

“The benefits of exercise are reducing stress, reducing inflammation on the scalp, and increasing blood flow to nourish your hair follicles,” Arisa states.

Kate points out similar benefits, while also sharing a reminder that excessive exercise will cause more harm than good.

“Exercise is an important part of hair health,” she shares. “Regular exercise can improve circulation, helping to bring blood flow and essential nutrients to the follicles and scalp, as well as reducing the risk of chronic disease that can negatively impact hair growth. Exercise helps to lower stress and boost our mood too, which not only reduces the risk of stress-induced hair shedding (telogen effluvium), but helps our self-esteem. That being said, excessive exercise is more likely to have a negative impact, so maintaining balance is key.”

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How can you combat what excessive exercise causes?

Still want to maintain your regularly scheduled workout routine? Of course, why wouldn’t you? Kate offers some helpful advice on ensuring you take care of yourself while working out.

“If you are doing intense or long workouts, protein is so important in protecting your body from injuries and exhaustion. And this will benefit your hair, too,” she says. “Getting enough carbs, protein, and healthy fats all contribute to hair health.”

Other than watching what you eat, Kate encourages you to tone down all the exercise.

“I would advise that reducing the amount of exercise is the best way to combat the negative impacts,” she shares. “If you think you might be doing too much exercise, and especially if you are having obsessive or negative thoughts around exercise or food restriction, please speak to your healthcare provider or a counsellor as soon as possible.”

What are some products or haircare regimens you recommend to fix what excessive exercise does to your hair?

Before you take measures into your own hands, Kate recommends talking to your trichologist or dermatologist.

“Everyone’s hair type and scalp are different, so I would encourage you to speak to a trichologist or dermatologist if you think your hair has been affected by excessive exercise.”

But if your hair is simply thinning, Kate has a few products you should try.

“If your hair seems thinner, using a volumizing shampoo and conditioner will help your hair feel thicker, as they deposit protein-like structures onto the hair shaft. If your hair is dull, using a product containing silicones will give the hair shine. But you have to be careful not to have a buildup of silicones, as too much product can make the hair feel heavy and greasy. Brittle hair has to be very carefully looked after, so hydration is the main focus—not using heat styling, avoiding hair oils, and using a deep conditioning mask regularly will all help.”

Arisa mentions that paying some attention to your scalp is important. It deserves more love than you give it.

“I recommend to use scalp cleansing shampoo to prevent buildup on your scalp. Hair follicles get clogged by sweat, sebum, and product residue. And also I strongly recommend a Japanese head spa to relax, detox, and rejuvenate your scalp. Take care of your scalp like you take care of your face.”

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