Want Shiny, Hydrated Hair? All You Need Is A Hair Mask & Yoga Class

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.

Image by Javier Pardina / Stocksy

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Here's a tip I was given years ago that continues to be my all-time favorite hair trick: It's easy, it's multitasking, it's deep conditioning, and it's something I can do while working out. What is it? Wear a hair mask in your go-to class. Now, before I lose you for suggesting something that sounds so ridiculous, allow me to explain.

Workout classes—be it cycling, yoga, or HIIT classes—get hot. Sometimes, like with Bikram, it's entirely intentional; others, it's just the byproduct of a lot of bodies working out in a small space. Regardless, this heat and humidity cause the hair's cuticle to raise and swell. (It's why your hair might appear frizzier post-workout.) Raising your hair's cuticle is not good for your hair: It's how it loses moisture and becomes less shiny. When you apply a hair mask, it helps seal the cuticle, reducing moisture and nutrient loss. And then, because the mask is likely filled with good-for-you nutrients like coconut oil, those are thought to penetrate deeper. ("The idea with heat is that it breaks down the bonds in the product and helps coat it better," board-certified dermatologist Doris Day, M.D., told us, noting that the research has not been done to prove it—which is why the emphasis is on thought.) And because workout styles tend to be tight, and therefore damaging, adding a hair mask creates a barrier between strands, causing less physical damage. Essentially: There are a few mechanisms behind why this works—some preventive, some as an enhancer.

And here's all you need to do: Bring your favorite mask (more on that later) to the studio and apply in the locker room prior. Take a dollop, and starting at the ends, work your way up to an inch or so before the root. If your ends are especially dry, you can add more after you've coated your hair. Make sure the product is covered evenly and throughout—you can even take a comb through it if you'd like. Then just pull it back into a secure, twisted bun, and tissue off any excess product.

As for the mask itself, this will vary depending on your needs, of course. Opt for a restoring option for damage, a curl cream for course strands, a weightless mask for fine hair, and so on. As for the texture, I have made a few guidelines about what will and will not work for a workout class, after much trial and error. First: It cannot be too milky (think of something that has a more conditioner consistency) as it will run down your face during down dog. That being said, it can't be something like a pressed balm, as those are hard to drag through dry hair. Go for something that is more of a butter texture: thick enough to hold in place but will pull through hair easily.

When applying, err on the side of caution. When I'm in the shower, using conditioner or a mask, I am very liberal with my amounts. I have curly, dry, bleached hair; I literally laugh when I'm told to use a mere quarter-size amount of cream. But in the shower you can get away with it—if a bit drips down your back, no harm other than wasted product. When you apply too much pre-workout, your hair will be too limp, have too much slip, and run the risk dripping. Instead, apply like you might a leave-in conditioner: enough to coat the strands but not enough that people will notice.

Another benefit? It will act as a pre-shampoo treatment. We know that shampooing is harsh on hair—even the more gentle options—because the washing motion causes friction. When you apply a conditioning and detangling agent to the strands prior to washing, the product protects the individual strands so there's less physical damage.

This might sound obvious but worthy of note: Just plan this for when you were going to wash your hair post-workout anyway. In other words, don't do this for when you are sneaking in a cycling class pre-work and only have time for a dry shampoo refresh. Plus, your hair will be so silky soft and shiny, you'll want to properly style your strands and show them off. (I do it Saturday mornings, so I have time to air-dry my hair late morning. Then when I get around to my plans—be it brunch or a park day—my curls are properly hydrated and bouncy.)

Are you still worried about looking ridiculous? I get it—if I wasn't a beauty editor, I would have major hesitations. But what I've found, and while it's not true in all cases, many classes are done in dim or dark lighting, so if you are concerned about someone noticing, you really don't have to be. I've been doing this for years, and I've never gotten "looks" about it, even in well-lit barre classes.

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