Hi EcoCulters! I’m a Chicago resident who bikes everywhere when weather permits. I don’t want to look like I’ve given up, so I have been exploring ways to preserve my hair whilst still using a helmet. Many of the “before” pictures are sans maquillage selfies and under fluorescent lighting, so be nice!

This is me and Mr. Questifer P. Doggins. (Quest, for short.) Every day, we bike to work.

dog being towed by bike

And it used to be, when I got to work, my hair looked like this:

If my hair gets wet in any way, I start to look like Alice from Dilbert, if Alice were blonde. By “wet in any way,” I mean walking outside with more than zero percent humidity, looking at pictures of water, thinking about taking a drink, etc. Horrors. And it’s especially bad when I have a helmet mashed on my sweaty head.

This is a very easily solved problem–just don’t wear a helmet, stupid! But, in the interest of Being Safe and because I bike several miles to work each day through an urban environment chock full of surly cab drivers, impatient commuters, and luxury vehicles that seem to lack turn signals (Chicago), I deign to keep my lid despite its detriment to my coif.

In fact, let’s pause for a public service announcement: WEAR YOUR MOTHERLOVIN’ HELMET! I have seen the aftermath of getting ‘doored’ and it is NOT FUN. Do not add your fragile noggin to the bicycle-incurred injuries list, I implore you. You are a good biker, you are not the problem. The thousands of pounds of metal piloted by some chump(s) on a cell phone are the problem and they exist in every city in the U.SA., including Chi-Town and NYC.

Anyway, so you’ve decided to wear a helmet. Good! I prefer the skydiving/base jumping/totally extreme type helmets because they don’t slaughter your ‘do quite like those sleek just-for-biking helmets do. If you’re worried about increased wind resistance, don’t be. You’re biking to work, not competing in the Tour de France. (If you make it to the Tour de France, shade on the haters who are still focused on your hair!)

Now, on to dealing with your helmet hair. There are three demons you must slay: frizz, compression, and sweat. The padding on the inside of whatever type of helmet you use will be foam backed with sticky stuff and faced with a poly knit. The friction caused by the poly knit and the foam on the sides of the pads disturbs the cuticles on your hair when it comes in contact, resulting in frasty (scientific term employed by hair scientists. Not really.) texture and overall dull, gross, hair.

This is my set of the summer. 

If you’re like me, an extremely aggressive biker towing 70 plus pounds of adorable dog, sweat happens. This issue could be solved by not biking so fast, but that means leaving the house earlier, which sucks. (ProTip: Wear a different shirt/sports bra whilst biking and change at your destination.)

I have to make sure to keep ALL of my hair up and clear of sweat. Fortunately, the same maneuvers used to tackle frizz and compression will also lend a hand in nullifying the sweat factor.

1. Use a Do-Rag

The first trick: wear a stocking on your head, do-rag style, under your helmet. Remember all those beauty magazine blurbs about sleeping with a silk pillowcase? Same principle. This is invaluable for updos such as Heidi braids, which can suffer under a helmet as there are hair textures going in a variety of directions.

how to deal with sweaty bike hair

2. Choose the Right Hairstyle

If you’re planning on an updo, choose carefully. You want to choose a ‘do that will lie flat under your helmet for maximum comfort and minimum disturbance, or a ‘do that will be easy to recreate in seconds from a simple pony. My go-to summer updos are Heidi braids or a sock bun.

The Heidi braids lie well under a helmet, and as long as you’re using protection (har!), they will be low maintenance and look great upon reaching your destination. For the sock bun, create the ponytail that will be the foundation for the sock bun, wrapping the excess hair loosely around the base in bun fashion, and put your stocking on before donning your helmet. The goal is to keep your hair in a bun-like format, but flattened to fit nicely under your helmet. Add sock to bun upon arrival.

3. Use a Boar Bristle Brush

The second tool you will need in your arsenal to tackle residual sweatiness is a good quality boar bristle brush. Aside from being the only type of brush (natural) that should be touching your glossy hairs anyway, this brush will help lift your hair up and away from your scalp, cooling it down, breaking up any clumps of sweat (gross, I know!), and allowing everything to dry at maximum rate, avoiding the Alice look.

I suggest brushing your hair out ASAP after you dismount so you can commence fluffing out that compression and drying the sweat. After that, you can style per usual. For me, that means making a little gun with my pointer finger and thumb, winking in the mirror and going, “Looking good, kid,” but I know some of you probably do more.

4. Try Glossy Waves

Part your hair opposite of normal, then form a loose bun on the back or top of your head, however it feels best under your helmet. Secure with pins or an elastic–go with the one that leaves less of a dent in your type of hair. For bangs, part farther over on the opposite side, sweep up and back, and pin in place, well away from your gross, sweaty forehead. Parting on the opposite side will help preserve some body after you’ve crushed your hair under a helmet.

So here’s how to get your hair into glossy beautiful waves, by using sweat to your advantage:

bikehair