I need to pick a hairstyle and run with it.
July 9, 2008 8:47 AM   Subscribe

If keeping sweat and hair out of my face while running is my only consideration, would it be better to cut my hair short, or to let it grow out and wear it in a ponytail?

I currently have an overgrown chin-length bob, and I’m due for a haircut. I haven’t decided what to do yet. I like my current style, and I’ve liked having my hair longer, so getting a similar cut I can grow out is definitely an option for me. On the other hand, I’ve never had my hair shorter than ear-length, and I really want to try a pixie cut.

One of the deciding factors for me is how easy it will be to go running with my new haircut. I work out five days a week, and three to four of those workouts involve running. I haaaaate getting sweaty hair in my face when I run. At my current length, I can sort of hold my hair back with a half-ponytail and a stretchy headband, but it’s not a perfect solution and the headband often slips. When my hair was longer, I would just pull it all back into a ponytail and it’d be no problem. I'd need to let my hair grow for at least a few months before that becomes an option, though.

The pixie cut is compelling because my hair would simply be too short to flop in my face. However, judging from the amount of sweat that gets in my hair now, I worry that, without much hair to absorb it, that sweat would just pour down my face instead. That doesn’t sound like much fun either. Or does it evaporate? And I realize that, if/when I grow it out, I’ll have to go through the floppy bangs and headband phase again.

Which is more comfortable for sweaty workouts: short hair or long hair in a ponytail? It seems like a silly question, but I only have experience from one side and honestly don’t know the answer. I don’t care how my hair looks when I work out, just that it’s out of my face. (I do care how my hair looks when I’m not working out, of course, but that’s not relevant to the question.)

Additionally, if there’s some magical running hat or headband out there that can stay put, keep my hair out of my face, and keep me relatively cool and dry, I’d love to hear about it. I’ve looked at various hats online, but I’m not convinced.

Thanks as always!
posted by Metroid Baby to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have long hair and I do the running visor. Cooler than a hat and protects from sun and sweat.
posted by Pax at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: My running partner wears a sweatband while running, and says that he's tried many other things, and it's the only thing that keeps the sweat off his face. His hair is short.
posted by OmieWise at 8:53 AM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: I've had both long and short hair and I do think shorter is better for running. Sweat does seem to evaporate more readily than it does when the hair is layered on top of your head as with a ponytail. It feels much cooler. It's still not a perfect system because on humid days some sweat still accumulates. I often wear a baseball cap for this purpose (and also to protect eyes on sunny days), but sometimes it's just too hot for a cap, or it's cool out and you want to enjoy being hatless (like in fall and spring). In those situations short hair seems the way to go. It also presents those little wispy itchy flyaways that seem to plaster themselves onto your neck, etc.

Other advantage to shorter hair: really quick and easy to style - saves a lot of time in the morning.
posted by Miko at 9:00 AM on July 9, 2008

why do you sweat so much? do you run like at noon? are you overweight? (running is great but diet is essential). did you have a cardiologist check you out and OK your running? just askin'.

and sweatbands look silly but do keep a lot of sweat from one's face
posted by matteo at 9:00 AM on July 9, 2008

There's not necessarily anything wrong with sweating. Some people produce more than others, particularly if they're well hydrated.

Fitness Myth 2:
Excessive Sweating While Exercising Means You’re Not Fit

In fact, it's just the opposite. Sweating during exercise is a sign of an efficient cooler. An athlete who has adapted to keep the body core cool during exercise will shunt blood to the skin’s surface more quickly and release heat from the body. At the same time, the sweat glands increase their output and thus cool the body during sweat evaporation. While fit people produce more sweat than sedentary folks, they lose less sodium, because more of it is reabsorbed by the body. The result is a more efficient cooler.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

A shorter haircut is going to require more frequent trimming to keep it out of your face, whereas once your hair is long enough for a ponytail, you can go a bit longer between haircuts.

On the other hand, try the pixie cut. If you don't like it, just grow it out.
posted by ambrosia at 9:13 AM on July 9, 2008

Try a Buff ?
posted by sandpine at 9:19 AM on July 9, 2008

Braiding my hair keeps it out of my face best (I know you asked about sweating specifically, but this is relevant hair styling advice).

This works even with layered hair, bangs, bangs that are growing out, and hair that's just a little too short for a secure ponytail.

Even with long hair, if you just make a ponytail, then little bits of hair inevitably escape. If you just gather the hair all together and then braid, you'll have a similar problem. What you want is a kind of French-ish braiding starting at the front hairline on either side (wherever it's convenient), gathering as you braid down toward the back hairline. The end result looks rather like Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz", but it totally works. Rock solid. If the braids annoy you, you can rubber-band them together in back (once they're long enough).

Disadvantage (maybe) - it can make your hair squiggly. This can look kind of good in certain circumstances, and won't be such an issue if your hair is completely dry before you bind it.

Here's a picture (big, nearly 1MB) that shows this particular hair style, although with the braid a little further back from the hairline/forehead than you would want for absolute running security.
posted by amtho at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2008

A sweatband works a lot better when there's not a whole weight of hair pushing it forward - in other words, if you try a pixie cut, a sweatband sitting right at your forehead (like a tennis player) will eliminate a surprising amount of sweat.
posted by muddgirl at 9:22 AM on July 9, 2008

A shorter cut requires more frequent trimming but if it is a good cut you save a lot of time and money when it comes to styling your hair so it's well worth the cost.

I found shorter hair infinitely more practical for exercising than long hair for that reason.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:23 AM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Matteo: to answer your questions, I'm approximately thirteen pounds overweight but losing steadily. I do watch my food intake and eat mostly lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains. I've been working out for 18 months and running over a year. My resting heart rate is in the upper 50s-lower 60s, my cholesterol is good, my blood pressure is normal; I had a checkup last month and all is well. I prefer to run in the evenings, but it is summer. I do drink a ton of water, though.

I don't think I sweat excessively. But I do sweat. I hadn't considered it abnormal, just inconvenient.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:30 AM on July 9, 2008

I vote for ponytail with barrettes and/or bobby pins to keep bangs out of eyes. That's what I do. I can't stand caps.
posted by pyjammy at 9:35 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding what sandpine said.

I have a chin-length bob and have similar issues when working out. It just gets all sweaty and hangs in my face! Boo!

I was using bandanna do-rags to keep my hair out of my face, but found that they would eventually slip past my hairline and eventually slide right off my head.

Then I discovered Buffs, which are pretty much the best thing ever. They're stretchy tubes of material that you can wear in a multitude of ways - bandanna, headband, cap, neckerchief, etc.. The stretchiness of the material means a perfect fit, and they come in tons of colors.
posted by Seppaku at 9:43 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Sandpine/Seppaku: OH!! Those things from Survivor! I remember totally wanting one back in 2001.

Looks like, regardless of my haircut, I've got some decent headgear options.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2008

I really like no-slip headbands. I believe they are made by Goody and available at drugstores. They have little rubbery bits that are sticky enough to keep the band from sliding but not sticky enough to get caught in your hair or pull when you take it off. They also make no-slip bobby pins which really, really don't move once you put them in. If you decide to keep the long hair, you might want to check them out.
posted by JennyK at 10:16 AM on July 9, 2008

For me, when my hair is shorter than ponytail length, I have to either wear a baseball cap or push it all back in a headband. I can not run comfortably with bangs (or whatever) flopping around on or near my forehead. I'm always trying to tuck it behind my ears.

To sum, no matter my hair length, I'm pushing it back, pulling it back, or covering it with a cap. So it doesn't matter what cut I have. (OK, if the hair in the forehead area were only maybe 1" - 1.5" long, I might run as-is. But I've never tried running with it that short.)

I'm currently using a couple Scunci headbands: this one and one that isn't on their site. It has more space between the teeth. I have very thin hair and these have held my hair back just fine for a few 5 mile runs. (If I had to take it off and put it back on after 5 miles, it wouldn't be a big deal. Headbands don't require mirrors.) Though I should say, I also have a huge head, and don't know how these are tight enough for women with small/regular sized heads, but maybe they are.

(P.S. I don't have to have sweat pouring off me to notice it on my forehead ... it's not a matter of sweating a lot, it's a matter of not liking sweaty hair flopping around on my forehead. I'm not sure the OP sweats any more than "normal", but even if she does, as others have said, human sweatiness simply varies.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:46 AM on July 9, 2008

What really bugs me when I'm exercising and perspiring is hair on the back of my neck. I have to have my hair long enough to either tie in a pony tail or clip up with a barrette or other hair doodle. So just from personal experience I vote against the pixie cut.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2008

I'd go with the short hair if you're already attracted to it anyway. (Pixie cuts are super cute!)

Ponytails are nice, and are what I do because my husband likes long hair, but that constant swinging back and forth as you run or bounce on the elliptical or whatever can get really annoying. Especially when they're long enough to drag on your back a little as they swing. And wisps will *always* escape, even if they were long enough to be included in your hair tie to begin with.
posted by GardenGal at 11:25 AM on July 9, 2008

I'm a bald guy. So, I'm totally qualified to answer your question!

Seriously, when you run and have short hair sweat can definitely get in your eyes, this can make your eyes sting. I run with a small towel, so that I can dry off my forehead and face regularly. It's a simple low-tech solution.
posted by oddman at 11:28 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm in love with my Pearl Izumi running cap. It's a baseball cap style; I can stick my ponytail or messy bun out of the back, it totally prevents sweat from getting in my eyes and the bill is black underneath to absorb rays.
posted by mynameisluka at 11:52 AM on July 9, 2008

One of the reasons I keep my hair a certain length is so I can tie it back when I'm biking and running. I bought a couple of the lighter weight mesh running caps and clip my bangs back with a bobby pin. They're a lot better than the standard baseball cap which is way too hot. My hair is too slippy for a headband, even the no slip ones - they always ping off at some point.

Oh and fwiw I'm a heavy sweater and am about to do my third ironman 70.3 so I wouldn't correlate sweating with a lack of fitness.
posted by poissonrouge at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2008

Best answer: I have heard good things about Bondi Bands. Specifically the Performance Wear ones. They don't slide off the head/hair like other bands.

Also I love having my pony tail swing when I run, it helps me zone out and get into a good rhythm. I usually use pins to hold back the weird short pieces of hair around my face (I have wavy hair).
posted by collocation at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2008

When i run i wear an under armor hat, its like a skin tight beanie. Totally stops the sweat going anywhere near my eyes and its great!
posted by moochoo at 2:04 PM on July 9, 2008

With cloth headbands, it's all about the elastic. I have short, ear-length hair, and use a fat Spandex cloth headband by Scunci. I tuck all the strands touching the nape of my neck into the headband, so I can feel the cool wind. To protect the elasticity of the Spandex for as long as possible, I only wash them in cold water, and hang dry them.

I used to have longer hair, and hated the feel of a ponytail weighing my head down. However, I have thick, wavy hair, so YMMV.
posted by invisible ink at 7:24 PM on July 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for your help, everyone! I still haven't quite decided how I'll get my hair cut - I'm leaning towards a pixie but might just hand the wheel over to my stylist - but I'm definitely going to invest in a better quality hat or band. Fortunately the running store is just down the street from the salon.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:12 AM on July 10, 2008

I put on my googles and found this.

There's some snazzy lookin stuff in there.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 1:00 PM on July 10, 2008

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