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Helmet hair is a particularly frustrating part of cycling, and is something that can put people off riding regularly, be it to work, college or other frequent journeys.
Bike helmets are always recommended when cycling yet helmets leave that undeniable mark in the form of a wave in your hair that just looks frankly odd.
The Problem with Helmets…
Statistics show that helmets reduce the risk of serious injury by around 70% and fatal injuries by 65%. They are, in other words, life savers, and every cyclist should be wearing one. Despite this, too many people opt against a helmet. The dreaded “helmet hair” is a big reason for this.
Helmet hair will be familiar to most cyclists. It’s simply the flattened, frizzy look that your hair adopts after you’ve been wearing a helmet for a long time. This is especially frustrating if you use your bicycle to commute or attend social events.
There are ways to avoid helmet hair, though. Read on as we take a closer look.
What Causes Helmet Hair?
Helmet hair is caused by a combination of pressure/friction from the helmet, the build-up of sweat and having your hair compressed for long periods. The pressure of a helmet can affect hair growth and even cause hair loss – called Traction Alopecia.
Wearing a helmet is usually enough to knock out any hairstyle held in place by gel or cheap wax. Sweat can make straight hair curly (or vice versa!). Some cyclists try to get around this problem by styling their hair after cycling to their destination, but this isn’t an ideal solution.
Does Helmet Hair Stop Cyclists Wearing Helmets?
Helmet hair certainly stops some cyclists from wearing a helmet. In London, for example, 61% of cyclists wear a helmet. It might sound high, but it means that 39% don’t. Since the majority of London cyclists are commuters, it’s reasonable to assume that helmet hair plays a part.
There are of course lots of reasons that cyclists opt not to wear helmets. Amsterdam cyclists notoriously prefer not to wear one. Countless factors including perceived road safety, riding style and cost are important. For cyclists who want to keep their hair intact for work or social events, though, helmet hair is a big deal.
Can You Prevent Helmet Hair?
The good news is that helmet hair can be prevented! There are lots of methods, some urban myths, others much more effective. Certain hairstyles are more resilient to helmets than others, while a selection of hair products will help to keep your style in place.
Before we go into more detail, it’s important to keep your hair in generally good condition. This means keeping it clean, moisturised and conditioned. Healthy hair is less likely to break, and clean hair won’t get as greasy under the helmet. Opt for natural products to preserve your hair’s shine. A daily hair health routine is your best weapon to keep helmet hair at bay.
How to Keep Your Hair Looking Good While Wearing a Helmet
You can keep your hair looking good under a helmet through a combination of the right products, the right accessories and a good hair health routine. Choosing the right helmet (more on this later) also makes a big difference as some are designed to prevent helmet hair.
Tied hairstyles generally withstand prolonged helmet use better. This means that styles like braids, ponytails and cornrows will emerge from the helmet in excellent condition. If you can tie your hair (or if that’s your usual style) then you’ve already got a head start. Keeping your helmet clean, lining it with cloth and wearing a hair sock all help, too.
3 Helmet Hair Tips For Men
Male hair can be badly affected by helmets regardless of its length. Shorter styles become flat, longer styles greasy and messy. So here 3 tips on how to avoid helmet hair for guys:
1. Choose high quality hair wax
Hair wax offers a superior hold to gel (which is easily crushed by a helmet) but not all waxes are created equal. Cheap waxes are more like gels and will easily lose their hold. They’re also greasy and can leave your hair looking sweaty for the rest of the day.
Instead, look for a high quality wax that offers superior hold. There could be an element of trial and error involved here, but once you find the right wax you’ll know. Rather than remaining flat, your hair will bounce back into style when you take your helmet off. Carry your wax around for quick touch-ups.
2. Dry your hair
This applies to both men and women – but never put a helmet over wet hair! Damp hair will dry in the warm environment beneath your helmet, adopting a flat, lifeless style. Hair that’s been left wet under a helmet will be nearly impossible to style when you get to your destination.
Blow drying is your friend. Hair that’s been blow-dried holds its style much more easily than towel or drip dried: it’s simply more resilient.
3. Train that hair!
It might sound strange, but hair can be trained to fall more naturally into a certain style. This usually means styling each day and then fixing the style in place using a blow dryer. Doing this repeatedly gives your hair a “natural” look that it will fall back into when you take your helmet off.
Parting your hair to one side, combing it in a certain direction and maintaining the same style day in and day out will eventually pay off. Rather than faffing in the mirror at work for hours, your hair will naturally fall into shape.
3 Helmet Hair Tips For Women
Female hair can be harder to manage (especially if it’s longer) but do not fear – there are some simple but effective tricks to keep the helmet look at bay.
1. Keep your hair neat under the helmet
This might be easier said than done, but prepping your hair for a ride is vital. Giving it a quick spritz of texturiser or beach spray and then putting it into a braid, ponytail or bun will prevent frizz. It will also give you a more natural, healthy look when you take the helmet off.
Keep those hair ties tight, too. Loose, flowing ponytails will lead to breakage and frizz. Generally speaking, the more secure you can make your hair, the better it will look at the end of the ride.
2. Use a silk scarf
One of the simplest methods is also the best. Placing a silk scarf between hair and helmet will make a world of difference, keeping your hair smooth, shiny and free from frizz. That’s because the soft silk reduces friction.
It’s vitally important that you keep the scarf clean. Letting it accumulate sweat and bacteria can cause problems with the scalp including dandruff. Keep a few scarfs handy so that you can wash them frequently.
3. Embrace beach spray
Not only is beach spray one of the most versatile hair products out there, but it’s incredibly useful for cyclists looking to prevent helmet hair. Your hair will be naturally wavy and frizzy after a long ride. Beach spray rehydrates your locks and makes the curls look natural and intended.
Beach spray is a way to embrace and own the slightly chaotic post-cycle look. Opt for a spray that contains vitamins (especially B5) and promises a light rather than rigid hold.
Is There a Hair-Friendly Helmet for Cycling?
There are plenty of hair-friendly helmets on the market! A general rule is to look for a high clearance helmet (one that doesn’t press down on your head) with good ventilation. This combination prevents flattening and stops your hair from getting too greasy.
Airbag helmets like the Hövding 3 essentially negate many of the hair issues caused by wearing a traditional helmet. The ABUS Urban-I 3.0 is designed to accommodate ponytails and is also well ventilated. The Schwinn Thrasher features special sweat-wicking pads and is also cushioned to protect your hair.
READ MORE: Best Bike Helmets to Avoid Helmet Hair