Helmet hair is a nickname for hair that emerges from a helmet messy, misshapen, or lacking volume.
For athletes like equestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders, helmet hair can be a source of frustration. A perfect hairstyle can turn into a flat lifeless flop of hair after a few minutes of wearing a helmet.
Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time wearing a riding helmet, particularly in hot weather, is very familiar with helmet hair. We’ve all had to deal with the conflict between removing a hot, stuffy helmet and knowing that it will only unleash the unruly hair beneath it.
Because helmet hair is such a common frustration, however, many riders have come up with creative ways to prefix, fix, or repair helmet hair. And while there are some products out there that claim to help with helmet hair, they often don’t work as well as we hope. Recently, we surveyed 6 professional riders and gathered their suggestions for combating the hair-scaring effects of helmet wearing.
1. Use a Scarf or Bandana Under Your Helmet
Horseback riding is a serious workout for riders, which often means sweating. This is especially true while wearing a helmet. The hotter the weather, the more our bodies perspire in an effort to cool us down. Sweat also happens to be the biggest culprit behind helmet hair.
Many riders are tempted to ride without a helmet in the hot summer months. However, a study of cowboys riding in the heat of the Australian outback found that helmet wearing did not make riders hotter than non-helmet-wearers.1
One way to help prevent a sweaty helmet from messing up your hair is to wear a bandana or headscarf under your helmet. A cotton bandana will soak up most of the sweat from your scalp. An adjustable helmet can be loosened to fit a scarf more comfortably and then tightened back up on days when you do not need the extra room.
MyMareCo makes wide headbands specifically designed to fit comfortably under riding helmets. These headbands hold hair back from your face, and wick sweat from your scalp. These make a great alternative to a scarf since they fit very snugly around your head. Unlike a scarf, there is no worry about them sliding around under your helmet.
2. Use Dry Shampoo Before and After a Ride
Dry shampoo may be a helpful tool to take along with you to the barn. Dry shampoo is a great way to prevent helmet hair. It absorbs sweat and oil that can cause your hair to become greasy and flat. It also gives your hair a bit of texture and body, which can help it to hold its style better.
Start by spraying it onto your hair before putting your helmet on. This will keep your hair drier and absorb some of the moisture from sweat. After you take your helmet off, spray some dry shampoo on your hair, and then use your fingers to fluff your hair.
3. Use Less Product in Your Hair
Minimize the amount of hair product you use. By preventing unnecessary build-up, hair usually looks better after taking off a helmet. Using a lot of heavy products in your hair will cause build-up, which, when coupled with sweating under a helmet all day, will cause your hair to feel more grimy than usual. Another option is to find lighter products that are easily rinsed out and won’t produce as much build-up in your hair.
Using less hair spray prevents helmet hair because it allows the hair to move more freely and decreases the amount of product buildup on the hair. With less product weighing it down, it’s easier for your hair to “bounce back” after riding.
4. Keep Your Hair Moisturized
Sweat and grime from riding and barn work can dry out your hair. Make sure to use conditioner to keep your hair manageable. This will also help to keep a bad case of helmet hair at bay. Work out a washing and conditioning routine that works best for your hair and scalp that will ensure your hair stays thoroughly moisturized in between washes.
Conditioning your hair regularly will help to keep it healthy and hydrated, which is especially important if you expect your hair to handle the rigors of barn chores, horse sports, and helmet us and still look great!
Leave-in conditioner is also a great product to add to your daily routine, particularly on riding days. It will keep your hair moisturized throughout the day.
Some riders swear by deep-conditioning hair masks once a week to give their hair a little extra moisture to bounce back from helmet hair.
5. Braid Your Hair When You Ride
If you have long hair, try putting it into a braid for your ride. This can help prevent tangles and knots. It’s especially helpful if you are riding outside.
Braids also prevent the frustration of hair blowing in the wind. Braids keep hair confined and out of your face, which can help you focus on your horse and your riding.
Braids are not a solution for preventing helmet hair entirely, but they can help to tame your hair while riding. Pairing this with either a bandana under your helmet or some dry shampoo will provide even better results.
HINT: Practice your four strand braid on yourself before braiding this head-turning style on your horse.
6. Keep Your Helmet Clean
Riding helmets are not known for being the cleanest. After all, they are used outside and in barns where dirt is everywhere! The inside of your helmet will collect dust any time it is laying around in the barn, left on the ground, or even hanging in a tack room.
Each time you wear your helmet, the sweat from your hair and scalp mixes with the dirt that accumulates inside the helmet. This buildup, which makes soft satiny liners turn gunky, is a primary cause of helmet hair.
Make it a point to clean the inside of your helmet regularly. This will help to cut down on the excess grime that transfers to your hair during a ride. It also helps your hair move freely under your helmet, instead of being messed up by a grippy, sweat-caked liner. Many of helmets have a velcro insert that can be taken out and thrown in the wash, making them easy to clean. Use a damp cloth to clean parts of your helmet that cannot be machine washed.
7. Steam out Your Helmet Hair
If you don’t have time to restyle your hair after removing your helmet, here’s a tip I learned on the show circuit.
Riders sometimes only have an hour or two between the end of a show and an after-show awards dinner- that’s not a lot of time to feed and settle horses, finish chores, change clothes, and get ready for a night out. So, riders have some hacks. One of the best is this:
How to Get Rid of Helmet Hair
Time: 5 minutes
Soak a towel with very hot water
Ideally, the water should be steaming hot- but be careful not to burn your hands!
Wring out as much excess water as possible. Remember, we’re trying to steam away helmet hair, not wash it out!
Wrap towel around your head
Take the steaming, damp towel and wrap it around your hair, encircling your hair. Don’t put your hair up into a bun or twist the hair into the towel as you would after a shower, instead, just let the towel rest on the same parts of the hair that your helmet did.
Wait 5 minutes
Remove towel and go
Remove the towel and smooth our any loose hairs. The hot towel will have steamed out the weird lumps, bumps, and lines in your hair left by a helmet!
- very hot water
- clean towel
Final Tips for Fixing Helmet Hair
There is no one perfect solution to the helmet hair problem. Everyone’s hair is different, so it will take some time to find the solution that is right for you. Helmet hair can be very frustrating to deal with; however, the safety of wearing a helmet while riding far outweighs the downsides. Try one or more of these tips to help you look your best while keeping yourself safe.
There are few things more frustrating than helmet hair. Whether you’re a cyclist, a motorcyclist, or a skier, dealing with helmet hair is just a fact of life.