Dreadlocks and Sports Guide

When doing sports with dreadlocks a few practical problems arise, and can either prevent dreadheads from doing sports, or discourage active folks from getting dreadlocks. 

On DreadLab we’re all about providing the knowledge and tools for a hassle-free dreadlocks experience, making this hairstyle available to everyone, so we created this guide. We’re going to analyze the all too common dilemma of doing sports with dreadlocks, offering solutions that are easy to apply.


Women with dreadlocks in plank position

This guide is for natural dreadlocks and temporary ones. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Dreadlocks and sport: 6 most common problems and their solutions


1- Sweat



Dreadlocks trap sweat and humidity when exercising and the scalp can get irritated and itchy.”


  • Wear a headband or headwrap for the entire duration of the exercise, and tie the dreads in a ponytail or a bun. When you’re done, undo your hair to allow some fresh air to reach the scalp. These headbands are extra wide and offer good coverage and sweat absorption. Otherwise you can opt for a headwrap that can adjust to a larger area.
  • In addition, we recommend using dreadlocks refreshening sprays: they soothe the skin and prevent itching.


2- Wet dreads



“It is not practical to shampoo after each workout, because dreadlocks remain wet for a long time.”


Dampness on the head and neck is not only uncomfortable but can cause health issues in the long run. It’s good to limit your shampooing to once, twice or maximum three times per week, but if you’re exercising every day and you’re sweating a lot, you could give your scalp a quick rinse when you’re not shampooing. 

Here’s how to do it: in the shower, hold your hair up with one hand and use the shower head with the other, to direct the water only to your scalp. You don’t need to massage your head. Sweat is basically just water and salt: it’s not greasy, it’s completely water soluble, and can be rinsed away with very little effort. Pat your head dry with a microfiber towel and, if you want, give it a quick blow with a hair dryer.


If you’re living in a cold climate or you have a tight schedule, getting your head damp after every workout could be less feasible. Again, headbands or a headwrap and refreshening or cleansing sprays are must haves for active dreadheads: they won’t replace a good wash but they’ll surely extend the time between regular shampooing.


EXTRA TIP: if you enjoy water sports, we highly recommend you to pat dry your dreads thoroughly with a microfiber towel at the end of your exercise. Consider the use of a hair dryer too.


Man with dreadlocks wearing wet suit holding surfboard walking out of the sea

Surfing is common among dreadheads. Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels


3- Damage



“Movement and frequent shampooing can loosen up the roots and potentially the tips of your dreads, especially if they’re young.”


All the recommendations above are valid to tackle this issue. Firstly, tying your hair up and using a headband or a headwrap will also keep them in place and minimize damage. Secondly, you can always have a quick scalp rinse, following the instructions above.

If your dreads are really young don’t worry, they will mature no matter what, slowly but surely.


4- Weight 

The problem:

“Long dreads can be heavy, they can put a lot of pressure on the neck and slow you down.”

The solutions:

Many choose to have short dreads because of this reason, but there are a few examples of athletes with long dreadlocks, for example the Jamaican-German tennis player Dustin Brown. For many afro-descendants dreadlocks are a matter of cultural identity and their motivation is inspiring: watch for example this video of Damien Marley wearing his 20 year old dreads in a backpack to play football.


However, if you have long dreadlocks it’s always good to strengthen your neck with targeted exercises. 

And keep in mind that any product residue, dust or lint stuck in your dreads will make them heavier. Keep using dreadlocks shampoos to avoid residue, and don’t skip on the regular dreadlock detox or deep cleanse. Check this article if you need guidance on this topic.


5- Volume 

The problem:

“Some sport equipment that cover the head, such as swimming caps, are normally too tight for dreadheads.”

The solution: 

Get yourself larger sizes! On DreadLab we offer large swimming caps that are specific for dreadheads.


image showing before and after of boy with long dreadlocks putting on a large swim cap

One of DreadLab’s swimming caps demonstrating its capacity.


6- Smell

The problem:

“Dreadlocks absorb sweat, which makes them smell bad”.

The solutions:

It’s actually not sweat that stinks: it’s bacteria growth. A few products and habits will help you tackle this problem easily: 

    • Sprays. These products have antibacterial ingredients, such as essential oils, and will make your dreads smell fresh at all times.
    • Vinegar rinse. An acidic environment is hostile to bacteria growth. This rinse will not only get rid of unwanted bacteria, but will also make your hair stronger and softer.
  • Dreadlocks detoxKeeping your dreads clean is key to prevent bacteria growth. We created a comprehensive guide on this topic: check it out if you haven’t yet.
    • Dry your hair as quickly as you can. Bacteria can thrive in moist environments. Pat your hair dry with a microfiber towel, and don’t keep it wrapped for too long: dreadlocks dry quicker when they’re open.

    If you found this guide useful, share it with your friends, and help to debunk the myth that dreadlocks and sports don’t get along. 


    About the author

    Margherita Orso Pletti - Italian dread maker, youtuber and blogger living in the UK. Creator of dreadhead.it, website in Italian about dreadlocks.
    girl with dreadlocks looking up and walking through trees