Lolo Jones highlights hair-raising worry

AP Photo/Michael Probs

World-champion hurdler Lolo Jones tweeted about not wanting to get her hair wet during a workout, becoming the latest in a long line of black female athletes who find it hard to have hair that is both functional and fashionable.

In an attempt to connect with her fans 140 characters at a time, the always-entertaining Lolo Jones tweeted something both hilarious and poignant last week.

"Coach, told me to go do a pool workout. So I went & did some Push ups next to the pool. What?! I aint gettin this hair wet #mixedchick #afro."

With one tweet, Jones became a voice for other black women who love to work out but despise the aftermath of unmanageable hair.

It was refreshing to see Jones, a two-time world champion hurdler, share in the struggles of her sisters around the world. Hair maintenance after a workout is a concern for everyone from weekend warriors to professional athletes.

"When I was playing, there were times I tried not to sweat. I was always so concerned about being a girly girl, and my hair was a part of that," said WNBA player Shyra Ely-Gash, who is sitting out this season because of a knee injury.

Shane Bevel/NBAE/Getty Images

Ivory Latta of the Tulsa Shock cares a lot about her hair, but knows that, in the end, basketball is a lot more important.

Ivory Latta of the Tulsa Shock, an ambassador for Ampro multicultural hair products, added, "Whenever we had a big TV game in college, we had to make sure everyone on the team was looking fly with their hair. Whether you had braids or a nice perm, we had to make sure you were crispy."

Black female athletes have a multitude of hair stories -- some not so pretty -- of styles they rocked during their careers in an attempt to have simultaneously fashionable and functional hair.

"Growing up as an athlete, I would always wear my hair in cornrows or twists in the front and two curly ponytails in the back," said sprinter Carol Rodriguez, a member of the Puerto Rican 2012 Olympic team.

Ely-Gash added, "Wearing braids was so convenient for me as an athlete. I had everything from box braids to micros to dookie braids to cornrows. But then they began to damage my scalp and I moved to the sew-in weaves and extensions. I pretty much always had some type of weave in my hair my whole life."

At times, some athletes have just covered their hair.

"When I was at Tennessee, bandannas in every color -- of course, orange and baby blue -- were the popular choice for players to wear to class after practice," Ely-Gash said.

"Your health isn't worth any hairstyle," said Olympic hurdler Kellie Wells. "So either pull it in a tight ponytail or wrap it up in a scarf and wear a hat. It works really well. I do it daily."

While it's true that all women get sweaty, messy hair after workouts, it's particularly troublesome for those black women with curly hair who spend a lot of money and time to maintain it. Black hair care is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Derek Jae, hair stylist to the Real Housewives of Atlanta, witnesses the struggle his predominately black clientele go through when they choose to exercise.

"Whenever one of my clients decides to dedicate themselves to losing a few pounds, they disappear and I don't see them for months," said Jae. "They don't want to spend money on their hair when they're just going to ruin it the next day at a workout."

For black women who want to exercise and not worry about their hair, Jae suggests returning to your natural hair texture or using sew-in hair weaves. This allows you to sweat excessively without dealing with your real hair.

Actress Nicole Ari Parker, known for her role on the Showtime series "Soul Food," noticed her curly-haired sisters' plight and invented the Save Your Do Gymwrap. It's a hair wrap that wicks sweat away from hair, keeps it dry, stops frizz and eliminates hair as an excuse for inactivity.

"[With the head wrap] I went through 45 minutes of intense boot camp with multiple circuit training, indoors and outdoors," Parker said in a recent espnW article. She went through 17 prototypes before settling on the final version.

While hair is an issue for some female athletes, including Jones, it hasn't stopped them from attaining some of the highest honors in their sports. The strands on their head don't define them; they're merely a bow on top of the awesome gift, their bodies, which they use to make a living.

"When I play basketball or I'm practicing or working out, hair doesn't bother me," Latta said. "It wasn't my hair that got me this far. It was my work ethic."

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