Yikes! These double training sessions are putting as much stress on my hair as my body. How can I help keep my locks as strong as my muscles? --Lauren Carrescia, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
The best way to treat overworked hair is to take a proactive approach. Get a trim every five to six weeks. And while you might be tempted to put wet hair up early in the morning, resist the urge. "Hair is most fragile when it's wet, so always make sure your hair is at least 50 percent dry before you throw it into a ponytail," says Lauren Matthews, instructor at Aveda Institute Chicago.
Remember that the hair shaft swells when you sweat and rubs against ponytail holders or accessories, promoting breakage. If you must wear it up, "steer clear of tight hats and wear loose ponytails," says Chad Malm, owner of Salon Jack in Tampa, Florida. He recommends Blax ($4, smoothiesbyintuition.com) for securing hair without stressing it. And avoid the worst offender: heavy claw clips.
I'm in my 40s and a runner--my hair is the driest it's ever been. Can you recommend a shampoo and conditioner that's mild enough to use every day? --Margie Diller, Walthourville, Georgia
Every time you wash your hair, you strip it of essential oils that make it soft and shiny--especially if you use products that are too astringent or clarifying. A little moderation can go a long way. "Usually, it's sufficient to only shampoo the roots if your hair is dry because dirt and debris won't stick to the ends," Malm says.
And stick to moisturizing shampoos--if you're unsure, choose the creamy shampoo, not the clear one. We like Aveda Shampure shampoo ($9, aveda.com). Its clean smell and weightlessness is perfect for everyday use. For conditioner, Dove Cool Moisture Conditioner, Cucumber and Green Tea Scent ($4, drugstores) tops our list.
If frequent open water swims or arduous workouts leave you with too much buildup, then it's safe to clarify--but only once a week. We recommend Bumble and bumble Sunday Shampoo ($22, bumbleandbumble.com) for deep cleansing.
Another proven--and cost-effective--method is to brush your locks repeatedly. "Distribute the essential oils by using a 100 percent boar-bristle brush. Take it section by section, and roll the brush from the scalp through to the ends," says Malm.
Ever since I began running, I've been plagued with "backne" (acne on my back). What can I do to clear my skin and prevent future breakouts? --Jessica Mack, Long Beach, New York
The best way to prevent this problem is to change out of your gear as soon as possible after a workout. "If you wait too long to shower, it's like always driving 100 mph--sooner or later you'll get caught for speeding," says Dr. Brian Adams, Director of the Sports Dermatology Clinic at the University of Cincinnati.
Once you shed the sweaty clothes, "take a shower, and, using a gentle loofah, exfoliate your back. Next, use an acne gel that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid--the active ingredients that kill bacteria," instructs Dr. Brandith Irwin, Director of Madison Skin & Laser Center in Seattle. "If you do this consistently, it really works."
You don't need a name-brand product to get results, so don't be tricked into spending a fortune. Just be sure the product you select is labeled "noncomedogenic," meaning it won't make acne worse, says Irwin.
Another reminder: A bra that's not made of breathable wicking material will trap more moisture, resulting in even more breakouts.
What anti-chafing products work best for cycling long distances? And how should I care for post-cycling skin irritation? --Tonya Nikitin, Beaverton, Oregon
To prevent chafing, do everything you can to stop friction. One product that works well is probably already in your medicine cabinet, petroleum jelly. However, there is a caveat: "If you put too much petroleum on, it hyper-hydrates and can cause blisters--I call it the petroleum paradox," Adams says. He suggests simply using a little and then re-applying.
Other products that athletes swear by include Chamois Butt'r ($14, pacelineproducts.com) and Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($9, drugstores).
After a ride, if you experience discomfort, soak in a mineral salt bath. Be generous with the salts--you'll need to use at least four cups. Then use hydrocortisone until the sore dries up, says Irwin.
Use caution when treating extreme chafing. Dr. Scott B. Phillips, a Chicago-based dermatologist who works with endurance athletes, says he has seen patients develop chronic disruption of the lymphatic drainage system. Seek advice from a physician if problems persist.