In a move that some are calling bizarre, the surgeon general has set her sights on ... women's hair. While visiting a hair trade show this month, Dr. Regina Benjamin spoke about what Anahad O'Connor, writing for the New York Times, calls "something of a pet cause": Her belief that women aren't exercising because the don't want to mess up their hair. "Oftentimes you get women saying, 'I can’t exercise today because I don’t want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet,'" she explained, pointing to women's concerns, in particular those of black women, that the time and money spent treating their hair will go to waste.
One study of 103 African-American women found that a third exercised less due to worries about their hair. "It’s not just African-American women," says, Benjamin, whose mother was a hairdresser. "I saw it with my older white patients, too. They would say, ‘I get my hair done every week and I don’t want to mess up my hair.'" Her mission—to convince women it's OK to have a bad hair day for the sake of exercise—isn't without its critics. "The role of the surgeon general is traditionally, and appropriately, to take on big issues," said a senior fellow at a conservative think tank. “I don’t know whether the surgeon general’s role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre." Others say that there are more roadblocks beyond grooming, including work and family.