As you plan your winter getaway or get ready for your spring semester abroad, keep in mind that traveling while natural is a unique experience. It’s also important to remember that whatever your reason for traveling is, it is definitely not to spend hours on your hair. Here’s a list of ten tips that I found extremely helpful when I was studying abroad in Ghana:
1. Check the weather conditions.
Regardless of your how curly or kinky your hair is, extreme weather conditions can affect your hair regimen. One of the most important things to check before traveling long distances is the level of humidity and dryness in the new environment. For example, a shift from very hot and humid weather to cold dry weather would call for a reduction of humectants like glycerin and aloe vera that can strip moisture from the hair.
2. Keep it low maintenance on the plane.
Think about it- when traveling, your main objective is to be comfortable for the length of the trip. This calls for a simple twisted hairstyle covered by a hat or headscarf. When traveling, I tend to twist my hair into goddess braids then wrap it with a cute scarf. This way I can be cute and comfortable. Then, upon arrival, I undo the twists and am left with an instant twist out! A word of caution- the TSA has lately been picking through head wraps, so make sure to tie your scarf in an easily removable style, or just stick to a hat.
3. Pack wisely- bring only the essentials
Since you are traveling and not relocating, there is no reason for you to pack up your entire shelf of products. Bring only your favorite two to three products in travel sizes. If you want to save extra money you can buy a pack of reusable containers from a local beauty supply store or drugstore and fill them with your favorite conditioner, styling cream or gel. Make sure to properly seal your products and leave behind anything you can buy in the place to which you are traveling.
4. Water can be your best friend– and worst enemy
Drinking water is an essential part of any hair regimen, but this is especially true in new environments. Keep your body hydrated so that your hair remains healthy. You should also pay attention to the water quality in the new location. Some water stores have higher levels of sodium, which can be drying. You can either research this beforehand or do a small patch test on your hair. If the water quality is particularly bad in your area, your best bet would be to use bottled water once you arrive.
Many foreign countries specialize in the very ingredients featured in your favorite natural hair products. Take advantage of this and collect these resources throughout your travels. For example, you can find large quantities of shea butter from Ghana for less than ten dollars, and the same goes for coconut oil in the Dominican Republic and Ayurvedic herbal oil in India. When you return you can store these items and use them to create your own customized hair products!
6. Ditch the heat
Nothing is worse than nearly setting a room on fire from attempting to plug a blow dryer into a foreign socket. Even with an adapter or converter the voltage variations can get complicated and there is no way to know if your blow dryer or flat iron can handle the adjustment. My advice—leave yours at home. Ditch the heat tools, and embrace the curly girl method.
7. Ditch the shampoo
This may sound alarming or counterintuitive, but when traveling, shampoo is not a necessity. You will need to shampoo your hair before and after traveling, but, depending on the length of the trip, you can get away with simply co-washing your hair regularly with conditioner. This shaves off time spent doing your hair and reduces the weight in your luggage!
8. Leave it alone!
As mentioned before, you decided to travel to have an adventure, to make memories, and seize opportunities– not to spend hours washing and styling your hair. Protective styling is the perfect option for travelers. You can wear your hair in a multitude of styles like top knots, mini twists, and extensions so that you have more time to spend on your trip.
9. Always travel with “Best friend Bobby”
The pin, that is. If your hairstyle malfunctions or frizzes out, you don’t want to be stranded in the middle of an unfamiliar city or country with no options. Always bring extra bobby pins and hair ties as a Plan B.
10. Wear it with pride!
The truth of the matter is, many people in different countries and some regions of the U.S. have not seen natural hair in real life. This means that people may approach you or give you unwarranted attention. Under such a universal gaze, it is important to be confident in yourself and wear that fro with pride!
Armed with these hacks, you are ready to be on your way. Happy travels!
(This post first appeared on blackhairinformation.com)