Traveling has it's challenges. As prepared as you might think you are for the world, there is one part of you that probably isn't as ready for the adventure - your hair. On average, curls need a bit more time and work to adjust to new environments while traveling. I thought I was ready for this challenge but there were new obstacles to face.
Protect your scalp while traveling
- Your scalp produces a natural lubricant called sebum that protects the hair cuticle from loosing moisture quickly and from external damage. While sebum is produced by every scalp, it travels down the hair strand at different rates for every curl. Additional oils help to keep curls protected and seal in moisture on your scalp. Keep the scalp oiled (especially when parted) to combat drying air and sun damage. Either can cause dandruff and your roots to thin.
Proper hydration is the only way to retain moisture in your hair. Moisture retention is both internal and external. Through a relaxing day on the beach to off the beaten path discoveries, drink lots of water. Oils will help to seal in topical moisture. Stay hydrated to aid your body on the inside from head to toe on your trip.
Avoid harsh cleansers in hair products
Purchasing products while traveling means that you will need to be significantly more resourceful in your selection. As most products are not suitable for curly hair, containing ingredients that can strip the hair of its natural oil and over expose the hair cuticle, you will need to be vigilant in your selection or use natural remedies.
Be aware of using a humectant like glycerin or honey as they can cause significant dryness in extreme weather. Humectants are a good substance to promote moisture retention as they are hydrogen to water bonding molecules. This means that are able to absorb water from the atmosphere. In high humidity environments a humectant can cause over absorption of water vapor, contributing to frizz. In low humidity, it can cause curls to lose moisture and water, causing hair to become dry and brittle. Depending on your hair type, using humectants in either extreme environment can result in adverse effects to curls.
Dry hair with micro-fiber towel or old t-shirt
Scrunching your hair in a soft cloth to dry is a great way to remove water quickly and maintain a good amount of moisture within the cuticle without tangling of breaking the stand or loosing too much curl definition. Hair cuticles are more susceptible to damage when wet. Drying your hair quickly, with a soft fabric, will keep your hair strands strong. Terry cloth, a standard fabric of hotel towels, has a coarse texture that can result in split ends, frizz and break wet curls. Using a smooth fabric, like a micro-fiber towel or old t-shirt will remove excess water quickly without damaging the hair strand.
The most reliable detangling tool you have during your travels is your dominant hand. Cheeky, yes, but seriously. Since wide tooth combs can be very scarce in some countries, your five fingers are the best tool for keeping your hair manageable. You can always follow up your detangle using a thinner tooth width comb (if available). Remember to always start the detangle at the ends, not at the roots and always detangle damp or wet hair.
Chlorine, salt water and other corroding chemicals and minerals in public water can cause lasting damage to your curls. Rinse your hair with fresh, warm water before each interaction with these ingredients will increase the resistance against absorbing harsh chemicals and can protect your hair from long lasting damage. Applying a conditioner and/or oil will create a barrier on your hair. Afterward the activity, rinse thoroughly with warm water and a natural clarifier such as diluted apple cider vinegar to remove all damaging substances. Follow with a deep moisturizer to replenish what was stripped away.
Prevent curls from drying out on flights
Because of the high altitudes of international flights, the air in the cabin becomes very dry. Prepare your curls by giving your hair a moisture boost. Condition before your trip. Keep a moisturizing spray in your carry-on for easy access on extra long flights. Protective up-dos such a pineapple or braids/twists are hassle-free travel style that will allow you to rest your head easily.
After water activities or an active couple of days of adventures, it is important to detangle your hair, from the ends to the roots. Never forget to comb all the way to the roots. Your scalp needs to be able to breathe. Combing to the root not only detangles your curls but also spreads your hair's sebum. While wet, separate your hair into smaller sections and comb through with your fingers. Follow up with a wide tooth comb (if available).
Once you’ve detangled your hair, styling should be a means of simplicity, confidence and protection. Always style your hair in a way that allows you also to protect it. This is any style from an afro, to a high bun to a protective style. Keep options in mind, such as a light scarf or hat, for preventing damage to your curls from the environment.
Singular scarf layer vs full head wrap in airport
Though head wraps are a thicker material layer to aid in preventing your hair from drying out on the airplane or rubbing against the fabric on seats, it may be a safety concern. As a precaution airport security will double check any thick layers on the body, including your head. Avoid the annoyance of a double head check with singular layers on your head. Otherwise, be prepared to have your head wrap searched by hand or rescanned.
Whether you are walking through town or doing a long adventure day, protect your hair from sun damage by keeping it covered. High intense sun beaming directly on your curls will dehydrate and dry your hair, from the ends to the roots. While oils and sealants protect the hair from environmental damage, these ingredients are only the first layer of protection and care. Having a light covering, such as a light scarf or hat, will block direct sunlight from drying out your hair and overheating your scalp.
Using these tips wherever you are in the world, can help with preventing damage to your curls, maintain healthy curls and continuing your journey of growth. What are your tips to maintain your curls while traveling?