Having long, tangly hair can be a little annoying when traveling but I’ve found some ways to manage it. I have a few travel hair care tips and some favorite products that I use when I’m bouncing around the world so that my hair doesn’t need a big cut after the trip is over.
I recently did a reader survey and one question asked what you want more tips on and I was surprised to see you want more beauty tips. I don’t write much about it but do have an article about travel beauty hacks I use and some travel makeup I tested out – but for the most part, I don’t write about it too much! I hope that this article on managing your hair while traveling will be helpful.
My Favorite Travel Hair Care Tips & Products
1. Prevention is Key: Fewer Chemicals and Heat
It’s really important to try and keep your hair protected ahead of time.
Let me share my hair type so that you can see if yours is a little similar or not because the tips that work for me won’t work for everyone. I have naturally “dirty blonde” or “dishwater blonde” hair that I do a partial (top) highlight to once a year. The sun keeps it pretty blonde (and makes a lot of natural white highlights) so there isn’t a lot of damage on it from chemicals. If you do dye your hair more often, that can be difficult to keep up with while you travel. I used to highlight my hair every 8 weeks in college for four years, and since I stopped that 5 years ago you literally cannot tell a difference as the sun does most of the work! I’d consider trying to let your hair go more natural if it’s not already – and spreading out how often you dye it.
Not using too much hair dye helps keep it baseline healthier. I also don’t own/use a hair drier, straightener, or curling iron which helps massively. My hair dries wavy so I add product and leave it as it is. I use heat products maybe two times a year. I think that these two things are pretty key to keeping hair healthy. You can add all the best products to heat damaged or over-bleached hair and it won’t help too much.
For products to help with preventing sun damage, I love the Aveda line. They do a‘Sun Care Protective Veil and an ‘After Sun Mask‘, both of which I use. I buy the larger sizes and then put a small amount in travel tubes when I’m on vacations.
2. Not Letting it “Go”
While I might go maximum 3 days without washing and combing my hair, when I do wash it, I always comb it. If you get on that “barefoot traveler” thing and don’t comb your hair, you really will get dreads! Fine if you want them, but if you want to be able to brush it back out then don’t let it go too long without taking care of it.
I have such dry wavy hair that underneath it would be uncombable if I went a week without doing it. Then, if you wait too long, you have to yank and pull to get the tangles and knots out. This does so much damage! So, try to keep up on it. Every time you hear that snapping of hair when you brush your hair, it’s just hair you are losing and breaking in half.
My hair in the image above is so matted and tangled up after hours of lessons that it is absolutely impossible to detangle without products. I have sometimes been in the shower with loads of conditioner in my hair after surfing about to give up because it’s so hard to get out the tangles.
If you swim in the sea and your hair has nice beach waves when you get out, it’s tempting to leave it like that until starts to look bad which could take a week or so. I wash and comb it after every day I swim in the sea because if you go a week with beachy hair it’ll be a disaster to try and comb it eventually.
Actually even open-Jeep rides and extremely windy beach days, I’ll wash and comb it to prevent it from getting too tangled. When I rode in an open Jeep in Golan Heights, it took me 45 minutes that night to wash my hair and that was with a handful of conditioner in it!
One thing I try to do when surfing or in windy situations like the back of a motorcycle, is to put my hair in a braid so it can’t go as wild.
3. Don’t Wash it Too Much
Where I am from in Ohio, most people have a water softener. Soft water makes your hair sooo silky smooth. In Europe, Asia, and other places you might travel, they have hard water. It makes your hair feel brittle and you might be bummed to see it doesn’t look the same as you’re used to.
It might dry different or feel different. I try to wash my hair only every 3 days unless I’m in the sea or have gotten dirty/sweaty. After too much time using hard water, my hair does start to feel more brittle and when I spend a month at home in Ohio I can feel it getting softer.
4. Use Detangling Products
If you’ve been sleeping on trains and surfing and your hair is a mess, don’t yank at it! I know you guys have limited space in your luggage, but take just these 3 essential things with you to help detangle your hair.
- Tangle Teaser Comb
- It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner (Travel Size)
- Any Brand Deep Conditioning Masks – just take a few so that every couple of week you can treat your hair. I love Aveda, but there are loads.
5. Condition Like Crazy
I use conditioner every time I wash my hair, but I also use that “It’s a 10” leave in conditioner spray every other time I wash my hair. I love this stuff because it detangles and leaves my hair feeling really good instead of dry.
6. Don’t Let Product Build Up
My hair dries naturally wavy, but when I want it to look extra good, I’ll use beach wave products on it. I do this on average once every other week, or at maximum once a week. This sounds pretty obvious, but you have to wash your hair thoroughly and get out all the products even conditioner. In India, many hostels have only cold water (no heating connected) and have terrible water pressure. I see so many tourists walking around with greasy hair because the cold water with no pressure coming out of the shower isn’t cleaning their hair and getting the conditioner all the way out.
Bucket baths can be even worse because you dump a whole bucket of water on your head with no hands to rinse it while you do, but it’s not the same as giving it thorough rinse under the shower head and use your hands to get all the product out. If you are a budget traveler, then every once in a while check into a place with hot water and a real shower so you can wash it really good.
This picture is what my hair looks like if I comb it after a shower and just let it dry with “It’s a 10” conditioner, compared to the next picture down, which is when I add product and try to, scrunch it up with a towel, and make it have beach waves.
7. Trim Your Hair When It Starts Looking Dry at the Ends
Even while traveling you can go in a salon and get a trim. I’ve even had one in a barber shop in India. You don’t have to get fancy; you can just say: “cut it straight across” and show them how much to take off. I don’t get layers when I’m traveling, but will get a trim.
8. How I Make My Hair Look Wavy
I have naturally wavy hair (pic above without products) but I do use products when I want it to look good. The products I use to help with beach waves, naturally dry your hair so you don’t want to use them daily. Some people do, but I wouldn’t want to – it’s salt basically that you are putting in your hair which is always drying.
The products that I use for my hair when I want to make it wavy are Bumble & Bumble Surf Shampoo and Conditioner, It’s a 10 leave-in conditioner, Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray or Foam Spray, and that’s it! The foam spray is next, but I think I like it even more than the original surf spray.
So, here’s what I do to make it wavy. I use my Tangle Teazer comb in the shower to brush my hair while I have conditioner in it. Then I flip my hair upside down in the shower and kind of scrunch it up under the water. When I get out, I gently scrunch it up with a towel then add the leave-in conditioner and surf spray and then I scrunch it again (really really gently or it’ll go frizzy). Next, I scrunch it to my head twist it, and put it in a clip until it’s about 40% dried. It looks like this (a dog after a bath lol) while it dries a bit and I go out like that (ignore the black eye from the surf board, lol):
Then I let it down and let it dry. I usually do a deep side part then some pieces of that naturally fall back to the other side and have a little more bounce/fullness. If I really want it wavy, I won’t comb it in the shower, but it will be so tangled for the next time I need to comb it – and I always regret doing it!
So, these are my basic tips for how I keep my hair managed while traveling. Again, it’ll be different for every hair type! My hair is actually thick (as in a have a lot of it) but each individual hair is very fine, not course, so it’s very prone to tangles.
I want to keep it long, so that’s why I use these travel hair care tips! I feel like these aren’t even good hair photos I’ve added to this blog post – I can’t think of which places my hair looked the best – but you can also check out my Instagram to see photos of my hair and see if you’d want to try these products.
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