Whenever I travel, one of the main things I think about is how I am going to take care of my hair when I am overseas. And because black hair is so versatile, there isn’t one correct answer. The only correct answer is you have to do what’s best for you.
I have lived in four countries for extended periods of time. When I lived in India, I was a junior in college on a study abroad program. While living in Spain and China, I had just graduated from college. During all three experiences, I was natural.
Last year, I worked in Vietnam and traveled around Southeast Asia. I was relaxed, but I was in Vietnam long enough where I could just wear my hair in twists. Because of the nature of my job, I live overseas for years at a time. I am still relaxed, and as of right now, I don’t plan on going back to being natural anytime soon. So, again I am in the new territory about how to maintain my hair while I’m overseas. And as I grow and learn I will be sure to update this page.
However, below I will share some of the ways I have maintained my hair in the past. And some things I’m thinking about doing for the future.
My hair is usually in protective styles when I travel because it’s just easy to maintain, and allows my hair to grow without a ton of manipulation.
When I’m traveling for a few weeks to two to three months, braids are my best friend. The thing is, I never get braids unless I’m traveling. They are low maintenance. If you are traveling long-term, just make sure you don’t leave them in for too long or your hair will start to loc. Breakage can also occur.
Twists were my other go-to. Back when I was natural, during my wash days, I would spend all day twisting my hair. It was time-consuming, but I wouldn’t have to do my hair every day. I just left them in twists and then when I needed to retwist some of my hair I would.
Other protective styles could include crochet braids, faux locs, weaves or wigs.
Depending on where you are, you might not be able to find your favorite hair care products. And even though some stores online ship worldwide, their service might not be able to get to you. If you are gone for a few days, to a week or two, you might be okay with travel size products. Travel size products, if they are containers less than 3.4 oz, can go in your carry-on.
If you’re traveling overseas for longer than a couple of weeks, you may definitely need to stock up on hair supplies. Buy multiple bottles of containers of your favorite supplies. These supplies (bigger than 3.4 oz) go in your checked luggage.
If you are overseas and you run out of your favorite hair products, and there’s no store that sells them and you can’t get them online, ask your local expat community. If there are other black expats, see if they will let you barter some of their hair supplies or buy them. I remember when I lived in Madrid, when people went home for Christmas, there would be women who would ask others if they needed them to get any supplies while they were in the United States. Those still in Spain just paid for the supplies when the women returned.
Finding the local African community or other black ex-pats can be beneficial because someone may have access to hair products. Also, someone may know how to do hair or can recommend someone else.
Sometimes you just have to find a hairstylist. And depending on where you are, it can be possible. Ask other women if they know someone who does hair. And the reason why I wouldn’t just only ask black women is because you never know who may have information. I remember one of my coworkers in Vietnam who is Vietnamese, gave me the phone number of a black woman in Hanoi who did hair. Had I never asked her, I would have never known.
Also, be sure to check online for hairstylists. But pay attention to the reviews.