Do you wish you could go backpacking without ending up with a knotted mop on your head by the end of it?

Or dream of having smooth hair, even after weeks at the beach?

The tousled waves and highlights are what we dream about when we're away. But the question is - is the boho look worth the health of your hair?

When I was working as a hairdresser, I remember dreading the clients who wouldn't brush their hair for the entire summer. This meant they were going to and from the beach regularly, and without brushing or putting treatments in to counteract the sun and salt damage.

Sure, their hair looked fabulous and had all this extra volume. But it was due to the big knots hiding in there! It was almost impossible to brush them out, and when I tried, I could feel the hair stretching and pulling.

So here are 6 tips to help your hair survive the summer. While I can't promise they will transform your hair overnight, they will make a pretty big difference if you commit to them.

1. Rub marine-safe oil on your hair before going into salt water

Doing this will allow your hair to absorb the oil so it doesn't have much space left to absorb the salt water (which will dry it out).

Although pretty much any moisturiser will do (hair conditioner, leave in conditioner etc.), I prefer to use something as natural as possible to avoid affecting the marine life (my go-to is usually coconut oil or olive oil). Then when you're done at the beach, simply shampoo it out, or just give it a little rinse which will remove the salt residue but allow the oil to keep conditioning your hair. 

2. Don't use all the complimentary products

Generally, the free toiletries you get at your accommodation won't be the best for your hair (well, at least in the places that cater to our backpacker budget!).

While it's ok to use them occasionally, it's important not to rely on these solely. The problem is that you'll be doing more harm than good by washing with a shampoo that strips all the oils from your hair then conditioning with a product that doesn't effectively replace those oils. You do that a few times in a row, with sun and salt in between, and you're setting your hair up for some serious breakage.

If you really have nothing else to wash your hair with and are desperate, use a little bit of shampoo on the roots and let it gently rinse through the rest (you don't want to lather the shampoo through your mids and ends). That'll give you a fresh, clean feeling scalp and prevent further knotting and damage in the most delicate parts.

3. Take at least one great product

I don't expect you to carry a range of salon-grade goodies with you (I'm being realistic as a light traveller myself), but it's important to invest in at least one product that'll keep your hair strong and healthy.

For very fine hair at shoulder length or shorter, a good shampoo is the most important. Buy one that has a protein base with light moisture. This will strengthen your hair and give you some extra volume, while providing light hydration to keep your hair from knotting too much.

For longer hair, or hair prone to tangling, definitely go for a great mask/treatment that you can put on once a week to add moisture back into your hair.

If you're ever unsure, ask a hairdresser next time you're passing a salon to recommend one product that your hair will most benefit from.

6 Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hair While Travelling #travelling #backpacking

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4. Brush or comb regularly

Brushing doesn't seem like it's important to hair health, but it can actually cause a lot of damage if you leave your hair scruffy.

Tangled hair is more prone to breakage because knots rough up the cuticle and create weak points. It's also important to comb all the way from the scalp to the ends to ensure all the little knots are gone. You can start with the bottom section first and work your way up if you have a lot of tangles to get through.

If you don't want your locks going frizzy with brushing dry hair, use a wide-toothed comb in the shower while you've got either conditioner or a hair mask in. Then rinse and dry as usual.

5. Protect your hair from the sun

Just as you would with your skin, you need to protect your hair from the sun so it doesn't overheat and burn. Yep, that is possible.

A hat or headscarf is my number one recommendation because it creates that barrier between your hair and the sun. If you don't like either of those options, I'd recommend getting a UV protection spray from a trusted brand. Bonus points again if you can get one that won't damage marine life when it rinses off into the ocean.

6. If all else fails, don't be afraid to cut it

If your hair is becoming a nightmare, it might not get any better. Hair is dead before it even exits the scalp so while you can do a lot of repair with great products, it's not possible to completely restore hair that is ready to fall off.

I totally understand the fears of getting a terrible haircut, believe me, even as a hairdresser it's not always easy to communicate what I want. 


If this is the case, ask someone at your accommodation's reception if they can recommend a stylist. Another option is to ask around at hostels. You may run into hairdressers who take their scissors with them to make some cash while travelling. Since you're not running to a salong schedule, you'll have more time to communicate what you want and even go through some pictures with them.

And when choosing a style — probably not a time to get that edgy look you've always wanted. Keep it as low-maintenece as possible so you don't have to spend your backpacker days styling a new hair do. 

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How do you keep up with your hair routine when you travel? Do you manage to keep in in good health? What's the product you can't travel without?