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Hair Care Hacks for Travelers and Expats

Posted in: Expat Hacks, Our Perspective, Resources & Gear

travel-hair-care-hacksWhen women move abroad one of the things on their mind is hair care.

Where will you find a good hairdresser?

What about your hair color?

When I moved to Ecuador, South America, hair care problems made me change things up a bit…

Three Easy Hair Care Hacks for Travelers

  1. Cut your own hair
  2. Embrace your gray
  3. Extend time between washing

Do those first two sound like crazy options to you? A lot of things will change in your life when you move abroad, your hair care routine might just be one of them.

It seems that many women are becoming more independent and confident in the area of DIY and “going natural” hair care. So if you are one of them, or if you are willing to give it a try, these hair care hacks might be right up your alley.

Getting a Good Hair Cut (Far From Home)

Finding a new hairdresser can be a headache. It took me a long time to find someone that could cut my hair just the way I liked it, and that was in my hometown in Canada.

Searching out a new hairdresser while living abroad or traveling could take a lot longer, especially if your hair is a different texture than the norm.

For example in Ecuador the majority of women have long gorgeous thick hair, but my hair is fine. It takes a different skill set to cut fine hair than it does to cut thick hair. With thick hair you can layer away and everything looks beautiful. Too many layers in fine hair makes it look thin and straggly.

I’ve had a number of haircuts from a number of different hairdressers who cut way too many layers. It took time each time to grow it out and then try a different hairdresser. So I started cutting my own hair.

Sound scary? It doesn’t have to be.

Cutting Your Hair (The Easy Way)

I used to spend a long time trimming my hair and adding layers. It was hard! But I found a tool that makes it easy, the Creaclip.

Since I started using the Creaclip, a hair cut only takes about 10 or 15 minutes. The clip is small and easy to pack for travel.

I watched some videos before taking the plunge, it looked easy enough so I tried it. It works great!

Bryan helps by doing the actual cutting, which is just a basic trim made super easy with the Creaclip. I’ve been cutting his hair for the past 15 years so he enjoys returning the favor.

It has also made trimming my daughters hair a lot easier.

I’ve also used the Creaclip on my own hair by myself, by flipping my hair forward. That worked well and added layers at the same time. I’ve also add soft layers with scissors, that can be challenging (especially in the back) but I have wavy hair so it’s a lot easier, it all just kind of blends.

An even easier way to add soft layers is with a razor comb. They are not just for thinning out thick hair! A razor comb works great to add soft layers and shape to fine hair as well. But again, watch lots of videos before attempting to use a razor comb. The angel is very important, held flat against the hair will give a soft layer, angled away will cut thick chunks.

I use the Tinkle Hair Cutter razor comb, the side for fine cutting, which is the side on the left in the above photo.

Using the Creaclip will give you a basic style like a bob, layered bob or a long hair cut with long layers. If you normally have a more complex haircut you could try going with something more basic to make things easier while travelling, or just to change things up a bit.

Worried About Keeping Up Your Color? Try Going Natural

I used to dye my hair. I started coloring it in my early twenties when I saw those first signs of gray.

So I was planning on keeping that up when we moved to Ecuador. But things were a little different than I was expecting. I found it hard to find the same brand and the shade. It seemed that because of importation problems the stores had a hard time keeping things in stock.

Sometimes my brand would be available, but my shade wouldn’t, so I would have to switch. I found that frustrating! And worrisome.

After a while the dye started irritating my skin, so with some heavy encouragement from Bryan, I decided to stop coloring and embrace my gray.

embracing my gray

My natural gray highlights

What a relief!

It was a little hard at first. The stereotypes about gray hair are tough to shake! But I’m so glad I did.

All those years of worrying about my gray showing and looking “old,” seem foolish now. I actually like my natural gray highlights.

And I love not having the hassle of dyeing it. I save money, time and stress, not to mention the worry about what all those chemicals were doing to me.

Why Not Try the DIY Approach to Hair Care?

Even if you are not concerned about health benefits, or saving time and money, you may love the freeing aspect of DIY hair care hacks.

Not having to dye your hair (either at home or a salon) or search out a stylist, frees up your time to enjoy more of what living abroad and long term travel have to offer.


It really isn’t that hard to cut your own hair. Just make sure to watch the videos first, and don’t try anything drastic. Just take off a little, and go from there. As you get more used to it your confidence will grow and you will enjoy being able to cut your own hair.

Embracing your gray might just make you feel better about yourself. It feels good to go more natural, and the complements from my husband, daughter and friends don’t hurt either.

Going gray isn’t just for “older” women. By embracing your gray at a younger age you avoid the never ending fight to cover those roots, you know, to avoid that “skunk-stripe.” You also will never have to worry about that harsh transition phase!

Extend Time Between Washing

When traveling or living abroad it can be hard to wash your hair as often as you might want. With travel delays and water cuts you might start feeling a little greasy.

A couple of ways to combat that are with dry shampoo and a cute hat or scarf.

Dry shampoo comes as a spray or powder. It helps soak up oil, clean and freshen, all without water. That can be a big help if you need to go an extra day or two without washing your hair. A couple of highly rated reasonably priced options are Batiste Dry Shampoo and Dove Refresh + Care Invigorating Dry Shampoo.

Another option is covering up those shiny roots with a cute hat or scarf. Investing in a good quality hat can have other benefits as well, like sun protection. Check out my favorite travel hat.

Dry shampoo and travel hats don’t take up much space in your luggage, they could feel like a life saver when your concerned about looking clean and fresh.

Hair care can be a little different when you are on the road or living abroad, but with a few easy hair care hacks you don’t need to spend much time worrying about it.

Looking for motivation to help you embrace your gorgeous gray, or to cut your own hair? Check out these books:

Daring to be Gray: This book talks about how to find the confidence to stop coloring your hair.

Haircutting for Dummies: This book teaches you how to cut and style hair. You can apply the techniques to your own hair, and perhaps get up the nerve to cut family and friends hair as well.


Or if you just want to go with the CreaClip like I did, this package comes with a how-to CD.


(If you enjoyed this post please share it with your friends.)

Your Turn

As an expat or long term traveler, what do you do about hair care? Have any hair care hacks to share? Please let us know by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

4 comments… add one
  • Dannielle Lily Mar 6, 2015, 6:43 am

    I found life on the road made my hair really dry and damaged thanks to the combination of sun, salt water and never having conditioner in hostels! Buy a tub of coconut oil at a local market to keep your hair hydrated 🙂

  • tamar Feb 15, 2015, 11:00 am

    Hi Deena,

    Funny that you are mentioning the Creaclips. I bought them a looong time ago, thinking it to be useful for Ecuador. I cut myself a neat Bob from overshoulder Length. No problem. Now i want long hair, but still perfect for fringes.

    I can say the same good things about henna like Erika, especially for fine hair. But i love silver hair just the same!
    So, why not!?

    Maybe a very helpful tip is to go “no-poo” (its a method, sorry for the name). There us a manual about it and it offers great alternatives to shampoo. It was the best decision for my hair. Only twice a week washing and bouncy hair in between.

    Greetings from Germany

  • Eric Lutz Jan 18, 2015, 12:42 pm

    This would be one of the big concerns for me moving to Ecuador . Is my hair Oh my! I would need a personal barber one who specializes in baldness and how to trim a bald man. Yes indeed!

  • Erika Jan 18, 2015, 12:27 pm

    Hello, I really enjoyed your article about DIY hair-care. I am in my early 50-s and got gray hair in my early 40. It runs in the family. After trying several over the counter chemical hair dye I wanted to try to color my hair naturally. I also had a wild idea, I wanted to be redhead. So started digging. It didn’t took me long to stumble upon Very informative website with lots of before and after pictures, with a free forum for members where you can ask lots of questions. I didn’t know that there are 3 different types of henna, colorless, red and indigo (blueish-black). Now many years later I mix my own natural organic hennas: cassia which is the name of the colorless henna, I add red henna and a couple of spoonful of turmeric powder for that perfect copper look. The secret for henna colored hair is that you add about a 1/2 cup of lemon juice (no it will not dry out your hair) to the henna mix and your hair color will NEVER fade. If you mix it with only water yes it will face in about a month. I’ve never in my mind received so many compliments for my hair. Everybody and I mean EVERYBODY thinks I am a natural redhead. (my green eyes are a big help too, haha!) Henna gives your hair thicker texture, it makes your hair oh-so-shiny and strong and healthy looking. If you have gorgeous silver hair Cassia the colorless henna makes your hair natural looking blonde. I hope one can find Henna in Ecuador. If not, maybe you can subscribe to 100 gram red Henna which they send out monthly (or as often as your settings say) and it cost only $3.99 with free shipping within the USA. Hopefully it wont’ cost much to ship it to Ecuador. So hey, if you are not afraid to go blonde or red, jump in, the water is just fine! :o) Thank you for reading this novel, hahahaha, but I really like Henna. Can you tell? Ps: Please forgive my incorrect English grammar, English is my 4th language and still have to work on my language skills. Thanks!!! ((((((((((hugs to all))))))))))

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