If you didn’t already know, I was in Southeast Asia (SEA) for a few weeks this June/July. It was amazing. Track flights now; you should go! (More on that later, we’re talking hair right now!) I had a buildup of buildup (ha) and “hairmergencies” while I was abroad and needed some TLC, STAT. I had to think fast and rely on a very resourceful friend in order to feel like a functioning curly girl yet again.
I have naturally wavy/curly hair, which I have been trying to understand and build a healthy relationship with since last September, when I first started following the “curly girl” method. My biggest takeaway (ok, second biggest takeaway) is that the curly girl method can be CRAZY EXPENSIVE! (My first takeaway is that you need to eliminate parabens, sulfates, and silicons from your hair products, like yesterday. Read those ingredients carefully.) You want some tips for curly girls on a budget? Stay tuned!
Because of those 2 details, I had to be very strategic packing for SEA. I only took a carry-on bag and a backpack – which means 3 oz/100mL liquids – but I didn’t want to resort to using hotel shampoo that is either a) full of harmful substances for these curls, or b) has a foreign ingredient list (although even in English, I don’t understand half the ingredients in labels!). Therefore, I took three 3oz bottles: shampoo, conditioner, and gel, and one 1oz container of DevaCurl’s B-leave in, as well as an old T-shirt to dry my hair. That should be enough for ~3 weeks on the equator, right?
WRONG. Biggest regret – my lifesaving hair potion of B’Leave In was all gone after just 1 wash – seriously, my thick hair left that container bone dry. I don’t LOVE hair gel, and it wasn’t doing me any favors in the humidity (despite its sole purpose). Imagine mixing a few days of sweat with volcanic ash & dust from hiking to the top of a volcano. I then dunked my head in the volcano’s natural hot spring, let my hair air dry, then rode into the sunset on the back of a motorcycle (dreamy story, I digress).
If what you’re imagining now is a grimy dreadlock situation, my imagery is working. As you may know, the water in Indonesia is very different than New York – the water isn’t filtered and it’s very hard. My hair, post-wash, was just as residual feeling as before and smelled a lil funky. (See: post’s featured image for 2 days of beach hair that may look good, but feel disgusting.) What’s a girl to do?!
I have TWO solutions to share with you all: 1 that helped while in Asia, the other for when I returned to NYC.
- JOJOBA OIL: After Indonesia, we were off to Thailand, where I was meeting my solution-to-everything friend from Singapore, Judith. I asked her if she had any oils she could bring me so I can make myself a little hair mask, and from a long list of options, she realized she had Jojoba Oil. She packed that for me in a little bottle (and on her own, thought to bring me one of those clear hotel shower caps). She is a life saver. (Love you, Judith!)The next morning, I woke up 2 hours early and started making my DIY hair mask. I scrubbed a lot of the oil into my scalp (for MINUTES, and yes my hands got tired!), and used a less liberal amount throughout the length of my hair. I prayer-hand-motioned the oil down the hair, and then worked it between pieces to get out all the knots. Then I aggressively stuffed my hair into the plastic shower cap, laid a towel on my pillow, and went back to sleep. Two hours later, I took a very hot shower and washed out the oil with ~2.5 applications of shampoo. I skipped conditioner and product, just scrunched my hair with a t-shirt. I then let my hair air dry.
Benefits: softened my hair, got rid of the residue, & eliminated the weird scent – even in Bangkok’s pollution and humidity!
Approximate Cost: Full-size bottle was equiv. 6USD in Bangkok, so I definitely regret not buying this there! I would say it’s definitely a little more expensive for a non-travel size bottle here, but not by much. Don’t get something specifically branded for hair/beauty because it’ll probably be upcharged for the extra ~bennies.~
- NOVEX MYSTIC BLACK HAIR MASK: Was I exhausted after a day-long flight home from Singapore? Absolutely yes. Did that stop me from doing a hair mask the second I got home at 12:30am? Nope! Once I got home, I jumped in the shower and shampooed my hair. I then put in the Novex Mystic Black Hair Mask throughout my hair (avoiding my scalp), running my fingers through the knots. I then tied my hair into a very loose bun and continued with my shower. 5-7 minutes later, I rinsed it out and put in the Novex Mystic Black Leave-In Conditioner, which I put in before applying my fave after-product, B’Leave In. I then let my hair air-dry overnight, while sleeping with my hair wrapped in my mom’s old satin nightgown that she gave me (LOL it works, ok!? No judgement!).
Benefits: Made with all-natural ingredients, vitamins, and oils, and none of the harsh chemicals I mentioned earlier. My hair is softer, less knotted, and more defined when I use these two Novex products.
Approximate Cost: $10 for hair mask, $19 for leave-in. Compared to all the other curly/natural hair product lines I’ve found, this is the most bang for your buck, without breaking the bank. (Alliteration for the win.)
A couple things to note: You may be wondering where the before/after pics are, right? As I mentioned, I was sweating ALL THE TIME and tied my hair up constantly. I am kicking myself for not taking any awful photos (NOT) but am pretty bummed I was TOO BUSY HAVING A BLAST to take pictures of my jojoba-saved curls! So sorry, friends. I guess you’ll have to believe me… or try this yourself!
As I self-promised… I am going to do a curly hair on a budget blog post soon, where I will dive into uncharted waters (missing the island life, I had to!) and lay out all my best tips for you. Even if you’re not curly (or self-identified curly – maybe you straighten your hair), I promise these tips will be helpful for anyone trying to have a healthy head of hair AND a healthy bank account. Stay tuned, follow @howtobebrokeinnewyork on Instagram, and share with a friend! Tried any tips? Have any suggestions or stories? I’d love to hear! Xo.