Hair and Skincare Tips for Nomadic Naturalistas
“So…what do you guys do about your hair?” My new friend Stephanie asked my Instagram Bestie Yale_Meets_World and I during breakfast. While we were all avid travelers, Stephanie was based in Florida and made various trips throughout the year, while Yale and I were committed to the nomadic lifestyle. Her forays back home meant that Stephanie was able to maintain a consistent beauty routine. Which, as a Black girl, on the most basic level, meant having access to hair products that worked for our type of hair.
Two days later, as we were walking through the late night food market, I asked my friend new friend Natasha how she was managing her skincare practice. In fact, I specially asked her if she had enough product to last her throughout her time in Asia. The prevalence of skin bleaching in this part of the world made me weary to put anything on my face that hadn’t been made for the Western market. As Natasha still seemed to be in complete possession of all of her melanin, I wanted to know if she had any tips on how I could remain that way as well. She mentioned heading to Watsons, the main western beauty market that had stores throughout the Middle East and Asia. Knowing, however, that Western brands change their products for different markets, I didn’t want to take the risk. While it was true that I had mastered the recipe for the perfect kitchen made conditioner, homemade skincare products were outside my area of expertise.
Two years ago I found myself in a similar predicament. I was living on a Spanish island in middle of the Mediterranean. There were only about 3 Black people on the island—myself included. It is unsurprising then, that there were very few options for us to stay moisturized. But just as I had run out of my favorite conditioner, an ad for the UK based beauty website lookfantastic.com popped up on my Instagram feed. Not only did they carry products suitable for my hair, they offered FREE GLOBAL SHIPPING! It seemed too good to be true, but I was desperate, so I placed my order. Less than a week later, my Shea Moisture products were delivered directly to my door.
I saw no reason why this success couldn’t be repeated here in Thailand. It seems a perfect solution to maintaining both my the health of my hair and skin. So, I’ll soon be placing my order. But in the meantime, here is what you can do to stay moisturized and melanated in the meantime:
Aloe Vera is liquid gold
About ten years ago when I was still learning about my hair, one of my favorite Youtubers made one of the most informative video series that I’ve ever seen. In it, she describes not only the structure of your hair, but the importance of PH balance for retaining moisture. You can view the series here.
The best thing about aloe vera is that its usage is fairly universal worldwide. When looking at ingredients for any type of conditioner, I always look to see if Aloe Barbadensis is listed as one of the first 5 ingredients. If I can’t find something suitable, in a pinch I’ll add some Aloe gel or juice to any natural conditioner. It usually does the trick—at least well enough until I can get my hands on something especially formulated for my hair.
Coconut Oil is the truth
Chances are you already know this, but on the off chance that you don’t know about coconut oil, now you know. Coconut oil is one of the few oils that can penetrate the hair shaft, leaving the hair supple and lubricated. Coconut oil also works great for the skin. It is a very light oil and on application, just like on your hair, the oil absorbs directly into your skin.
If you are traveling to anyplace tropical, chances are they are already aware of the wonders of coconut oil, so it will easy to find. Add it to your hair after applying your leave-in to seal in the moisture. It also works as a natural heat protectant if you are looking to straighten your hair, or protect it from a strong sun.
How to Stay Melanated!
One of my biggest fears in coming to Asia is that I would accidentally buy skin lightening products. And to be honest, that is still a fear. So, for that, I will be ordering my products from lookfantastic.com. But if you need products right away, and want to keep your melanin, here is what to look out for:
Regardless of the language spoken the country you’re in, ingredients will generally be written in two languages: the local one and the scientific Latin language. The Latin names for the most common skin-bleaching products are hydroquinone, kojic acid and arbutin. Regardless of where you are, if you see those names, put the bottle down and move on.
Honey, You’re just So Sweet
And you provide great moisture to the hair. There is a chance growing up that you were told that oil moisturizes your hair. At least that was the reason your momma gave me when she was greasing your scalp. But the truth is the only thing that can provide moisture is water. And one of water’s great assistants on the road to moisturization is a humectant.
Humectants take moisture from the environment and place it where it is applied. Applying it directly to hair will leave you a sticky mess. However, if you add a teaspoon to your spritz or even conditioner, your hair will thank you.
Skincare is very specific, so it is difficult to give advice. But I will say this, after I came back from Cuba in 2014, skin was wrecked. While I was smart enough to know not to drink the water in Havana, I didn’t give much consideration as to what effect it would have on my skin. My skin hadn’t been that bad since I was in high school. A rash of tiny bumps appeared all across my forehead. Not only did they hurt to the touch, the sheer number of them stretched my skin making it difficult to even more my face.
It is no surprise then that as soon as I arrived back Stateside, I headed to Sephora. The associate recommended a salicylic acid cream by Peter Thomas Roth. I put it on every night before sleep and within a week, my skin returned to normal.
Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant that is generally prescribed to people with oily acne prone skin. People with dry skin usually use AHA or alpha hydroxy acid instead. If you find yourself with stressed out skin, try using a product with one of these acids. It should set things back to right.
Coffee Grinds for the win!
And here it is, the last tip. We have already been introduced to chemical exfoliants, and while you probably shouldn’t use these on your face, coffee grinds are a great physical exfoliant. This is something I realized recently after coming from the Middle East. After my first shower in my new apartment, I was horrified to see the layer of dirt and dead skin left in my tub. I decided that I would have to make exfoliation an integral part of my routine.
One easy and cheap way to do this is to use my old coffee grinds. Mixed with an oil and a little bit of honey, it is a great way to scrub off all the environment off your skin. And ladies, caffeine is also known to reduce cellulite, so that is an added plus!
So, that’s it! To stay beautiful and moisturized during your journeys try these dyi tips and/or order your favorite products from lookfantastic.com!