How to Refresh Dry Lifeless Curls While Traveling

Photo: Getty Images/SDI Productions

Airport hair, that unglamorous flat, frizzed out, flyaway mess that started as curls, is the result of several factors which include dry in-flight cabin pressure, the reactions of humectants in your products to the environment, and airline seat fabric. Travel stress and dehydration can add to this mix, but you don’t need us to tell you to breathe deeply and drink more water. For the other issues, read on.

Dealing with dry air:

Have you noticed how dry your skin feels, or how thirsty you become when flying? The dryness also affects our delicate curls, which can feel fried in flight. Follow these tips to keep your hair hydrated.

  • A day or two before your trip, do a deep conditioning treatment. On thoroughly saturated hair, apply the conditioner an inch or so below your roots, and work it down the hair shaft and into the ends. Cover with a plastic cap and let it sit on your hair for 20-30 minutes before rinsing thoroughly.
  • The day of travel, ensure that you use a leave-in, mousse, or cream-based styler in your hair for moisture. Tote along some sample bottles to provide your curls with hydration between flights. If you need a little extra water to apply them, just wet your hands and run your fingers through the parts of your hair that you will be applying product to. These sample-sized bottles are both convenient and TSA-compliant: Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Leave-In Conditioner (2 oz.”>, CURLS Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-in Conditioner (2 oz.”>, Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper Leave-in Conditioner (3.4 oz.”>
  • Avoid using products that have glycerin listed in the top five ingredients on their labels. Glycerin is a humectant, and when you are in a low-humidity situation such as an airplane cabin, it will draw needed moisture out of your hair and distribute it into the environment.
  • Abstain from alcohol and drink plenty of water, because hangover hair is not cute.

Plopping on a plane:

If you like to plop your hair after washing it, this method will give you (airport”> runway curls when you land. In addition to the products you use for your regimen, you will need a seamless microfiber headband.

  • Two hours or so before you leave for the airport, wash and condition your hair, and then apply your leave-in and stylers in the shower while your hair is soaking wet.
  • Part your hair as you normally would wear it, and then start scrunching all over your head.
  • Carefully put on the headband. I like to fold it in half to make it narrower. You can adjust it however you like, but I recommend ensuring that the back covers the nape of your neck. You may also want to make it flat at the back, as you will be resting your head on your headrest or a travel pillow, and bunched up fabric can be uncomfortable. I like to pull out my bangs and a few curls around my face.
  • Scrunch your hair with the headband as you would with a microfiber towel. Make sure you get your whole head.
  • You can keep your hair in this set as long as you wish. If you leave the scarf on throughout your transit, when you arrive at your destination, all you will need to do is shake out and fluff your hair, and perhaps add a bit of moisture to any errant curls.

Preventing the frizzies:

Nothing will tear up your curls like an airline seat. Wool blend upholstery and leather may be durable, but they are not hair-friendly. To avoid their effects, try these tricks:

  • Don a silk headwrap on the plane. It will protect your hair and keep your style looking fresh.
  • Get a satin cover for your travel pillow. They are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors.
  • Try a style-saver pillow. These ingenious contraptions have a neck cutout to prevent seat back to style friction.

Keeping your style intact:

Do you leave the house with hair worthy of the Met Gala only to arrive at your final destination looking like you were chased by a bear? If so, in addition to the above recommendations, try these style tips and tools.

  • If you can, opt for braids or a braided style like a French braid or braided updo. These styles secure the hair really well, and hold up against dry air.
  • Don’t forget about your edges. They will be the first to go flyaway in flight. Use a good edge tamer applied with a toothbrush to get them to stay put.
  • Avoid jaw clips, butterfly clips, and any other hair accessories that can be uncomfortable during flight. The more you adjust your ‘do, the more likely it is to become a don’t.

How do you avoid airport hair? Let us know in the comments. For more travelling while curly tips, click here.

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