How To Keep Your Curly Hair From Looking Like A Mess While Traveling

No poodle 'dos over here

By Leah Shaw

3 August 2018

Curly hair care has come a long way from our mothers' and grandmothers' generation. There's a serum, spray, lotion, potion, creme and mouse for every texture, length and curl pattern. But what's a curly girl to do when she's on the road and left her magical elixir at home? Here are the best curly haircare hacks to keep your wild mane and wild spirit alive on the road.

How To Wash Your Curly Hair For Minimal Frizz

Hairstyle For Women

Washing curly hair away from home is a risk not all are willing to take. Sometimes our strands get extra dirty from hours spent adventuring. Here's what to do if you have shampoo, or not.

If You Have Shampoo

If you don't have your favorite shampoo with you, but your head is begging for TLC, use a penny sized (or quarter, depending on your hair's thickness and length) amount of hotel shampoo and wash your scalp only. (Curly Girl Tip: Curly hair tends to be drier than our straight haired friends as the oils from our scalp take longer to travel down the hair shaft. By washing the scalp only, the scalp stays clean and curls remain hydrated). Massage gently, creating as little friction as possible, before rinsing with cool water.

If You Don't Have Shampoo

Dry shampoo is the ultimate go-to when lathering shampoo isn't available. But if you have nothing, rely on the power of your hands. Wet your hair letting the water fall directly on your scalp as you massage using the balls of your fingertips. Massage section by section starting at the crown, smoothing your hair down with water as you work your way down.

How To Moisturize Curly Hair For Smooth Sailing

Naturally Curly

Keeping your hair moisturized and hydrated is key to retaining full, happy curls. Some curls need to be moisturized daily, and others can go with a spritz of water or styling product between wash days. Conditioner is your best friend. But the three ounce airplane travel rule makes it hard to bring a favorite conditioner on the road.

If You Have Conditioner

After shampooing, slather your curls with hotel conditioner section by section. If your hair is especially knotted or dry, let the conditioner sit in your hair as you finish showering. Detangle slowly with your fingers, constantly smoothing downwards. No hair creme? Rinse conditioner out briefly, leaving most of it in. Use the hotel sample conditioner as hair cream to rehydrate your dry or wet curls.

If You Have Lotion

If there's no conditioner available, take a penny-sized amount of lotion and smooth it over your hair before tying it up.

If You Don't Have Either

Try your best to detangle wet curls with your fingers alone, but don't fret. Curls can still be difficult to detangle wet, even more so without a product that has slip (i.e. makes your strands feel slippery), so leave the detangling for home. Pin or tie your hair up in a style that will keep it from continuing to tangle, put on an available hair accessory and save the lengthy routine for home.

How To detangle Your Curls (So You Don't Scare The Locals)

Camille Rose Naturals

Every curly girl has her favorite method of detangling. Some swear by their hands, while others use wide-tooth combs, wet styling brushes or the latest popular miracle brush. If you've left them all at home here’s what to do.

If You Don't Have Anything

Hands up. That's right, it's time to use your fingers. Curly hair detangles best when it's moisturized, preferably damp or soaking wet. Hop in the shower before separating a section of hair and using your fingers to separate strands, gently working through knots without pulling. Once you've finished a section, smooth it down and tie or braid it up to get it out of the way.

How To Avoid Frizz When Drying Your Curly Hair


Everyone's seen the ubiquitous puffy curly hair stereotype. Sadly, it's a stereotype for a reason. A strand of curly hair twists and turns, coiling over anything nearby. When strands are separated, or combed out, they tangle over each other—and even worse, dry curly hair becomes fluffy. Thankfully, drying the hair while maintaining defined, no puffy and hydrated hair while on the road is easier than you think.

If You Have A T-Shirt

A t-shirt is the #1 easiest frizz-free option for drying curly hair (don't have a t-shirt? A pajama shirt can work just as well). The cotton in a t-shirt soaks up excess water from your hair, dries your hair without removing all water and doesn't create excess frizz. To begin, take your soaking wet head of hair and flip it upside down. Laying the t-shirt across both hands, scrunch upward in short upward motion. To finish drying, plop, applying product to damp, freshly washed hair. Detangle gently with your preferred tool. Then lay the t-shirt on a bed, chair or counter with the arms facing closest to you. Flip the hair over your head into the center of the towel and place the bottom of the t-shirt at the nape of the neck. Tie the t-shirt arms in a knot behind your head, tucking in any loose ends. Plop for 10-20 minutes.

If You Have A Towel

Traditional terry cloth towels are less than ideal because they leave little to no moisture in the hair and raised surface disrupts the curl pattern when rubbed against them. To dry the hair, gently squeeze out as much water as possible using your hands. Flip your head upside down and after laying the towel across your hands, blot upward in a gentle motion. After a couple of times, shake the hair out while still upside down to separate the curls. Flip your head back up and shake your head a few times. Apply product and style as desired.

How To Style Your Curls (And Look Great In Photos)

Style Caster

Three words. Scrunch and style. Also, confidence is the best accessory (OK, so nine words really). Bobby pins are a life saver, and the best way to make sure you always have one is to put them everywhere: your pockets, that little side pocket in your purse, in your makeup bag and in a little baggie in your carry-on. In a pinch, buy a cute scarf that you can bundle up as a pillow, throw over your shoulder and use to tie up your hair. Accessories can brighten up your look when your curls are having an off day.

If You Have Bobby Pins Or Other Hair Accessories

Use the closed end of a bobby pin to make a part. Scrunch and style your hair like usual. If you brought a bright scarf or bandana, use it to accessorize your hairstyle, laying it along the front of your head and tying in back. Lost your hair ties? Use the scarf as one, flipping your hair down and pulling around your hair to secure as a hair tie.

If You Don't Have Anything

The best curly girls are the ones who embrace their hair even when it's not acting right. Shake it out, fluff and put on your best style. You've got to be adventurous to travel, and your curls like a little adventure too.


Leah Shaw is an AfroLatina writer who reads adventure novels, drinks good coffee and plays rugby in her spare time. She has been reporting, writing and editing since 2014 and loves travel because it gives her the opportunity to do one thing a day that scares her. She makes it a point to wake up for at least one sunrise and sunset in every country she visits. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Curlee Girlee