Travel Toiletries: Best HAIR Products

People constantly ask me about how I do my hair while I travel, including what hair care products I use, if I pack a travel hair dryer, what I do about hair cuts while traveling, and, most commonly, if these are real dreads. Ahem, that depends on your definition of “real.”
Today, I’m here to answer these questions. I’ll share exactly how I style my hair, and I’ll recommend trusted travel hair products to help you keep your wild mane fresh, healthy, and tame on the road.

Revealed: How Traveling Jackie Does Her Hair

My hair is long, thick, and wavy, with natural twists. The only tip I have concerning the twists is that I never brush my hair. I haven’t owned a brush in years. Brushing forces creative hair to conform instead of doing what its meant to do, and that’s simply not my style.
I let it do its thing, which turns into natural twists, often mistaken for dreads. I get it cut in a “V” shape so it’s shorter on top with layering all the way down to take most of the weight off, which makes it quicker to dry and easier to deal with.
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travel hair products
V style haircut
When it’s wet, I scrunch gel (any travel size hair gel) into it upside down and wrap it up in a towel or even my favorite hair tie (see below for the magic hair ties). At night I put it up on top of my head (otherwise I would choke in my sleep), and when I wash it and don’t have a hair dryer, I put it up to let it dry (usually overnight), which helps hold the curl. If I have a hair dryer with a diffuser handy (and I’m not in a hot, humid environment), I will blow dry it upside down using the diffuser to dry the curls. But, a hair dryer is usually a luxury for me.
The part I know you don’t want to hear is… that’s pretty much it. My hair is wash and wear, it does its magic twisting on its own, the best thing I can do for it is try to get it cut every few months so the many layers stay bouncy.

Getting a Haircut Abroad

If you have to get a haircut abroad in a foreign language, you may want to look up some words for translation, or bring a photo of your hair the way you like it, or the style you want your hair to be in order to communicate with a language barrier. The last time I had my hair cut abroad was in Argentina, and it was a massive success. I think my hair finally met its match in the world. Scroll all the way down to watch a video of that time I got my hair cut UPSIDE DOWN in Argentina.
That Patagonia wind though…
Hair by Patagonia

Recommended Travel Hair Products

Hair Powder
Hair tie for thick hair
travel hair dryer with diffuser
Hair buff
  • Travel hair powder: (Image 1) LOVE. Have you ever used dry shampoo? Because I hadn’t until recently, but now I’m a total believer in this product, especially on the road. If your hair tends to get greasy quickly, throw some of this magic powder into it. It counters grease and voluminizes, just as it promises. This particular product was recommended to me by my hair stylist in Montana, it’s non-aerosol so I can pack it in my carry on without worry, and it saves me from having to wash my hair more often than is convenient for me on the road. It is available on Amazon in four different shades.
  • Hair ties for thick hair: (Image 2) Okay yes, they look strange, but I LOVE THEM. I am a total believer in these little babies. They are waterproof, don’t leave kinks in my hair, hold the mess nicely on top of my head, and they are truly great for thick hair. I can’t recommend them enough. AND, I even get compliments when I have one around my wrist, people think it’s a bracelet. Ha! Note: I only use these to hold my hair on top of my head in a big bun. When I need to put my hair in a pony tail I use these ouchless hair ties.
  • Hair ties for thin hair: For those of you with not-so-thick hair, these are just like the bigger ones, but are a better fit for smaller hair!
  • Travel hair dryer: This one is great because it has a dual voltage option, which is the main problem when dealing with travel hair dryers. This one also folds so it’s easier to pack. If you don’t need a diffuser, buy this one so those of us who need a diffuser can buy the ones that come with it!
  • Travel hair dryer with diffuser: (Image 3) If you have curly or wavy hair and want to diffuse it like I do, you will need a travel hair dryer with diffuser. This one has dual voltage and folds as well, and it comes with the extra diffuser part. Light packing tip: if you can’t pack the entire hair dryer but you do use a diffuser, consider just packing the diffuser part to take on the road with you, which you can then try to use with other dryers. This is what I do.
  • Portable/Collapsible Diffuser: I just discovered this! It solves the problem of bringing a bulky diffuser, and it stretches to fit around almost any hair dryer. Win-win.
  • Pocket comb: Recommended for this list by a good friend of mine, this is a great option for those of you who can comb your hair. It is the size of a credit card so it can fit right in your wallet, but it’s made out of sturdy stainless steel. Also, they make a pocket comb with a bottle opener too! Bonus!
  • Buff: (Image 4) This is simply a must for adventure travel, and great for bad hair days!
  • Travel hair straightener: I don’t use a flat iron, but this one is the most popular among BMT readers because of its dual voltage, small size and heat-resistant travel bag.
  • Mini 2-in-1 travel curling iron and straightener with dual voltage! Another popular pick among BMT readers, this one has all the things in one convenient package, it’s 11″ long in its case, which is also heat insulated.
  • Seriously TINY flat iron for travel: At a whopping 7 inches, this one wins for ninja light packers, and it’s dual voltage!
  • Voltage converter for hair dryers: It’s important to understand voltage differences across the world. If you don’t have a dual-voltage option on your hair dryer, it could die a quick, loud and startling death if you aren’t careful. A converter like this, when used properly, will keep that from happening. Although, even when using the right precautions, plugging in a hair dryer with foreign voltage somehow feels like playing a game of roulette.
  • Silicone no leak travel shampoo bottles: Yes, it matters what bottle your shampoo goes into. These ones do not leak, they are refillable, easy to label, and I have several of them for my shampoo, conditioner, soap, gel, sunscreen, and lotion.

Note: If you’re moving abroad to a place with different voltage, wait and buy a hair dryer once you get there, that is the safest bet. If you’ll be traveling through for a short time, that’s when you just take the risk and bring your own hair dryer if you really need it, just make sure you have the dual-voltage option or a smart converter for best results.
See: Travel Adapter and Voltage Converter Basics (How to Not Fry Your Electronics When You Travel)
Related: The Ultimate Travel Packing List: A Year in a Carry On Backpack
I don’t use any specific travel shampoo or conditioner, as I don’t have access to the same products all over the world as I go through these, so I use whatever I can find. The hair powder and hair ties have lasted me so that I don’t have to replace them within a 9-10 month stint abroad. Also, don’t forget a ton of bobby pins, because they like to lose themselves everywhere.
These are the products I have found helpful, feel free to add to this list in the comments if you have something you believe in or have any tricks for the road that are worth sharing!
Watch the video from that (second) time I got my hair cut upside down in Argentina: