So what happens when you take that leap of faith and decide to actual LIVE abroad? There are so many things to get situated with life abroad such as housing, visas, and health insurance. Once all of those necessities are sorted out, and you’re a month or two into your protective style then you think “what am I going to do with my hair?” If you aren’t inept to doing your hair on your own, this can cause quite a dilemma wanting to maintain healthy yet hassle-free hair. Depending on the country, it may be even harder finding a stylist who is skilled with natural hair as well and the fear of going to a salon and coming out looking a hot mess can be even more heightened. So let’s break down some practical tips on finding hair care solutions for long-term stays abroad.
Must Haves Before Moving
Packing full sized products for a long-term stay can help hold you over until you learn the ins and outs of the hair care options of where you may be living. You could also bring several packs of kanekalon braiding hair or Marley hair for box braids or crochet styles. Braiding hair should basically be included in the black girl emergency kit because the styles are limitless with a pack of hair.
- High ponytail
- Braided bun
- Crochet looks
- Box braids
Use Facebook Travel Communities
Join Facebook groups for black expats living abroad near you and you can be sure to find some posts outlining the best spots for hair care products and highly recommended stylists in your area. Social media is a great way to make connections and find community with people living abroad. When I was on a study abroad exchange, I joined the Black Americans Living Abroad in Italy Facebook page and was able to find recommendations on where I could buy hair products and natural hair events going on in Milan. It is worth noting that natural hair products can be very expensive abroad! I simple sulfate free shampoo could be $15 when you could find the same product for half that price in the U.S. This goes back to the earlier tip of bringing as many full-sized hair products from home as you can.
There may also be some braiders or stylist who are willing to do your hair in the group as well, so feel free to search posts or ask if there’s anyone who can help style your hair.
Utilize Translation Apps
There’s likely to be hair salons located in your area, so you could check them out and see if they are a viable option. If there’s a language barrier in the country you’re now living in, utilize translation apps or bring a native speaker with you to the salon of interest to ask questions before booking your appointment.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have experience doing hair like mine?
- How long have you been a hair stylist?
- What types of products do you use?
- Do you know how to do ____ style?
- Do I need to book an appointment?
By meeting with the stylist face-to-face, you can kind of get a sense of if they are comfortable with doing your hair. At the end of the day, you want someone that is experienced with styling natural hair and not someone that is going to be playing around in your hair. You can also take a glance around their salon to see if there’s anyone else with curly or type 4 hair getting their hair done. You can also visit their social media pages to see if they’ve had a client in the past with your hair type.
I’d also ask to see the products they plan to use and take a picture of the ingredients to be sure there aren’t any chemicals or harmful ingredients in them.
If you do decide to book at the salon, don’t be afraid to SPEAK UP! I know it’s probably awkward to interrupt something especially not knowing the language. But Google Translate will be your friend here. For example, if they are using a fine-toothed comb and you know your hair gets tangly or breaks off when using a comb like that, then suggest a different comb. Or if they are using an excessive amount of heat, suggest a lower heat setting or a different style altogether.
Take a Mini Trip for Your Hair
Lastly, sometimes you might have to locate a stylist in an area a little further and make a trip out of it. It’s worth it to take that extra step if it means ensuring your hair stays healthy. Search online for black hair salons or stylists and see what you find. It can be a chance to explore a new area while treating your self to a good hairstylist.
Keamo Mokone shares her story of finding the saving grace of a stylist in Georgia
People always ask me why I went to Georgia (the country 🇬🇪) and when I tell them I went there to do my hair they always think I’m joking. I am not joking. This is Clara. She, or should I say her salon, is about 60% of the reason I got on a plane to Tbilisi.
If it weren’t for her, I would have just shaved my head bald. Trying to find a black person capable of braiding my hair for ten hours straight was an absolute nightmare on a long-term trip, especially since I happened to be travelling to obscure places where all people could do for my hair was try to touch it without permission.
I think it was month seven of my trip when I went onto google and searched “black hair salons/black people in Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan ” because I knew I wanted to work my way towards Iran and my hair was in desperate need of some love. It took a lot of time, but I eventually tracked down Clara’s salon in Tbilisi. I didn’t need a visa to get into Georgia, I was curious about the country, and I had found someone who understood my hair, and that was reason enough for me to get on the next flight. Honestly, what did people do before the internet?
Originally from Cameroon, she’s lived and studied all over the world and has been in Georgia for almost a decade. She saw there was a need for a black hair care salon in the Caucasus (Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) and she met that need. Expats will regularly travel over from Armenia to see her and even Georgians come in asking for braids. She’s smart, a brilliant hairstylist, a dynamic businesswoman, funny, and she gives great advice. She’s a real-life hero and no one can tell me otherwise.
What are some of your tips for success when looking for a stylist or natural hair products when abroad?