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Get Your Hair In Low Maintenance Mode For Your Semester Abroad

Posted by Lindsay Hall on 7/13/18 5:13 PM

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When you're preparing for a semester abroad there are so many things that cross your mind ... what do you do with your hair?

You may not think it's a big deal if your hair isn't looking its best on your trips, but when you look back at all of your pictures where your hair is tucked in a messy bun again and again you might wish you had at least one day where you tried (a little). Lucky for you, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for a semester without your favorite hair dresser. 

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Just because you don't have your go-to hair dresser abroad with you, doesn't mean you just have to live with boring hair. Even if you'll be traveling to humid countries, there are some steps you can take before you leave that will help you have great hair your entire semester.

Oh and to make your life even easier, we've pulled together our go-to recommendations. This post has a couple of affliate links (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link, we earn a small comission). Just know we are only sharing products we ourselves have used and loved, that our volunteers have recommended, or ones we think would be pretty useful! 

Get An Ombre

Ombres are one of the most popular options for when you know you won't be able to do your hair for a while. Since an ombre typically starts off with having your roots showing and your hair slowly fades into lighter colors, it won't look too off when your roots grow out a little more. 

An ombre can be a little more expensive to get than a basic dye, but you just have to think of it as an investment. Instead of getting your hair colored ever six to eight weeks like you would have at home, you're getting it done once in four months to last you your whole semester.  It will be well worth the money for the confidence it will give you while you travel the world in style. 

Or Go Closer To Your Natural Color 

If you don't want to dye your own hair, don't want an ombre and don't want your roots to show during your semester,  this option is great for you.  Let your roots grow out just a little and then go tell your hair dresser than you want to go closer to your natural color for a semester. 

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Bring Your Own Hair Dye

If you'll need a mid-semester touch up, bring your own hair dye. Make sure you bring all the supplies you need (like plastic gloves, the color and the developer, etc). You might not be able to easily find what you need abroad, so bring whatever you need. 

While you actually can buy hair dye in other countries, know that the formula will be different than in the United States because it's meant for the local population. It's much tricker to get the exact color on the box, so that's why we recommend packing it with you from home. For example, hair dyes in Asia typically contain bleach, since the local population has such dark black hair (so the hair needs to be lightened before it can absorb a color). Not good if you don't know that beforehand. 

Brave A Local Hair Salon

Okay, so this one isn't an option you'd prepare for before you leave, but it is an option. Every country has different hair styles and techniques for cutting hair so it's a bit of a risk, especially with a language barrier. Some past ILP volunteers that have gotten hair cuts while abroad with some success while others have not ended up with what they wanted.  Just know this is going to be an adventure.

Learn New Updos (For Humid Weather) 

Another option if you don't want to change your hair color or try and dye it while abroad is the leave it alone, but keep it up. If you typically wear your hair down, you might find you love the look of letting your curls hang out in a top knot or a thick braid.  We recommend a top knot, braids, pulling it all half back, or rocking a headband and hat for those unruly days, and have more suggestions for travel-ready hairstyles here. 

Another huge helper? I have curly hair that gets frizzy when it's humid, which is why I always travel with this anti-frizz serum. There are a bunch of kinds out there, but this one's a fav. 

Bring A Hat Or A Head Wrap

It's a super simple fix, but it works. Hats are always great for all those hot weather countries because it'll give your face a little shade -- win, win. It won't be a fix for every day, but it'll cover your hair in pictures. It's also a win for those volunteering in cold countries. Pull on a beanie, and no need to fuss about what your hair looks like that day. When I was traveling in Europe I wore this beanie daily, but went for this cute teal baseball cap when I was enjoying the hot weather in Asia. 

Head wraps can be super cute and dress up your pictures and people will be none-the-wiser that you're really wearing it to cover up some of your roots. Thicker headbands are also a good pick. Throw your hair up in a top knot and put in a thick head band and you'll be set. 


Need a little more help getting ready to leave? 

Check out the ILP blog for tons of tips, vacation planning help, and more advice before you leave on a semester abroad. Still have a few more questions? Come talk to an ILP representative who has volunteered with us before and can help you out: 

 Text Me! I've Got Questions

Topics: Get Ready For Your ILP Trip


*Because of the worldwide pandemic, travel options are limited and frequently changing. You'll need to do additional research as resources + activities shared in this post may or may not be available at the time of your trip.

ILP volunteers — work closely with your Program Manager who can help you understand current country entrance requirements which will determine what countries you can visit during your semester. 



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We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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