Without conditioner my hair has a mind of its own. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
My recent trip to the Balkans began the way most of my trips begin: I had forgotten something. You would think that a travel editor would be a skilled packer, the kind of person who never leaves home without all of the essentials. You would be wrong. I was prepared to rough it a little during my trip to Kosovo, Albania, and Macedonia. I brought along plenty of bug spray, a head lamp, pants that zip off at the knee, even drops to purify my water. I forgot conditioner.
We all forget things when we’re on the road, especially the kinds of things we take for granted when we live in big cities with bodegas, drugstores, and big box shops open at all hours of the night.
I sent out emergency texts to two of my favorite hair gurus, Allison Gandolfo, celebrity colorist at the John Barrett Salon and AJ Lordet of the Pierre Michel Salon. They walked me through how to concoct a makeshift conditioner from things I could easily find in the kitchen of my Kosovo kulla, the country’s traditional rural guest house.
With some olive oil and an avocado, I became a beauty Macgyver.
Here are a few other beauty hacks you can use to substitute for pricey products the next time you travel.
I look like Shakira when I don’t use conditioner. And while I have the utmost respect for the Colombian singer and her wild, wild hair, I like my hair to be a little more relaxed, softer, and shinier — at least when I am going out to dinner. My hair is also fine, a little brittle, and prone to breakage. Missing a conditioning treatment means I need a serious cut when I return home. Here are some homemade remedies to detangle and add shine.
You can’t even get a comb through this bird’s nest. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
According to Gandolfo, the fats in avocado provide many of the same properties as conditioner. Take one avocado and mash it up into a paste, then work through the hair as a conditioning mask. Leave on for five minutes and rinse with cold water.
Just mash up some avocado. (Photo: Haley J./Flickr)
Gandolfo also recommends using about two generous squirts of hand lotion as an alternative to conditioner. Work it through the hair the same way you would conditioner, but don’t let it sit. And make sure to use it sparingly since it tends to make your hair greasier than a regular conditioning treatment.
"Coconut oil is an amazing conditioner for your hair as well as your skin," Lordet says. "You can mix it with some sugar to create a body scrub on the go as well." According to Gandolfo, two tablespoons of olive oil will also help detangle and add the same shine as conditioner.
You want me to put what in my hair? (Photo: Leo Reynolds/Flickr)
Don’t get grossed out, but in a pinch, Gandolfo tells me, you can actually use mayonnaise as a conditioner — as long as you don’t mind smelling like a sandwich for the rest of your trip. A single serving packet, or about one teaspoon, is enough for one treatment. Use the condiment mainly to detangle your ends.
Even if you have shampoo on hand, you don’t always have the water. Dry shampoo has saved my life on more than one occasion. I’m rarely without it, but when I run out, I usually have a small bottle or baby powder and a packet of oatmeal to see me through the rest of the trip.
Always travel with rolled oats. You won’t regret it. (Photo: Getty Images)
"Oatmeal and baby powder are the safest non-harsh items to clean your hair on the road," Gandolfo says.
The baby powder works exactly like the dry shampoo. Just sprinkle it on the head and rub it in. This obviously works best for blondes. Oatmeal (plain, dry oats) is easier on brunettes. Again, just sprinkle it in, work it through the hair and then rub the head with a towel.
One more trick: If you have long hair, put your hair in a high pony tail at night, so that the oil and sweat from your neck doesn’t seep into your hair while you sleep. Also remember to brush your hair regularly to move the oils from your scalp to naturally condition the ends.
“The best moisturizers for dry skin are heavier, oil-based moisturizers that contain ingredients such as grape seed oil or almond oil. Even olive oil and coconut oil are great for keeping dry skin moisturized on the go,” says Beverly Hills cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Simon Ourian of Epione.
You can even easily make a moisturizing mask out of things you find in the kitchen.
"Equal parts honey and avocado can be blended to make a paste. Both are richly moisturizing and can be left on the skin like a mask for up to sixty minutes," says Dr. Ourian.
God bless baby powder. (Photo: Austin Kirk/Flickr)
Baby powder is truly an all-in-one life saver on the road. Not only can you use it as dry shampoo, it also makes an excellent deodorant in a pinch… just slap it under your arms (or anywhere that you sweat) and voila!
Frozen teabags over the eyes work every time. (Photo: Getty Images)
Nothing causes dark circles under the eyes like traveling. Jet Lag, combined with sleeping in strange beds, can make the area under your eyes look like an over-inflated tire.
Grab some green-tea bags, steep them in water, and then put them in the freezer for 20 minutes. Place them over the eyes for another 20 minutes and you can literally watch the dark circles melt away.
Like baby powder, olive oil is a beauty lifesaver on the road. Pour a little bit onto a cotton swab or paper towel and use it to wipe away even the heaviest eye makeup.
Just a few dabs of olive oil will whisk away any trace of mascara. (Photo: Thinkstock)
Coconut oil can also do the trick. And in a serious pinch, you can use hotel hand lotion to take off both mascara and eye liner, but make sure that you wash it off quickly so that you don’t clog your pores.