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  • Naná

Having Natural Hair While Abroad

Having natural hair can be difficult, especially for those of us with curls and kinks on the tighter end of the spectrum. Even with a wide array of products from which to choose and years of experience of taking care of your hair, natural haircare can still be a bit of a struggle. With that being said, add moving abroad to the mix and you end up with a scalp crisis.

The thing about moving abroad, and moving to a new place in general, is that there is only so much you can bring with you, and you may not have access to all your original products to which you are accustomed. Furthermore, your new country or city of choice may not be natural hair friendly.

Thus, you wind up in my current situation, which is only using the four products that I packed and desperately hoping that they last until I get the opportunity to venture out into a bigger city in order to obtain some products that will salvage my hair’s health.

Perhaps it was my mistake to pack so few products, but when you have a luggage weight limit, you are forced to make some difficult decisions, such as whether or not you truly, wholeheartedly love your leave-in conditioner, or if it is worth leaving behind our winter coat in favor of all of your styling products (I chose both and left behind all of my pants instead, given that it would be considerably easier and cheaper to get new pants).

I guess I should just be grateful since I was lucky enough to live in a country at the epicenter of the natural hair movement and was, consequently, able to see the massive change in hairstyles as well as attitudes towards natural hair as I grew up. Therefore, I have been privileged in terms of my ability to care for my hair and, maybe on the same level of importance, learning to love my hair freely; however, when you know better, you do better. How can I go back to desert-dry tumbleweed hair when I have already experienced a lush, well-moisturized mane?

Let’s get one thing straight, I have actually searched within my town and its African beauty supply stores, but the only things that I have been able to find thus far are (overpriced) shea butter, which I already brought with me, and products that I had previously used years before that dried my hair out and prevented me from retaining length. I suppose I now know where to go once my trusty shea butter runs out, but I’m hanging onto my headwraps because, by the looks of things, many bad hair days are ahead.

In addition to my quest for good hair products, I am also dealing with culture shock regarding how other black women wear their hair here. It seems that the majority of them either wear straight wigs or they sport braids and twists. Now, I love switching my look up with a wig here and there and getting my hair braided when I have had enough of it, but it has been quite jarring to see so few black women wearing their natural hair out (and perhaps they do not because they have trouble finding good products too) compared to my hometown.

Sometimes, it feels as though I have been transported back into the early 2000s and that I am the odd one out for wearing my natural hair. I guess all I can do is hope that the natural hair movement gains more momentum and reaches every corner of the planet.

Naná is a proud Brooklyn native and aspiring digital nomad. She enjoys travel, nature, and art. Her other hobbies include reading fantasy novels, binge-watching series on Netflix, and language-learning. Find her @blackbelletravels

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