Essentials of a Traveling Serial Straightener

I have a serious case of wanting what I cannot have.

I’m talking about stick straight, wake up in the morning and go, perfect hair. I actually have to work hard to get that look. Instead, I have baby-fine, unruly, uncontrollable curls. My favorite (i.e. emotionally scarring) nicknames growing up included names such as poodle and fuzzball. Over the years I’ve tried many different products: gels, mousses, leave-in conditioners, conditioning masks. Nothing helped me feel completely comfortable with my hair. It wasn’t until I finally cut off 14 inches of that I had a hairstyle that felt natural.


On a whim, I stopped by a hair salon.

It was during a walk home from class on a windy spring day in my third year of college. I was fed up with everything that comes with tons of curly hair and ready for a change. I told the hairdresser to cut a minimum of 10 inches cut off (so I could donate it) and the rest was up to her. Although, perhaps it wasn’t so much on a whim since I had researched how to donate to Locks of Love earlier that week. Either way, I walked into the salon without an appointment, and the hairdresser didn’t even hesitate when I left everything up to her.

Ten years later and I still prefer chin length, or shoulder length at max, cuts with the same styling as that very first cut — a little longer in the front than in the back with some layers, and straight. I love being able to touch and run my fingers through my hair without worrying about frizz. I have had to learn, through trial and error, how to care for heat-styled hair though. Here are the items I keep in my hair styling toolbox to combat this at home and on the road.

My Essential Tools for Straight Hair On the Road

tools for straightening hair on the road

1. Sulfite-free Shampoo

I’ve read that sulfite-free shampoo reduces product build-up. I wash just once, unless I pro-longed a blowout for two days, then I wash twice. I prefer using a 2-in-1, but this particular shampoo is no longer manufactured. I stocked up on it while I could, though!

2. Light Conditioner

I use a 2-in-1 shampoo, but I still use a light conditioner because curly hair needs lots of moisture. Although my hair is super fine and gets weighed down by too much product. Just a dime-size dollop of this on just the ends is all I need. This is the best I have found so far.

3. Heat Protection Cream

Just a tiny bit of this stuff goes a long way since my hair is so short. I notice a huge difference in hair texture and number of passes needed to achieve the desired straightness when I forget to use this cream. It also seals in the moisture from the 2-in-1 shampoo and additional conditioner, which beats out any moisture creeping around in the air warding off frizz.

4. Dry Shampoo

An alternative to this is baby powder, but I have come to appreciate the convenience and precision of the spray nozzle. Best when used along the entire hairline (including the nape of the neck) and on the crown of the head where you part your hair on the second and third days of a blow out. It also works great after you work up a light sweat like from a workout or a day of sightseeing.

5. Barrel brush with metal core

This type of brush is the first step in smoothing out the natural curl of my hair. The metal barrel heats up from the blow dryer and acts like a flat iron.

tools for straightening hair on the road

6. Blow Dryer & Flat Iron

The dynamic duo. There are “better” ones out there, but these were affordable and get the job done. Hotels and some hostels have blow driers available, but I prefer to bring my own because I know what to expect from it, and I faithfully use the air concentrator nozzle that came with mine – which loaner driers will probably not have.

7. Shine Serum

I use just a teeny-tiny bit of this on the ends of my hair only if it is a little lackluster and dry. I rub a dot between my fingers and then pinch the ends of my hair in sections that are dry.

8. Hair Accessories

I use barrettes, bobby pins, and elastics to pull all my hair back away from my face. This is especially useful on day two – and day three if I make it – of a blow out.

9. Hat and a Hoodie

These protect my blow out from fog and rain better than any umbrella could. Using both simultaneously works best, of course, but if I can only pack one I always choose a hoodie. Plus, Red Sox hats aren’t always an appropriate accessory. Unfortunately.

I am in the market for a travel sized blow dryer and flat iron – suggestions are welcome!


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