7 life-changing beauty tips I learned from traveling the world

Back when I was in college, I desperately wanted to get Gwen Stefani’s platinum blonde hair, so I did what any teenager would do and dyed my own hair—only for chunks of it to fall out. Let me tell you, that shit was b-a-n-a-n-a-s. Chalk it up to college naivety and not following directions correctly, but I thought I knew all the beauty tips in the world and could fix it all by just styling it differently. It wasn’t until a school bully made fun of me for having a mullet that I went back to my local drugstore to dye my hair back to its natural darker blonde, and collected my pennies to afford a professional haircut. 

My hair was still in pretty bad condition, but rather than sacrificing my firstborn to Rumpelstiltskin for healthier hair, I became the Carmen Sandiego of investigating DIY hair care solutions. I scoured the internet for affordable tips and stopped random women in the streets, begging them to share their secrets for getting shiny hair. The quest for hair tips continued well after I graduated from college, and when I became a travel reporter, I took my questions to foreign lands. Thankfully, many women were happy to share the stories and tips passed down from their great grandmothers, and I wrote them all down. Below, see my favorite, affordable, beauty tips I learned from traveling the world.


1Coconut oil to protect hair from damage.


Back in 2014, I visited Thailand to get scuba certified. As incredible as that experience was, the ocean was extremely treacherous on my long hair and would weave itself into one giant knot—resembling something similar to a very long nest. Luckily for me, a local Thai woman tipped me off about the benefits of using coconut oil to protect my hair in more ways than one. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which has antimicrobial properties that are good for your scalp, and also contains fatty acids that help keep hair hydrated, strong, and glossy. It can be used as a natural detangler, and if you use it as a hair mask, studies show that it’s more effective to apply it on dry hair rather than wet.

For everyday use, I now put fifteen drops of melted coconut oil in a spray bottle with water, shake, and spray for a DIY detangler. Other situations call for a more direct oil-to-hair lathering, such as before entering a swimming pool or the ocean to coat strands before they absorb chlorine or salt water. Using coconut oil makes my hair much more manageable and easy to brush, which ultimately keeps my strands from getting damaged.


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2Clay for purifying the skin.

Costa Rica

After arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica, I drove three hours to go to one of the world’s only eco-friendly musical festivals, Envision. It was at this particular festival that I stumbled across a table where people were lathering themselves in blue clay, all looking like little Avatars. I learned that this practice has been performed by the land’s indigenous tribes, who use clay native to the rainforest. Traditionally, the clay was used as an antiseptic, a mosquito repellent, and an exfoliant. Today, it’s mainly used to remove toxins, dead skin cells, and impurities (read acne) from the skin.

Since traveling with wet clay on airplanes is highly frowned upon, I didn’t get to take any of it home, but a quick online search led me to the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. It’s one of the best-reviewed products on Amazon, and celebrities such as Lili Reinhart and Mindy Kaling love it. Using it on your face and body is the perfect way to detox after a long week of partying in the jungle, if you ask me.


3Argan oil for healthy locks.


In Morocco, the streets are paved with liquid gold, aka, argan oil. It is used in everything from amlou (an argan oil and almond spread used for Moroccan pancakes) to a range of beauty products whose praises have been sung by celebrities like Meghan Markle. I recently got a scalp massage while in Marrakech, and the masseuse explained to me how essential argan oil is to achieve healthy hair in Berber culture—and after showering, I saw the effects of it immediately. After a shower, I noticed that my hair was visibly shinier and smoother, and even less frizzy.

Now, after I style my hair, I take a few drops on the oil and massage my ends to add moisture and shine back in to finish the look. The oil restores moisture with vitamin E and uses fatty-acids to protect hair from future damage. As western demand grows stronger, thanks to popular brands like MoroccanOil, it’s easier than ever to find this oil in the states. It’s no wonder this endemic Moroccan nut is hailed as a natural treasure—just don’t tell Nicolas Cage.


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4Grapeseed oil for skin nourishment.


In the wine-producing region of Temecula, California, grapeseed oil is a byproduct of winemaking. After grapes are pressed during the winemaking process, grapeseeds are left behind and then pressed into an oil. Grapeseed oil is beneficial not only for your hair but your skin too—studies show that it effectively penetrates the skin, and since this oil is high in Omega 6 fatty acids and contains vitamin E, it helps to combat free radicals and nourish the skin’s barrier. At home, I use grapeseed oil as a moisturizer and cleansing oil, and create a body scrub by mixing it with a little turbinado sugar. Yet another reason to be thankful for wine.


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5Lymphatic drainage for reducing puffiness.


On a recent trip, I learned all about the benefits of draining the lymph system. The lymphatic system is our body’s waste removal system, meaning that when you drain the fluid from the vessels, you’re pushing excess toxins, metabolic waste, infections, and more, into your lymph nodes to be destroyed. Not only is this beneficial to your overall well-being, but it also works wonders for your skin.

I experienced the results first-hand during a recent spa trip, where I received a facial in which the aesthetician used a rose quartz gua sha, a Chinese lymphatic drainage sculpting tool, to assist with lymphatic drainage while simultaneously sculpting my face. Afterward, I noticed my face looked less swollen and more contoured, and my fine lines were less visible. To say I was a fan would be an understatement, and ever since that experience, I haven’t stopped using my gua sha. I use it after applying moisturizer, both so that the face tool has a better slip and to help the ingredients further penetrate my skin.


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6Shea butter for moisturized skin.

West Africa

Apparently, everyone from Cleopatra to the Queen of Sheba has used this native nut to help achieve silky hair and smooth skin. Shea butter is a fat extracted from an African shea tree nut, and is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins such as E, A, and F. This butter is a powerhouse emollient ingredient used for treating scarring, boosting collagen, reducing the signs of aging, clearing acne, and as a moisturizer, and although it is seemingly thick, the butter melts at room temperature and is easily absorbed into the skin—enhancing your skin’s ability to retain water, aka moisture!


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7Sea salt for scalp therapy.


For centuries, Hawaiians have been praised for their long, healthy hair. After swapping beauty tips with the friendliest Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants, I learned that sea salt is one of the state’s most coveted products for hair care. Healthy hair begins with your scalp, but unfortunately, many people use products that lead to heavy build-up, which can cause dandruff, stunted hair growth, unbalanced pH levels, and can even strip your scalp and hair of its natural oils. Using a scalp scrub once a week will help reduce dandruff, release blocked hair follicles, boost hair volume, and improve shine.

To detoxify my crown, I use a mixture of coarse sea salt, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, melted coconut oil and add a few drops of peppermint oil. However, if you want to choose a pre-made option, Blake Lively‘s go-to Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt will do the trick.


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Mahalo for the healthy hair!

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