It is not uncommon for tourists to find themselves in need of some hair help when traveling abroad. Sometimes you’re out there longer than you had initially intended, so you end up requiring a quick hair color retouch, a blow-out, or a trim. Sometimes you just give in to the urge of pampering yourself when on vacation, so you look for an upscale salon for an elegant updo. The greatest challenge to finding good hair specialists abroad is, being a foreigner, local stylists might not be very familiar with your hair type. That’s on top of possible communication challenges and striking cultural differences. That being said, whatever your situation may be, you need these few tips on how to find a good hair salon when traveling abroad:
1. Research local hair and beauty trends
Before you step out in search of a salon, it is advisable to first research which local hairstyle trends are most popular in your host country. Some of the local styles might look great on you, which would be great because trying out new things is part of the adventure in a foreign country.
Sometimes, none of the available local options matches the vision you have for your hair. But even in that case, the research will point you in the direction of local stylists who might get your preferred style right. Even more important, you will learn from the research which products in the local market would be favorable to your hair. There is a danger in using hair products from local stores without researching the effect they might have on your hair type, lest you find yourself bleaching your hair in an attempt to darken your hair.
In Asia, for example, people mostly have really dark hair, which means their hair dyes must contain bleaching chemicals if they want to, for example, acquire a brunette shade. The purpose of the bleach is to lighten the hair first so that they can then dye it to the color they want. Bottom line: Understand the common local hairstyles and hair types before settling on a salon or hair product. If you’re are looking for a hair salon in Dubai or any other Arabic/Asian destination, remember the example above and do your due diligence.
2. Unless you have to, don’t visit touristy salons
Touristy salons are mostly overrated and overpriced. It is always a better idea to go off the beaten path and explore local salons– your wallet will thank you for it. Besides, where is the fun in visiting a salon where the hairdressers are specifically trained to attend to tourists? There is more fun in interacting with hairdressers who don’t speak your language too well, who have deep knowledge of the local culture, and who can point you in the direction of local hidden treasures. You may have to learn some basic phrases in the local language or put your sign language to practice to get services here, but isn’t that why you traveled way out of your comfort zone? What’s more, local barbershops and salons don’t charge too much and, in most countries, the locals are very hospitable to foreigners.
3. Get opinions from people with hair texture similar to yours
If you are visiting a country or region whose pre-dominant race is different from yours, it may be really hard to find someone with a hair texture similar to yours. Talk of trying to find a needle in a haystack. That is why you should not let someone with your hair texture pass you on the streets without picking their brain on local salons and local hair trends.
Apart from strangers’ opinions, you can get hair clues from local beauty magazines and local fashion/beauty influencers on Instagram. It is easy to find celebrities in your host country with a texture similar to or close to yours. You can either visit the salons they go to or save a few pictures from their social media for reference when you visit the stylists you can access or afford at the moment.
4. Consult online resources
There is a ton of online resources that you can use to find a good hair salon abroad. There are, for example, smartphone apps that connect travelers to hair salons in the US and Europe. Install one of these apps on your phone- they will always come in handy when searching hair services abroad.
Other invaluable online resources that will help you find the hair services you need are TripAdvisor and Yelp. These resources will provide you with authentic reviews of salons near you, so you are able to narrow down your physical search to only the salons with the highest star ratings.
And then there is social media, notably Instagram and Facebook, which you can rely on for authentic user reviews. You will learn a lot about the reputation of a hair salon from their social media presence, how they interact with social media users, ease of booking their services online, the quality of their pictures, and how professional their website is.
5. Assess a salon’s quality before booking an appointment
If you like a salon from the reviews you read online and the social proof they have built on social media, don’t go all in and book an appointment. You need to first check out the salon in person and confirm that their online image is a true reflection of their offline brand. Be sure to check the following before booking an appointment:
- Sanitation standards- this will reveal a lot with regards to a salon’s professionalism and quality of service. Confirm that the hairdressers clean, disinfect, and sterilize their equipment thoroughly before attending to you.
- Smell- if you detect an unpleasant, potent smell in the salon, that’s an indication of a poorly ventilated salon.
- The general vibe and feel of the salon- how do you like the atmosphere in the salon? Do you like the manager’s/owner’s personality? Do you feel safe in the salon or in the salon’s neighborhood?
- How qualitative are the salon’s equipment?
- Do they price their services fairly or do they overcharge foreigners?
- The products they use, are they from reputable brands?
- Are they experienced with your hair type? Bring pictures to give them a clear idea of your desired result.
6. Then a consultation session
Any stylist worth their salt will never say no to a consultation session with a potential customer- they even include it as part of the service. So, if you like a salon based on their online reviews and your own assessment, request the owner/manager for a short consultation session. It could be a virtual or in-person session. This way, you can get any teething issues and concerns ironed out, plus you get to know a little bit more about the salon’s reputation before doing anything serious.
7. Ask for help from your stylist back home
If you have a way of contacting your main stylist back home, shoot them a message requesting them for all the useful details on your current look. Request them to write down the procedure for making your current style, point by point. If you have a good rapport with them, they may even be open to sending you an instructional video on how they executed the style, the formula for the color they use if any, and the gloss they use, among other important details. Show that video to your new stylist to help them help you.
8. Don’t ignore your gut feeling
Nobody knows your hair, your taste, and your fears better than you do. As such, no amount of online reviews should dictate how to feel about a salon. Always listen to your gut. And although it is normal to feel nervous when trying out a new salon in a new country, you should be keen not to brush off any weird feelings you may have. If you don’t feel good about a salon, just get out and take your business elsewhere.
9. Don’t experiment too much
Don’t trust your foreign stylist to style you from brunette to platinum blonde, or any other crazy transformation. Think of your new stylist as a new relationship- take it slow until you are sure they know what they’re doing.
10. Have a good time and tip accordingly
Have a good time and relax- you can even bring a book or a magazine to help you relax. Having a good time also means bringing your sense of humor, picking up conversations with other clients, and just being deliberately happy. Don’t be too uptight and unfriendly. Present yourself as an approachable individual who is out to make friends, exchange ideas, learn new languages, and share your life experiences.
Note: If you usually tip your hairstylist back home, you should do it even when abroad. Just tip the same amount you’re used to… it’s the gesture that matters, not the amount.
Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime when shopping for a good hair salon overseas. This sure is a challenging experience, but it is a fun and fabulous one too. All you need to do is proceed with caution, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and create fun memories for later!