Traveling While Black and Fabulous

Published 2/24/23
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Guest post by Rochelle Graham-Campbell, owner of Alikay Naturals

Traveling is my husband Demond’s and my favorite thing to do together, especially luxury travel experiences. We love exploring the countries that we visit to better understand the local cultures as well and to appreciate them. 

Being a business owner means that I spend time to prepare for these trips in detail, however, one thing that I could’ve never prepared for was a hair emergency while being 4,600 miles away from home.

One thing I quickly learned when my husband and I started traveling internationally is not all countries or cities have stores available that are easily accessible and have products for black or textured hair. The first time I went to Paris was for a business conference and I was not prepared for a hair emergency. I, of course, wanted to keep my hair low maintenance for vacation, as a lot of black women do, so I opted to do a protective style: a sew-in with human hair extensions. Unfortunately, the hair that was installed by my stylist prior to my trip ended up not being human hair but a mixture of human and synthetic, which was unfortunate as I suffer from scalp psoriasis and sensitive skin, so I had the worst allergic reaction.

Just imagine: the day before getting up to speak in front of hundreds of women in Paris, I had developed a rash on my scalp, around my ears and it was spreading down to my forehead. I was so upset and I immediately decided that I needed to remove the extensions — however, I did not have hair scissors with me. I had to go to the front office and they lent me office scissors. I quickly cut out the extensions and immediately washed my hair. The shampoo and the conditioner that was available in the hotel ended up making it worse because they were so drying, and my allergic reaction on my scalp was now flaking. It was extremely traumatizing to me.

Despite what was happening, I tried to be optimistic and tried to make the best of it. Luckily, my husband had carried his travel size Lemongrass Leave in Conditioner and Botanicals Hair and Scalp Balm, so I was able to use that to soothe my scalp and to style my hair. I also had brought a travel size Shea Yogurt Hair Moisturizer, which I used to do a twist out in my hair. This is where the next challenge comes in: there were no beauty supply stores at all unless we got on the train and went 40 minutes outside of where we were staying. There were no black hair care products or black hair care tools available.

After washing my hair, I had nothing to detangle my hair with, so I wrapped my head and put on a hat so I could still be stylish walking the Paris streets. My husband and I went to multiple pharmacies with no luck, as there were no combs and no brushes at all that could be used on my hair. Eventually I gave up. We went back to our hotel in Paris and I end up having to use a fork to de-tangle my hair and style. I combed my hair and was able to twist it up. The next morning when we were heading out to the conference, I used the fork as a hair pick. I wrapped the fork up and carried it in my purse to the conference just in case my fro decided to fall on the way. As soon as we were two blocks away from where the conference was being held, we began to spot black beauty supply stores, black hair salons and braid shops everywhere. We had no idea there were so many.

Now looking back at the story, it was hilarious, but being in the moment I felt helpless because while the city has such a diverse culture, there were no products for women like me. This is one of the reasons that Alikay is so focused on making products for black hair and textured hair accessible — no matter where in the world someone is, they deserve to have quality, natural, travel-friendly, travel-approved products while also having the proper hair tools accessible as well. This has also taught me a lesson: I now travel with a full travel hair kit so that no matter what hair emergency I face and no matter where in the world I am, I’m always prepared and I can stay fabulous while traveling!

One of our favorite places to travel is to the Caribbean islands, which means tons of swimming in the ocean and the pool all day as I love to spend time in the water. Naturally black hair and textured hair is drier than other hair types typically because the oil sebaceous glands in our scalp do not allow for oil to really travel down our hair shaft and give it that sealant and moisture that it needs. So whether traveling or back home, it is extremely important to keep textured hair moisturized to keep it from breaking, drying out or being damaged. I also travel with a travel size Essential 17 Hair Growth Oil and travel size Lemongrass Leave in Conditioner, so just in case I do use the hotel shampoo and conditioner I can still re moisturize my hair.

Whether I decide to wear my natural hair loose or even if I wear my hair in a protective style for vacation that is super cute and low maintenance, such as Braids or Twist, I now travel with my own shampoo and conditioner travel sizes just in case I find out the hotel shampoo and conditioner does not contain any moisturizing or natural ingredients. One of my favorite travel must haves is the Co-Wash Me Cleansing Conditioner, which is a shampoo and conditioner in one. The worst thing is to be on vacation, and you wash your hair after a day of swimming to try to look fabulous for dinner, only to find out your hair is dry and frizzy or you have dry scalp making the rest of the vacation or trip super uncomfortable.

If you run out of sunscreen while traveling, another issue is that sunscreens from the gift shops leave a white cast on your skin.

A huge misconception people have is that Black people may not need sunscreen because of our Melanated skin. While the melanin in our skin does give us more sun protection than others, our skin is still susceptible to the irreversible damages from the sun. As a luxury black travel influencer and business owner, when I’m on vacation I want to know that yes, my skin is protected, but I also want to look and feel fabulous while traveling. I’ve had to learn the hard way to always throw a backup sunscreen in my husband‘s luggage just in case we run out.

I remember going on vacation to a luxury resort in Turks and Caicos when I ran out of sunscreen after a long day at the beach. I went to the hotel gift shops (there were two on property), and also went to a local market, and there were no sunscreens that were available that did not leave a white cast and film on my skin. Typically, if a black person does not use sunscreen, it’s either they do not have the knowledge that we still should use it, or they just don’t want to have streaks of white sunscreen on their face and skin, or the white powdery residue from sunscreen that’s not properly absorbed.

At this point, I have become a pro at black girl travel sunscreens. I make sure to bring ones that do not leave an oily residue on my skin as I’m naturally oily, and then in addition to that making sure that the one that is used has no white residue at all. More sunscreen options for black and brown people should be available and accessible more easily. Hopefully one day Alikay can provide solutions for this black girl travel challenge as well.

All in all, traveling while black and fabulous means always being prepared for what could go wrong by carrying your own emergency hair kits, no matter what part of the world you’re going to, and also being resourceful and finding quick solutions. I look forward to many more travels and making more memories with fabulous hair.

Are your welcome amenities inclusive?

Whether you’re a hotel, DMO, meeting planner or meeting venue, have you considered whether all travelers and attendees can experience your welcome amenities?

Last February, Miles partnered with Alikay Naturals on an inclusive travel experience that came to fruition at the 2022 Destinations International Annual Convention. The onsite activation included the delivery of Alikay Naturals hair product bundles to over 800 hotel rooms and welcome bags in the Miles conference lounge.

Read more about our partnership here.