A Travel Tip for Healthy Hair

how to remove oil and product residue from hair

A Travel Tip for Healthy Hair: How to Quickly, Easily (and Cheaply) Remove Oil and Product Residue.

Travel isn’t always pretty.

After two weeks in China, my normally healthy head of hair turned inexplicably lank and dull.

An oily, sticky residue, concentrated at the crown of my scalp, developed at the roots and no amount of washing or scrubbing would make it go away.

Gross, right?

I have no idea what caused the problem. It’s China. Take your pick. The air pollution? The water pollution? The copious amount of grease in every meal we ate? My money is on the new shampoo and conditioner I purchased just after our arrival, but since I couldn’t actually read any of the labels, there’s no way to know for sure.

Most likely, it was some combination of all of the above.

By the time we arrived in South Korea, I was dangerously close to being mistaken for a dirty backpacker who hadn’t bathed in weeks. And since wearing a baseball cap for the duration of our remaining travels wasn’t really a viable solution, I needed to get this fixed. Fast.

Baseball caps: Good for the occasional bad hair day. Not every day.

The Options

1. Go to a salon and let the professionals handle it.

Probably a safe bet. But even in a major international city like Seoul, I was concerned that I might have trouble communicating the issue and getting the desired results. Also, this could turn out to be pretty pricey.

2. Find a good clarifying shampoo and try an at-home treatment.

A less expensive alternative, but definitely more room for error. After trying, and failing, to identify the appropriate products at the local drugstore, I moved on to the next option.

3. Consult Google and try a cheap and convenient travel hack.

Score. Google wins again.

The Solution

Liquid dish soap.

Yep. You read that right. Apparently, Dawn dishwashing detergent was safely and successfully used to clean birds affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, and more recently, the 2010 incident in the Gulf of Mexico.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find Dawn at our neighborhood grocery store in Seoul, so the local brand would have to do.

How It Works

  1. Rub the liquid dish soap vigorously into the roots of dry hair.
  2. Let the soap sit in hair for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Worry that this was a big mistake and now all of your hair is going to fall out.
  4. Wet hair and lather, working soap from roots to ends.
  5. Rinse completely.
  6. Repeat on wet hair.
  7. Rinse hair completely with cold water.
  8. Allow hair to air dry, with no added products.
  9. Breathe a huge sigh of relief when your hair looks so fresh and so clean!

The Results

Not only did this completely remove all traces of oil and product residue from my hair, it also left my locks as shiny and silky as they’ve ever been. For free. Using nothing more than the liquid dish soap provided in our rental apartment.


(And just to be safe, I tossed the products I purchased in China and switched to a sulfate, paraben and silicone-free shampoo and conditioner that I picked up in Seoul.)

Whew. Back to normal. (If you ignore the gray roots and the fact that I badly need a haircut.)

Has something like this ever happened to you? Any other tricks that cheaply (and successfully) solved the problem?