Tress Passes: How to Have Great Hair for Less

Whether youíre a permanent road warrior or dealing with long daily commutes followed by evening business dinners, chances are your hair takes a beating on a regular basis. Keeping it coiffed and in great condition via standard salon visits can add up to big bucks. But many salons use salon software that lets them keep notes on what you have had done before, and can help you get your hair done the right way. Thatís where having a personal power arsenal of maintenance tips comes in handy. Here are a few of my favorites.

Bobby Pins

Available in a variety of shades to match every hair color, bobby pins have always made my short list for travel-sized beauty items. They can be used to clip back tresses from your forehead and tucked under curls for a seamless look, create French twists and to help craft a number of other classic hair styles necessary when combining business with pleasure on the road. I love backpack-to-briefcase solutions like this because they allow me to develop lifestyle procedures that will work no matter where I am in the world. Itís the same reason I prefer basic shades of sheer pinks used in French manicures for my nail care routine.

DIY Color

To be honest, whenever Iím having my hair lightened or highlighted, I donít even attempt a DIY solution. Thereís too much that could go wrong, not the least of which is long-term damage to the health of my hair. That being said, when Iím in the mood to go darker, simply cover a little gray or give my hair a break from chemical treatments, boxed color is my budget-friendly solution of choice. The brand I use exclusively is Clairol Natural Instincts because itís a semi-permanent solution that comes in several shades suited for my skin tone. If youíd like a more professional solution, consider going to a beauty supply store like Sallyís and selecting a similar product from one of their color boards.

Homemade Conditioning Spray

There are certainly hair care products youíll need to dish out some dough for, but detanglers and conditioning sprays arenít on that list as far as Iím concerned. In fact, they are each on my short list for easy, homemade beauty products you can create at home. Simply take an empty, fine-mist spray bottle and squirt a small amount of liquid conditioning product into the bottom. Fill the rest with water, screw on the spray top to seal, and shake to mix. You can either use this as an affordable leave-in treatment or as a detangling spray if you have young children at home who hate to sit still and have their hair combed. I especially like to use this when I am on the road for long periods of time in the developing world. My favorite conditioner is rarely available under these conditions, and this strategy helps me stretch out whatever amount I am able to bring with me.

Bonus Tip: Using a bit of conditioner on both palms and applying directly to the lower half of your hair strands after a towel dry ensures more of it stays on your hair and avoids sending costly hair care product down the drain. A hairdresser friend of mine tipped me off to this trick years ago. Most people apply the bulk of their conditioning product just prior to rinsing, and still require additional product after drying. While you still may want to apply a bit of product to make initial combing easier, your hair and your wallet are better off if you save the bulk of your conditioning regimen until after you hair has been towel dried. The trick is to refrain from applying the product too heavily.

Multipurpose Hairspray

Iíll admit the girly part of me is easily tempted by specialty hair care items like root lifter and scrunching mist. But while there are certainly a few supplemental products out there that are worth the money, the truth is a good bottle of hairspray can get you further than you might think. Spraying a bit of non-aerosol product in the palm of one hand and rubbing both hands together will enable you to seal the ends of your hair shafts and maintain a bit of bounce. By spraying the liquid closely to your scalp prior to styling with a round brush, you can achieve exactly the same result as if you had used a root-lifting spray.

Since many affordable brands of hairspray offer high-value coupons, opening up areas of your beauty routine to incorporate this multipurpose product is a great way to save money. Additionally, itís possible to dilute liquid hairspray from 30 Ė 50 percent and still receive a comparable result. This allows you to stretch out the use of a single bottle even longer. I should probably point out that I also purchase aerosol hairspray to stock in my hair care pantry, although I use it less frequently than the non-aerosol variety. It comes in handy for whispier styles, and the occasional charcoal art project your child may come home with as a homework assignment.

Professional Teasing Comb

When Iím spread out at home or have extra luggage room on the road, my preference is to have access to a vented round brush and a hair dryer as well, but when space is tight I can manage to pull off quite a few looks using only a professional teasing comb. Teasing roots provides lift, and the metal tines on the end can separate curls for a more polished up-do. It also serves the same function as any other basic comb, which means itís an easily-shared unisex grooming item when youíre sharing packing space with your spouse.

Protect Your Ends

Whether Iím on the road or at home, I always make an extra effort to ensure the ends of my hair are in the best condition possible. This helps me go longer between haircuts, reducing the overall cost of my hair maintenance routine. You can do this at home by applying a bit of conditioner, some organic coconut oil shortening kept in a separate jar, or even a bit of olive oil. But when Iím on the road, Iím particularly partial to Burtís Bees Miracle Salve. It comes in a flat tin and can be applied to hair ends, dry elbows, lips and heels. This product is extremely space efficient, and since the salve is a solid product, it doesnít need to be stored separately with your liquids when navigating airport security.


Clip-on pony tails and covered elastic curls in shades that match a variety of hair colors are available affordably at beauty supply stores and even some mall kiosks. These ďhair helpersĒ have lots of body, shine and bounce, making them the perfect solution when you need a polished look on the fly. One place this can come into play quite frequently is after a workout at the gym. If youíve just finished a sticky workout or a session of water aerobics, then you really donít have much choice but to shower and start with a fresh hairdo.

Multiple blow drying sessions per day can wreak havoc on otherwise healthy tresses.† But a towel dry and conditioning comb through pulled into a ponytail is stress free as far as your hair is concerned. Adding an extra clip-on ponytail over the top of a shorter, strait one provides an instant upgrade without heat or styling products. Pull out a few extra wisps to frame your face and youíre good to go. Head to happy hour with confidence or out to a show in that travel-friendly little black dress you stuffed in your gym bag. Your hair will look great without a perm or any extra wear and tear.

Roll It

If you donít want to have to sit under a dryer, my recommendation is to pick up a set of self-gripping rollers. The kind without a foam center. Theyíll have no need for extra drying time, making them a winning product to take on the road if you have the extra suitcase space. They also allow more air under your hair, greatly reducing the natural drying time required before you can take them out and begin styling your curls. For times when you want a more subtle look, a vented round brush used with a hair dryer will gently lift the top of your hair and provide a polished curve to your ends.

Caring for the health of your hair does take thought and planning, but it doesnít have to break the bank. These tips are some of my favorites for keeping hair care costs under control. So how about you? What are your top tips for tress management?

Photo Credits: Wineblat Eugene, The Sacul and Mike Baird

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