Julia Knight

Bangkok stole my curls

What's a girl got to do to keep her hair looking nice in this city?

Bangkok has a lot to answer for. My Maltese background meant I was afforded a lot of thick, curly and healthy hair but something sinister has been going on. It's our two year anniversary this week and lots of people have asked me what's changed and what I miss. Well it's my hair.

Bangkok stole my curls. The humidity equals frizz and yes, there's lots of lotions, potions, bottles and tubes which promise sleek hair but they all lie. I have a theory that the water is mostly to blame and reading other women's posts, I'm not alone. In a frantic attempt to find the reason, I searched the net and found lots of ideas. But even the natural remedies such as cider vinegar and baking soda require rinsing with water. Is the water worse than London's, which is known for its 'hardness', essentially a euphemism for its reputation for being chemically enhanced.

Talk to any expat lady, they will tell you a horror story about hairdressing here. A 400B price tag does not equal a Tony and Guy cut so be prepared to pay European prices for your cut n blow dry but even then you can not guarantee its condition. Most friends say they will wait until they go home to have it done and I don't blame them. My hairdresser at home was aghast and I got a lecture about sun damage, regular trims and conditioning treatments.

But all that stuff just doesn't seem to work here. I know. I have tried them.

The oddity is that apart from sun damage, changing my brunette to burnt orange, (another arggghhh) it's not full of split ends. A massage lady, who delivered an amazing massage said in broken Thai, that my hair needed love and that I shouldn't wear it up as it is breaking it. So I've opted for a shorter cut as the length was too hot to leave down, it felt like a carpet on my back and often resulted in scrapping up into a bun. So maybe, just like we have acclimatised to 16 degrees being winter, maybe my hair adjusted by thinning out like a husky in summer.

My inquisitive self met another curly haired lady and I asked her about her hair. She concluded the same, we had been robbed of our curls by a city which only appreciates sleek, Brazilian blow dries. So if there is a magical formula for bringing back my curls, or a god or godess of twirls that can help restore my locks to its former glory, then please let me know....

About me



As a professional hair stylist we see these problems a lot with Westerners and expats in Thailand. There are definitely solutions and options but like everything in Thailand, you will get what you pay for. Here are a few pointers from our experience. yep, the water is undrinkable and heavily chlorinated and with other metals. Forget about cheap seven eleven or Tesco Tresseme or Rejioce or Pantenne hair products (these are bad). Invest in some decent professional grade shampoo, conditioners and weekly protein masks. Personally i wouldn't really choose Villa but you may find or international brands there. But usually supermarkets stock grade C hair products. If you want professional grade you have to look a little harder. We are big fans of QOD Brazil brand hair products which are available at a few salons in Thailand. Because Brazil and Thailand are very similar high humidity climates, and Brazilians love the beach and sun, QOD products work very well at taming frizz, smoothing hair, treating hair. QOD also have a wide selection of sulfate and sodium chloride free products. And many of them also have hydrolyzed keratin and argan oils. This is step one to your hair recovery! use a good shampoo conditioner and weekly hair mask.
Step 2 - High recommend a good quality daily serum or oil. This will seal your hair cuticles and protect against UV, pollution and stop the ends of the hair drying out faster, it will also help tame your frizz. We dont recommend the rather popular Moroccan Oil as its full of silicone. We are fans of the QOD ARGAN oil sets- again thumbs up to Brazil hair care.

with regards to Brazilian keratin treatments or brazilian smoothing blowouts. They are very good and can give you sleek smooth hair reducing styling time to just a few seconds each day. But they do require care and you shouldn't really go swimming in sea or chlorine too much if you want results to last. Furthermore you have to use the correct styling products and sodium chloride shampoos or keratin treatments just will not last. A typical keratin treatment can cost anything from 3500-10,000 baht and may last 3-6 months depending on many factors. its about the same price as back home or maybe a little less, it really depends on how bad exchange rates, pounds, euros and dollars are doing against the baht. But generally in Thailand the price has remained the same for the last 12 years for keratin treatments.

But what if you love your curls and want to keep them but with less frizz? well they also make Brazilian keratin keep the curl treatments and another good product we recommend is a curl activator. it makes curls more defined and less frizzy. But rule number one here is restoring the health, moisture, proteins and oils back into your hair which Thailand sucks out fast, and then keeping it protected and locked in to the hairs cuticle. (argan oil or keratin).

Now on to hair loss, we see this a lot at the salon too. Many international clients seem to suffer bouts of hair loss in Thailand. usually for no obvious or apparent reason it just starts after a few months of arriving. Stress, change of diet, hormones, water, chemicals, foods could all be factors and its sometimes tough to know the cause. In any case you can purchase hair tonics which regulate the hairs sebum (the oil your scalp produces). You see sometimes hair loss can be caused from oil scalp or unbalanced PH. we like the Compagnia del Colore hair tonics, they are imported from Italy. and i think QOD make some too. Another thing you can try is anti hair loss shampoo. and do not get coconut oil or hair conditioner too much on your scalp. remember less oil is better on the scalp unless you have a dandruff problem, but thats another story for another day. Either way these problems are going to require a few thousand baht and yes, Thailand is not always as cheap as people think. All the products that are imported from outside are subject to very high custom taxes and VAT. so quality products here cost more. But what you spend on hair you save on Thai food ;) its all relative! Just be careful - goodluck!

By Zenred, Bangkok (25th January 2017)

I don't know why you all have had problems with your curly hair in Thailand. My curls never looked better or more healthy than they did when i was in Patong for 2 weeks. No frizzing at all. I am more upset that it never looks as good at home.

By Tracy , Australian (27th November 2016)

I'm probably too late to the party, but if like me you're searching for a hair salon in Thailand which caters to curly hair, you may just come across this and find it useful. Have you tried using sulfate free, paraben free, silicone free shampoo? I found some options in Villa market however there is a cheaper alternative in 711, with the added benefits of leechlime which is apparently really good for restoring scalp health. Hope this helps someone :)

By Meg, Phuket (11th October 2016)

Thailand tried to steal my curls, too! Then a friend told me about rinsing with vinegar once a week, and I tried it because I was THAT desperate! It worked like a charm, and I haven't looked back. In fact, my curls look more defined, my hair is much softer, and more bouncy. Yes, it smells absolutely awful when it's in your hair, but once you rinse it off with your shampoo the smell disappears and you're left with the benefits! I hope you give it a shot and it fixes the problem for you!

By Lidiya, Pattaya (20th November 2014)

I totally understand! Although my hair isn't curly (it's naturally dead straight) I have the same dryness problem. My ends aren't split but they are ridiculously dry and I've got flyaways like you wouldn't believe! I'm in Chiang Mai and there's only one decent salon here that really knows how to deal with western hair but it's so expensive that I don't go for trims nearly as often as I should. My hairdresser lectures me about how dry my hair is every time I go in, which is strange because, before I came to Thailand, hairdressers always commented on how my hair was literally as soft as a baby's.

I miss my hair too. I'm sure it's a combination of the water and the shampoos/conditioners that are simply designed for Asian hair but having said that, my hair wasn't nearly as damaged when I lived in the Philippines and the water quality over there is renowned for being atrocious.

The other thing I miss is not having helmet-hair every single day of my life!

By Lauren, Thailand (25th September 2014)

Red kin shampoo wash in bottled water leave conditioner in to stop the frizz as mouse is drying coconut oil is good hope this is helpful Julia xx

By Naomi donaldson, Bristol uk (18th September 2014)

Thanks Nancy! Will def try your suggestions. Thank you again, JK

By Julia, BKK (17th September 2014)

Hello!! I hope this can help you with your hair problems. I have a sleek straight hair. Most people say it is beautiful. Heavy black in color. when i first came to Thailand i had severe hair fall, also I suffered from severe dryness of scalp with severe itchiness. I tried all the good brand I use in the Philippines, but they work differently here. My friends said it was because of the water. I washed my hair at least 2 times a day. After six months staying here, almost 80% of my hair fall out, that I can almost see my scalp, plus the annoying itchiness. I needed to have my hair permed to hide my baldness. Then a friend suggested a parlor in Saraburi, they call it "Hair Zone". The hair dresser is good, she can understand and speak English. she will cut your hair the way you want it.( Most hair dresser will cut your hair the way they want it, never listen to what you want). Also they have this Shishiedo Shampoo and hair Mask. In my case, shampoo had affected my hair. the over the counter shampoo is too strong for me. It might be the same in your case. If you cannot find a Shishiedo Shampoo, you can also use "Q10" Shampoo and conditioner from Korea, available to any Karmart Shop. Hope this will help.

By Nancy, Ranong (17th September 2014)

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