The Easiest Type of Wellness Travel? Getting a Haircut on Vacation

Hair salons can introduce you to a new culture—or just make you feel beautiful.

The unassuming Queen's Hair salon blended seamlessly into the charming streets of Turin, Italy, its understated facade giving no hint of the vibrant environment that awaited within. Stepping inside, I was immediately welcomed by a petite, jovial woman with radiant purple hair who showed me my seat for my blowout and trim. With each snip of her scissors, it became clear that this visit would be far more than a fleeting beauty stop; instead, it was a discussion about the rich history of Italian fashion and newfound insights on how not to be afraid of experimenting with my personal style.

It turns out that scheduling a hair treatment or haircut while traveling is part of many travelers' itinerary, and for multiple reasons. On the more obvious end of the spectrum is the aesthetic aspect of wanting to feel attractive while traveling, and often at a comparably inexpensive rate.

Italian-American Kat Lapelosa books rehydrating treatments while she’s abroad to treat her dry scalp and hair after a travel day.

“I hate the way my hair and scalp feel after flying, even for short periods of time. I've booked hair treatments in Mexico, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, France, Serbia, Japan, Thailand, and on some Caribbean cruises,” she shares. “It also helps put me in vacation mode knowing I look as good as I'm going to feel on my trip.”

Plus, the price tag is a huge motivator for international visitors. For Henah Velez, booking hair treatments during a recent trip to the Philippines was a fraction of the price in the States.

“I have naturally wavy, fine, and frizzy hair so I wanted a J-curl rebonding treatment with a haircut. Even though I was at a very upscale spa in Manila, Philippines, the experience was better than in the States and more affordable. I spent about $150 compared to $500.”

Vacation hair braids
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Along with the advantages of getting hair treatments abroad, there is a therapeutic element that is undeniable given the intimate nature of the service itself. Unlike many other tourist activities, getting your hair done requires you to sit still for an extended period, creating an opportunity for conversation and connection with your stylist or barber. This personal interaction welcomes a glimpse into the cultural norms and preferences that broaden our understanding of global diversity in a way that is achievable as a passing traveler. In a way, our stylists and barbers serve as temporary therapists—and it can make you feel good.

“I'm a big believer in the power of meaningful connection, even micro-connections with our hair stylists that fall under this realm,” explains Dr. Sue Verma, a board certified psychiatrist and author of Practical Optimism: The Art, Science and Practice of Exceptional Wellbeing. “Hair therapy" could very well be the only deep or meaningful connection we have that day and is an opportunity to learn about another world while leaving yours for the time being.”

In the midst of growing conversations surrounding mental health and the pressing need for accessible support, an unexpected ally has emerged: hair salons. As the concept of self-care gains traction, visiting a hair stylist has become an integral part of wellness routines for many individuals because these salon visits offer a sanctuary where the art of hairdressing intertwines with emotional nourishment.

Historically, old school barbershops and salons were important places for communities to congregate, especially for the Black community. It was a vulnerable space for getting a haircut with a side of healing, active listening, and empathy.

These days, hair salons still bring people together. For Lapelosa, the relationship with her hair stylists are often mutual; when abroad, she practices English with them, and in return, they offer valuable perspectives on issues that help calibrate her sense of self.

“Sometimes we talk about local beauty standards and trends,” she says. “For example, in Belgrade, Serbia, the beauty standards for women are super high so they are getting their hair, nails, and other treatments done more regularly. The salons charge less because the demand is constant.”

Haircut
Xinhua/Shutterstock

These establishments can also serve as informal gathering places, where locals come to socialize, exchange news, and catch up on the happenings of their community. As a visitor, you may have the opportunity to eavesdrop on these conversations, gaining insights into the daily lives of people who call that place home.

For Velez, who was unable to communicate with her stylist due to a language barrier, her mother-in-law was the intermediary who helped her understand the broader cultural fabric of the area. “I loved seeing my mother-in-law, who speaks Tagalog, teach the hair salonists more about my hair type—which they are not usually accustomed to—and to have her translate discussions people were having as they got their hair treated. I felt like I belonged.”

Visiting a hair salon during your travels is a unique, holistic souvenir that transcends the physical, resulting in insights—and vacation hair—that can stay with you long after your trip has ended.

In the heart of Saskatoon, Canada, Janalyn Mehler has created a sanctuary that goes beyond the boundaries of traditional hair salons. As the founder of Soul Salons, Janalyn has woven together her passion for hairdressing with her deep understanding of energy healing modalities and crystals. While Soul Salons' reputation has spread through word of mouth, drawing guests from near and far, the common thread that binds them is a yearning for an enriching and personal experience.

“I have many clients who want a lovely salon experience with good tunes and chats where we share experiences we’ve had with certain healing modalities. Then I have clients who come for intentional healing where conversation dwindles and there is blissful silence. I cater my experience to the client,” she says.

Even when there's little conversation involved, the simple act of having someone wash, comb, and style one's hair becomes a profound ritual of care and connection. For example, Vinay Kapoor, who had a very strong relationship with his regular barber in New York City before he moved away, craved a physical realm where he was simply seen.

“Barber culture in New York is terrible. If you are not a regular, you can wait up to five hours to get a haircut. Though I didn't talk to my barber while getting a haircut in Delhi, the experience was phenomenal and I just felt at peace getting immediate attention.”

Despite the cathartic and educational benefits of visiting a salon abroad, Dr. Verma notes that “hair therapy” can’t replace traditional therapy by a trained professional. Instead, it serves as a community entry point and an untapped source of validation for travelers—in some ways, its own type of wellness travel.

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Pooja Shah is a London-based freelance journalist from New York City. She covers travel, lifestyle, fashion, beauty, wellness, and cultural trends. Pooja's work has appeared in a variety of publications including CNET, HuffPost, Elle, Vogue and more. Pooja has a Juris Doctorate and practices law alongside her journalism career. Follow her on Instagram, or at her website.