When I landed in Kuala Lumpur three months ago, I had three full bags (or, 17 pounds) of hair, makeup and skincare products.
Having spent the better part of the last year as a beauty writer in New York, my routines were expensive, extensive and exhausting. My skincare routine alone had 25 different steps — 11 in the morning, 14 in the evening — and I spent at least an hour every morning on my hair and makeup.
Now that I’ve been living out of a suitcase in countries that are hot AF and prettttty dirty for the last three months, my beauty routine has become very, very streamlined (read: non-existent).I’ve donated almost all of what I brought to local women, and instead of being sad when I finish a product I am elated because it means it’s one less thing to pack into my suitcase. Every morning, I shower, slap on some moisturizer, throw my hair in a bun and go about my day. And TBH… It’s the absolute best.
Am I looking my most glamorous? Absolutely not. I still take pride in my appearance (I wear cute outfits! I swear!), but I’m not exactly winning any beauty contests over here… Especially not ones that require makeup. But I’ve decided that there are simply better things to do with my time — for example, explore — than dedicating a significant portion of it to my beauty routine. At least for now.
Despite the product detox, I somehow still feel really, really beautiful every day. I look like some sort of cool gypsy flower child with my hair all wild and free, and my skin has a constant glow from the combination of being in the sun all the time and sweating (glistening?) nonstop. I also recently decided to start following a Vegan diet, which is doing more for my skin than any of my products ever did (though I hate to admit it, because I REALLY MISS CHEESE). More on that at a later date, though.
With all of that in mind, here are nine of the biggest ways my beauty routine has changed since becoming a digital nomad.
1. Deodorant Is My #1 Must Have Product
If you had asked me four months ago what my favorite product was, I would have told you it was too hard to decide between Huda Beauty’s Lip Kits, Makeup Forever’s Highlighter and the Estée Edit’s Tinted Moisturizer because I couldn’t live without any of them. Now, there is zero competition: Dove’s spray deodorant is hands down the best/most important product I own. It’s a zillion degrees in South East Asia, which means that I sweat NONstop, and Dove’s DO is the only thing that keeps me sane. It smells SoOoO good when I put it on in the morning, and it keeps me floral-y fresh all day long.
2. I Wash My Hair Every 12 Hours
I used to wash Because of aforementioned sweating, my hair gets filthy in a really, really short amount of time here. Not only is it greasy AF, but it also smells like the pollution/smoke/weird grilled meats that make up the glorious scents of Cambodia. I have to shower every few hours, and a full shampoo and conditioner session is 100% necessary. Sadly, it takes about 12 hours for my hair to actaully dry because of the humidity here, but whatever. I’m dealing.
3. I Legit Threw My Straightening Iron In The Garbage
After one week of living in Kuala Lumpur, I dumped my straightening iron in the trash and haven’t looked back since. I used to straighten my hair at least 5 days a week in New York, but wear my hair curly and natural every day. There has only been one night when I’ve wanted to do my hair, but then decided it was too damn hot to deal with heating products and went to the club with wet hair instead.
4. I Don’t Use ANY Hair Products
Zilch. Zero. Nada. My ride-or-die salt spray got thrown in the garbage at Australian customs last month (yes, there were tears) and I haven’t been able to find any sort of replacement since it happened — finding curl products in Asia is legit impossible. I’ve pretty much just let my hair do its own thang, to varying results.
5. I Literally Never Shave My Legs
Finding Venus razor blades in Asia has proven to be a real pain in the ass, so I made the conscious decision just to… not do it. I’ve got a lot of maxi dresses, so it’s cool for now (sorry, boyfriend.).
6. … But I Do Shave My Face (Don’t Judge Me.)
Hear me out, you guys: Face shaving freaking rocks. I’m a hair human being (thanks, Jewish Jeans) and have a lot of pretty annoying peach fuzz on my face and side burns. I discovered Japanese Facial Razors when I was living in Malaysia, and from the moment I tried them I was hooked. Not only are they a suuuuuper easy and painless way to get rid of any unwanted hair (including the perpetual 5 o’clock shadow between my eyebrows), but they also help exfoliate my face in a real way. I happened to write a full story on my new obsession that went viral, which was prettttty embarrasing (one of the guys I know posted it to our Remote Year group when he found it advertised on IMDB) but made me even more apt to commit. It does get super awkward when my boyfriend touches my face and says “wow! smooth! did you shave?!” but whatever.
7. Massages Are A Bi-Weekly Occurrence
Massages in Asia are cheap and accessible, and given the amount of stress that comes with living and working with 65 other humans have become a reallllly regular thing for me. It’s been fun to see the different styles of massage each country has to offer, and even more fun when an hour of being kneaded head-2-toe costs $15. Mani/Pedis are pretty cheap and amazing, too, and I try to get those at least once every two weeks (which is twice as often as I used to in NYC).
8. I Pumice My Feet On The Reg
Walking around a dirty Asian city in flip flops all day, every day (… my step average daily step count this month is 15,000-ish) leaves my feet looking absolutely gnarly. No matter how much I wash them — which is a lot, considering I shower every few hours – they never quite feel clean unless I really dig in there with a pumice. I keep a stone and a “grater” (or whatever those things are that they tell you not to use at the nail salon) in my shower, and go to town on all the nasty stuff on the bottom of my feet every night. It’s weirdly addicting.
9. I Wear Bug Spray Instead of Perfume
Before I started traveling, I didn’t realize what a luxury perfume actually is. Considering I’m in places where Dengue Fever and Malaria are a very, very real thing, perfume is not a good idea. Instead of spritzing up with Narcisso Rodriguez every morning, I douse myself head-to-toe in some good, old fashion DEET. Mmm.