Sailing Hair, Just Don’t Care: Living On A Boat


There were many things I worried about before I moved aboard, but hair care on a sailing boat was not one of them. I’ve never been a particularly girly girl, I don’t paint my nails or worry about cuts and bruises and I’ve never worn make up every day. In fact, I have to confess that when I lived in a house there were definitely days when I didn’t brush my hair and my hairdresser would roll her eyes at the amount of time I’d leave it before bothering to get it cut.

Living on a sailboat has taken my lack of interest in my appearance to a whole new level. I imagined that when I moved aboard I would be slim and tanned (from all the exercise and vitamin sea), I assumed I wouldn’t need make up and that I’d live in bikinis. The reality is, of course, somewhat different.

The Truth About Glamorous Sailboat Living

a girl with her hair down standing at the bow of a sailing boat
Sailing hair is hard to keep looking good!

I have experienced a number of emotions from watching certain sailboats arrive into marinas. Mostly jealousy, confusion and anger. It goes like this. Sailboat glides into marina, man and friends at the helm and women lounging on the fore deck. The men dock the boat while the women sip their cocktails. On closer inspection I see the women are wearing tiny white bikinis, with flawless make up and incredible, glossy, not a hair out of place kind of hair.


When I arrive into a marina I haven’t had a shower for nearly a month (thus the only reason for entering the marina – to get water). I’m wearing clothes that may have once been white but that are now covered in salt water, the smell of diesel, and numerous sun cream stains. If I tried to put on make up it’s now smeared down my face from either sweat or salt water spray and I just don’t even want to mention my hair (really hoping my hairdresser never reads this!)

Hair Care On A Sailboat: Top Tips For Dealing With Sailing Hair

sailing with the wind in a girls hair
Getting my sailing hair in a tangle

I was prepared for my hair drying out a little when living on a sailboat. I’ve been on holiday enough times to know that salt water dries out your hair, and a little conditioner works miracles. What I didn’t account for was all of that, combined with crazy winds and 0 fresh water.

The first sail we went on I tied my hair back in a pony tail and by the time anchored I couldn’t get my hair out of the hairband without ripping half of it out. Since then I’ve learnt a few little tricks that go a long, long way and although I don’t have perfectly straight, shiny hair it’s certainly looking a whole lot more healthy that it did for the first few months aboard.

Invest In Shampoo Bars

two shampoo bars for sailing hair care
Shampoo bars are great for sailing hair care

Living on the ocean makes me super aware that I need to look after the ocean. I’m definitely more careful than I’ve ever been about what I use to wash with. These shampoo bars are chemical free, waste free, cheap and they last for ages. The only downside to these is that you can’t get them in any old supermarket (a never ending battle for liveaboards). I just try and stock up on a few when I can get deliveries so that I don’t run out.

Sometimes these shampoo bars get pretty bad reviews and I can sort of see why. If you don’t stick with them then the first few washes do leave your hair a little dull and heavy. I think it’s because a lot of the natural residue gets left behind and your hair is used to much harsher chemicals found in most shampoos. Give it a few washes and your hair will start to adjust.

Here are a few tips to minimise that transition period!

  • Use a little baking soda after you’ve washed your hair and rinse. This isn’t a long term solution as it’s also not great for your hair in the long run, but use a little and ween yourself off as your hair adjusts to the shampoo bars.
  • Cider vinegar also works wonders to strip off some of the residue left behind. Again, ween yourself off it slowly.
  • Cycle the shampoo bars with your normal hair care routine – this is what I did and it worked well. Just don’t be tempted to revert back, I promise it works really well and you’ll save money and the environment by making the switch!

Use Coconut Oil To Soothe Tangled Sailing Hair

Coconut oil has been a savour for my dry and tangled sailing hair. It isn’t too expensive compared to a lot of hair care products out there, and it’s all natural baby! I just smooth a little melted coconut oil into the ends of my hair every few days and it works wonders at keeping it less tangled and more nourished. I find the best time to do it is before bed, especially if I’ve plaited my hair.

Try brushing your hair through after you’ve put it in and it will spread onto your hairbrush and help with the every day de-tangling battles!

Tie Up Sailing Hair

There are a few obvious reasons for this. The first being that it will stop your hair getting in the way of all those working parts like winches and blocks and the second being that it will stop the wind from whipping it into a huge tangled mess. Buns or plaits are best, as even a pony tail leaves the ends all matted together.

Snorkel Masks Are Not A Girls Best Friend

The amount of times I’ve ripped out half my hair in an attempt to get off my mask is unreal. I love these neoprene strap covers that protect your hair from the horrid clingy plastic straps of snorkel masks.

Wear Plaits In The Sea To Prevent Knotted Sailing Hair

Sailing hair stays healthier when it’s tied up

This is the only way I’ve found to keep my hair relatively untangled when swimming in the sea. I make sure my plaits are really tight and secure. If it’s at all lose it gets in just as big a mess so french plaits are best! I love these bio degradable hair bands to use to secure my plaits.

What You Put In Is What You Get Out

Honestly, the best way to take care of your hair when sailing is to eat the right foods. This can be a challenge when sailing as it isn’t always possible to get certain foods while you’re out at sea. Stock up on vitamin tablets and supplements (I take iron, and have read that biotin and silica are also great for hair repair, or you can go for specially tailored hair and skin care vitamin tablets instead) to give your body a fighting chance.

I’m no nutritional expert but from research I’ve found that…

  • Eggs are a good source of biotin which is one of the best vitamins for hair growth
  • Nuts and Seeds give you Omega 3 to make your hair nice and glossy
  • Spinach provides loads of iron which apparently helps hair growth and repair
  • Berries are a great source of Vitamin C which the body uses to produce collagen, and obviously vitamin C is in loads of other fruit and veg too
  • Sweet potatoes, beetroot, carrots or any veg that sort of orange colour contain Beta-Carotene, which is a protein essential to hair growth and repair
  • Avocados are rich in Vitamin E to nourish skin and hair and taste amazing
  • Beans provide you with an essential source of Zinc – a hair nourishing mineral

So there you have it – my ultimate tips for dealing with nightmare sailing hair! I hope it helps, and please do add any of your favourite go tos below to help us all out further!

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