Hairanoia – An Expat Fights Frizz in Malaysia

cat big hair

Visual approximation of how I look whenever I walk outside

Thank you, humidity, I always wanted to look like The Lion King.

Hair it is: the ugly truth. The humidity level in Malaysia is so high that you have to peel leg skin off chairs. Your sheets often feel like Saran Wrap. And unless you have incredibly thick hair, the humidity will transform your once-luxurious locks into something that looks more like a large family of long-legged spiders living atop your head. Really puts a damper in expat living when you’re self conscious about looking like this:


This is my signature “after a rainstorm” look

I’ve never paid any attention to my hair before moving to Malaysia – I considered it a “fancy day” whenever I’d remember to brush it prior to air-drying. But since this is how my hair looked when we lived in California, I really didn’t have to think about taming my mane:

Cimeron with Layla

That bitch!

And now in Malaysia, it looks like I rub a balloon on my head all morning to achieve a look that’s half Einstein, half electrified sheepdog, and 100% horrifying. Looking at my frizzy head, I came to accept that it’s life’s simple reminder that you can’t control everything. But then after several birds swooped at my head and I learned that my frizz is highly coveted nesting material, I decided I had to do something.


Looks like I’ve got daddy long-leg spiders dancing on my head, doesn’t it?

If you suffer from this too, fear not my puffy-haired friends – you don’t have to curl up and dye. There’s a way to get your lovely locks back. And no, it’s not anti-frizz creams or conditioners that cost more per ounce than diamonds – the 20+ products I tried were an exclusive blend of 90% lies and 10% money evaporator. Don’t waste your cash on useless anti-frizz products – they are no match for tropical humidity.

After doing extensive, obsessive research (I’m a magazine writer, so I put my skills and contacts to good use here) (note: my editors disagree with the term “good use”), I found there is something that truly works: the Brazilian Blowout, otherwise known as Keratin Treatment. It smooths out your hair and leaves it blissfully frizz-free for months. So that means no more looking like this:

bushy hair

Not all Brazilian treatments are the same though. Most that are available here in Malaysia saturate your hair with a formaldehyde solution, which makes your hair stick-straight. The toxic solution is not good for your lungs, and when the treatment fades out of your hair after several months, your hair may feel like highly flammable cotton candy. Ugh.

For those looking for an alternative that’s much healthier for your hair and lungs, and also preserves your natural waves or curls, there are now several fantastic formaldehyde-free alternatives that use non-toxic glyoxylic acid instead, including:

Cezanne Perfect Finish – the one I use and love it.

Trissola Solo

Goldwell Kerasilk

Supersilk Smoothing System

The only problems: it’s damn hard finding any of these products in Malaysia and they are not cheap. But you can get them on your next trip back to your home country. Or just hop down to Singapore – a quick Google search will tell you which salons carry one of the products listed above, like The Goldwell Salon. The good news: once you’ve got your hands on one of these products, most stylists here in Malaysia are more than happy to give you a Brazilian treatment with whatever product you take in to their salon.

I swear by Cezanne Perfect Finish. A stylist friend in the US buys it for me at wholesale and I take it back with me to Penang. This is how it makes my hair look on the day of treatment.

And this is how it looks now after air-drying. Most of the natural waves are intact and the frizz is pretty much gone. My hair isn’t like it was in California, but at least I don’t have tumbleweed-head.

I hope this helps all my fellow frizzy-headed friends to beat the humidity and tame your mane.

If you’ve found other secrets to defrizzify, please post a comment to share your tips – I’d love to hear from you! Here’s hoping that no of us will look like this anymore.

rosanne rosanadana hair


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