Just like how Asian skin types can be different from their Western counterparts, Asian hair also differs from Western hair – and not necessarily in a good way. You may be familiar with the oft-bemoaned “Asian hair woes”, where our Asian hair is apparently too limp and too straight (among certain Asian races) for any kind of styling.
That being said, Asian hair certainly has its unique strengths that we all can work with to create the best styles for ourselves – after all, who says we must emulate our Western peers, right?
We sat down with famous Japanese hairstylist and CEO of TONI&GUY Japan, Hidetoshi Saiga, to find out exactly how we can best care for our unique hair, as well as create the best styles that are fashionable and manageable, even in Singapore’s hot weather.
Hidetoshi has previously worked together with fashion houses PRADA, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, VALENTINO, Vivienne Westwood, and more. In addition to his backstage work, he gives over 250 lecture sessions per year, a nod to his highly-regarded influence in the Japanese hair industry.
What are some characteristics of Asian hair that makes them different from their Western counterparts?
We have a specific word in Japanese called ‘hariyankoshi’ (ハリやコシ) to describe Asian hair, which has a bit more strength and bounciness in the hair compared to Caucasian hair.
Although Asian hair is also generally a lot more finer, I would say that compared to other races, our hair is a lot straighter and coarser at the same time. When you pull Asian hair, it actually feels a little more stringy (i.e. limp and easily tangled).
What are some common hair problems that Asians face?
Since one thousand years ago, the trend in Japan has always been shiny hair – it’s always about the shine, because that’s what we believe Asian hair lacks.
For example, if I show my hair to the Europeans, they’ll say that my hair is dead straight. But to me, I can see that my hair is frizzy, and that is the common issue with Asian hair. Everyone wants a little more smoothness, everyone wants a little more shine.
From a professional point of view, I feel that we as Asians wash our hair a lot more often than the Europeans. Washing your hair often removes the excess moisture and natural oils, so the hair towards the ends are a lot drier than they should be. These are the kinds of issues I see when I travel around Asia.
Personally, I feel that it is easier to manage and style Asian hair, partly because we know what are the common issues to take note of.
Are there any hair problems that are especially prominent in Singaporeans, due to factors such as the weather?
Genetically, Singaporeans don’t have different hair problems from people of other Asian countries. However, the hot and humid weather certainly poses a unique set of problems.
When there is high humidity in the air, your hairstyle doesn’t last long. So even if you smooth your hair, your hair will go out of control within a few minutes. Hence, you need a good hairdresser, good hair styling products, and of course good hair styling tools that can let your hair style stay put.
Another problem with the high humidity is that it can also cause irritation of the skin, so you get this urge to wash your scalp and hair all the time, but as mentioned earlier, washing your hair can end up damaging your ends instead.
Could you share with us some hair care tips, e.g. what kind of tools and products, routines, to keep hair healthy and strong?
When you wash your hair, you should think of washing your scalp first. A healthy scalp gives you healthier hair. If you don’t massage your scalp well enough, especially where it’s humid, you tend to sweat more and hence the scalp gets clogged. My advice is to always massage your scalp a bit more – we tend to forget that, but if you do that a few times per week, it makes a huge difference. When you dry your hair, you must also dry your scalp first. Start from the roots, make sure the scalp is dry, then move on to your ends. If you start from your ends, your hair roots are still damp, which irritates your scalp.
If you want to get shiny hair, here’s something to take note: cuticles (scales of the hair) start from the roots, so if you can flatten the cuticles closer to the roots, it means you get shinier hair. However, you have to brush your hair from the ends so you can untangle them, but always remember that you have to dry your hair from the roots in order to keep our hair healthy.
In Japan, leave-in conditioner is very popular among young Japanese people these days. After you wash your hair with shampoo, you use a conditioner that you don’t have to wash off, so you get a natural shine and bounce. After that, you use an oil-based product so that your hair looks more tame, manageable, and very shiny. Some products are heavier than the others, which can cause your hair to look greasier than normal, so you should get professional advice from a hairdresser to see which one works best for you.
I recommend that for drying your hair, you start with the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, then finish off with an Airwrap styler. I personally use this routine because it saves so much time for me, and time is money. It only takes ten minutes for me to dry and style my hair everyday!
Traditionally, hair stylists use hairdryers that blow heat at full force, but pretend that they don’t damage your hair. But can you imagine using 180 degrees of heat for 30 minutes, followed by a 220 degrees iron – you are burning your hair! That’s why I thought that the Airwrap was a game changer – you can start styling from wet hair, and do drying and curling at the same time. Your hair moisture is also locked in, so your locks actually look bouncy.
In the past, I also used the traditional hairdryer and brush for clients who want to curl their hair with a big bounce. The result? Their hair looks so crispy, so over-fried – just like crispy bacon! Now, when I use the Airwrap, my clients’ hair is much shinier, and doesn’t look so dry anymore – I like to say that the hair no longer looks like a dead animal. I believe that not using strong heat to style your hair is the new future.
How can you tell if Asian hair is unhealthy? Any signs to look out for e.g. split ends?
When your hair starts to be out of control, it’s a sign that your hair is unhealthy and that it is time to get a haircut or a treatment.
Another tell-tale sign is when you touch the hair and it does not feel smooth when you touch it in the opposite direction (from the ends up to the scalp). It isn’t necessarily as rough as sandpaper, but you will feel tiny spikes – that means that it is already a big problem.
Could you share some upcoming hair trends that we should take note of?
The core hair trend is the classic hair, but with a slight edge. For example, this is what we did with Valentino: you can see that the hair style is very simple, but there is a slight movement in the hair, so it looks effortless and undone. We actually did a lot to the hair, of course, but the key is to look like you didn’t do much to your hair. I feel that this is a global trend that we see in both men and women these days.
On the other hand, when you look at the younger generations, you see something more interesting. Our salon’s headquarters are based in the UK, where politics are bad these days. And with that kind of political climate, the haircuts can get very aggressive. Many girls sport short haircuts that look very severe, so that they have a stronger image and look like they don’t need any kind of help.
You see that in Tokyo too, but in the form of very colourful hair trends. This is especially prevalent in Harajuku, where the youngsters excessively bleach their hair, and enjoy changing hair colour from blue to pink to green. Five years ago when I spoke to Japanese girls after my hair seminar, they wanted darker hair. Now when I talk to them, they no longer want to do dark hair, and they say anything light in colour is good.
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Another global trend to highlight (no pun intended) is the balayage colour, where you have darker colours at the top, then slightly lighter shades at the bottom. Of course, some people make it more severe,while others make it more natural. In the past it was just classic highlights, but now I see the balayage influence all over – not just Europe, but also in Asia.
Most people are too busy to go to the salon, or do their hair before they leave the house. What are some ways we can take less time to style our hair?
It is very important to choose the right shampoo and conditioner. In addition, like I mentioned before, even if you don’t have time, make sure you massage your scalp. Some people, especially those with a lot of hair, your scalp has a higher tendency to smell over time, so you have to be a little careful with that.
You definitely need good tools to shorten the time spent everyday on hair styling. While it is preferred that you get good advice from your own hairdresser, you can get him or her to advise you on suitable products that you can use at home on your hair if you can’t go to a salon all the time.
I know I talk about Airwrap a lot – actually, I used to think that this product posed as a danger to hairdressers, because you no longer need to go to a hairdresser if you have that tool at home. Back when the smartphone came out, some people were like “I’m never going to use it”, but now we use it all the time, and I think that it’s the same with the Airwrap. This product dries with the air flow so that you get rid of excess moisture without burning your hair unnecessarily, which is definitely something we as consumers need rather than a hairdryer that uses a lot of heat.
I would say even for boys who have never touched or done anything to their hair before, they can use this tool easily to do their hair as well!
Is it true that blow-drying can damage your hair, and how can we prevent our hair from getting damaged after blow-drying?
The key to preventing hair damage lies in the products you use on your hair before blow-drying it. Some people don’t use conditioner then straightaway blow-dry their hair, and that could make your hair very dry. Use leave-in conditioner, or a light hair oil before you blow-dry – it’s the little things that can make a big difference to your hair.
Another mistake that we sometimes make is to tie our hair into a big knot after we come out of the shower. Instead of doing that, make sure to brush your hair first and then blow-dry your hair, so that it doesn’t get tangled.
I also recommend that you use hair tools that use air flow to dry your hair, so that it does not produce too much heat that can literally cook your hair. For example, the Airwrap doesn’t overheat your hair. I know most people find this hairdryer very expensive, but if you look at the bigger picture, you’ll realise that you actually end up spending more money trying to undo damage to your hair – think of all the hair treatments, the conditioners, the hair oils!
The Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer (SGD599) and Airwrap™ styler (SGD699) are available on www.dyson.com.sg, the Dyson Demo Store – Beauty Lab at Funan, and major departmental and electrical stores.
The Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer is also available in a professional edition for hair professionals. For more information, visit www.dyson.com.sg/dyson-supersonic-hair-dryer-professional-edition.
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