NOTE: I originally had this article on a site that I was toying with that is no longer in existence. However, I thought the tips in the story were valuable so I’m porting it over onto TMA, even though it has nothing to do with music or pop culture really. Hope you enjoy it anyway!
If you’re anything like me, over the years you’ve probably had your fair share of awful haircuts at the hands of stylists who did not know how to cut Asian hair*. One too many traumatic experiences scared me silly from doing anything too adventurous with my hair for quite some time. I basically kept my hair long and straight (with various side bang/straight bang/no bang variations), not necessarily because I preferred that hairstyle, but because I was afraid to try anything else.
Part of that fear was my lack of understanding about Asian hair, caused by a lack of available information on the topic in magazines and the internet. Try Googling “asian hair” and you’ll get some random message board postings and antiquated articles citing no-name stylists on the topic. Sad, right? So I decided to get in contact with the folks at the Sassoon Salon (formerly known as the Vidal Sassoon Salon), world-famous for being the “Harvard of hairdressing,” to get the low-down on Asian hair from a bona fide expert.
Yuka Tsurumi is the Assistant Creative Director at the Sassoon Salon Uptown in New York City, with over 10 years of experience in the industry. While her credentials with the venerable salon are somewhat intimidating, Yuka herself is the antithesis of stodgy. Petite, with short electric pink hair, and a penchant for dressing in a mishmash of bold patterns, Yuka is upbeat and affable–and exactly the kind of woman from whom I would want to take styling advice.
Here’s some valuable info for you Asian-haired ladies out there:
Q: Are there some general characteristics that can be attributed with Asian hair?
A: Many Asians tend to have straighter and courser hair. Many people think that Asian hair is really straight, but not everybody has totally straight hair–they might have a kink to it. Even though Asians may have straighter hair, they often have a stronger, upward hair growth. For example, many Asian clients have strong hair growth in the hairline, so if you’re not careful and you cut too short, the hair might jump out in more of a cowlick.
Q: What are some of the most common mistakes stylist make with Asian hair?
A: I think many people tend to thin out the hair too much [with razors]. Many clients come in and their hair is so thinned out they are loosing the shape of the haircut. If they thin the hair out too much, they take all volume out and the ends become too wispy.
I use the technique of giving he hair more layers, and thinning out with scissors. It still keeps the shape of the haircut but not too thinned out.
Also, many Asian clients have a flat back of the head, so if you follow the head shape exactly, the hair is going to be flat [in the back]. When a client comes in I try to create a nice round head shape and nice profile. Cutting precision and with more detail helps create a better shape.
Q: What should Asian women mention to a new stylists who might be unfamiliar with Asian hair?
A: I would mention that your hair is pretty strong, and that it’s going to stick out if cut too short. If you come in and it’s already blow dried, mention whether one side sicks out.
When many people go to the salon and it looks nice when it’s been styled, but they cannot recreate the look at home. At the Sassoon Salon we do a consultation, then a wash. We cut the hair wet, then blow dry it. We don’t use a round brush or curling iron so we can see the shape of the haircut as it comes out, and then do the detail cutting.
To have a low-maintenance cut, a stylist should work with the natural texture of your hair, not against it. Asian hair is so beautiful–shiny and straight–I think it’s nice to complement the texture and beautiful hair. And if you have a good haircut, you don’t have to do anything!
Q: What are some general haircare tips for women with Asian hair?
A: I recommend getting a trim every 6 to 8 weeks in order to keep your hair healthy–otherwise you’ll have more damage or split ends. You don’t need to wash every day because if you wash and blow every day the heat will fry your hair.
I like Bain Satin shampoo from the French company Kerastase (owned by L’Oreal). They have levels 1, 2, and 3, where 1 has the least moisture and 3 is the heaviest–if you hair is on the drier side. When you do blow dry, I would use a protective hair product like Kerastase’s Elixir Oleo-Relax from the French company Kerastase (owned by L’Oreal) for smooth and sleeker hair. Also try a deep conditioning deep treatment once or twice a week.
If you have curlier hair, use a diffuser to bring out more curls. For fine curly hair, use a mousse.
Q: Do you have a few ideas for hairstyles for Asian hair?
A: The Nancy Kwan bob [which Vidal Sassoon made famous] is very classic, and fits Asian clients perfectly.
We have a new Sassoon collection inspired by the 80s runway supermodel (see below). The looks are layered, with bold fringe, and head-hugging–like a boy’s haircut. Very clean and sleek bobs. I think having shorter hair complements many Asian facial features.
But whether it’s short or long hair, a bold heavy fringe is nice. Bold stronger fringe, as opposed to wispy fringe is more complementary because the hair can hang straight.
If you leave the face open by getting side fringe, it looks more modern and confident, and for Asian hair it will enhance the beauty of the actual hair cut.
* This article focuses on women of East Asian and Southeast Asian decent.