Imagine never having to blow dry or flat iron your hair again EVER. This is my reality thanks to Japanese hair straightening. I’ve been liberated from styling products and devices by doing it twice a year for 9+ years. It’s a technique I discovered while living in Hong Kong, because believe it or not, quite a few Asian women chemically straighten their hair.
Finding Japanese hair straightening in San Diego is a challenge and, to be honest, I hadn’t been able to find someone to get it as pin straight as my Hong Kong salon (Private i, located in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong). But, FINALLY, I have a go-to person after six years of misses.
Salons In San Diego That Offer Japanese Hair Straightening
After two very expensive, but just OK, attempts at my prior local salon (with gratuity, it was around $600-650), I turned to the internet for help. Let me just clarify that I am not price sensitive for a job well done. I felt the quote I received from Diesel Salon in La Jolla was too steep given that I wasn’t sure they’d do a good job. I can’t explain it, but I just didn’t hang up with a good feeling though I know plenty of people that go there.
Moda Salon, near Mitsuwa Marketplace, told me to come in for a hair consultation with no appointment necessary. I decided to stop in, but they were closed. It turns out they are closed on certain Mondays and failed to mention that, nor is there any mention of this online. That made me mad enough to strike them off the list because my time is valuable. However, I know a lot of people who love this salon.
I turned to another salon called Hair Delight in Clairemont. The fact that they could fit me in quickly combined with a promotional price of $350 sold me. A stylist with rave reviews on Yelp named Lana used to do Japanese hair straightening there, but I am not sure where she went.
Hair Delight Salon isn’t fancy, but the only thing I care about is straight hair. I am not sure if it is family-run but it sort of feels that way based on the seemingly tight-knit relationships I observed between hair stylists and their clients. Don was the poor soul tasked with taming my unruly mane. 100% of hair stylists underestimate the time it takes to cut, blow dry or straighten my hair. Don used the Yuko system and took almost 6 hours the two times I had him do it. It fell out the second time, so I needed to move on.
(To be honest, in my discovery process I found it extremely difficult to get any stylist to explain the pros and cons of iStraight versus Yuko system or other systems.)
Finally, Good Japanese Hair Straightening in San Diego
I stumbled upon Montblanc Hair Field based on the recommendation of Yelp, something I never ever do. But the reviews, in this case, did not steer me wrong. Disclaimer: I’m a half-Japanese person who has lived in Asia. I knew as soon as the Japanese receptionist answered in that kind tone I’m used to, I knew this was going to be a win. Asian salons like this tend to focus on small details like drying my ears thoroughly and a little bit of acupressure here and there. Not a drop of water hit my clothes… things like this. Plus, I loved the contemporary, zen decor and even the sencha green tea. This place is professional, not the type where people chit chat excessively. Not a towel was out of place.
My stylist, Masa, owns the salon and was the one to straighten my hair. He left a salon in Costa Mesa to study the latest hair trends in Japan before opening Montblanc Hair Field in 2012.
After asking what kind of system they use, I was simply told that it was Japanese without any other details. It’s not Yuko or a big-named brand. It’s Japanese, from Japan. The reason why this oddly put me at ease is that my stylist at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong used to say the exact same thing. Trust me, I asked during booking and tried to get the details from Masa. It’s from Japan, already!
My hair is very thick and I have a lot of it so Japanese hair straightening takes much longer on me than others. That being said, considering that I also received a very good haircut, the fact that Masa took four hours was a welcome relief.
The process was a little bit different than what I was used to. My hair was examined and washed (with a short head massage, always a nice bonus). Next, they usually blow dry it (a step that takes forever with my hair) before applying a solution to each hair that sits for about 30 minutes. The solution was applied to my wet hair and I wasn’t put under a dryer as I have been in the past. Next, it was washed out, blow-dried and flat-ironed. The neutralizing solution was applied and washed out. Masa cut my hair and dried it to make sure the strands were lines up correctly.
One thing to note is that he only touched up my wavy roots (I had a least 6 inches worth) because after a very thorough examination of my hair, he thought using the straightening solution on all of it would actually cause a reverse effect of more waves. The ends of my hair are actually a little bit wavy, but not nearly as crazy as they are normally. Unlike Brazilian keratin treatments, once a strand of hair has experienced Japanese hair straightening, it stays straight. Like highlights, you just touch up the roots. So, it’s possible that after five years of crappy Japanese hair straightening that my hair was damaged and not taking to it well which is why my ends were wavy. I listened to him and since the part he touched up is extremely straight, I have high hopes that as my hair grows out I can achieve the pin-straight look I like.
An easy experience? Yes, actually. I was charged $299 including the haircut, which is a very good price, though the website states that I probably should have been charged $309. I’ve paid double this in La Jolla for inferior service.
Caring For Japanese Hair Straightening
In Hong Kong, no one gave me care instructions. I even used Finesse shampoo and conditioner which probably is chock-full of chemicals and managed to maintain perfect hair. I am not sure if it’s the Yuko system or not, but Don at Hair Delight suggests using paraben-free shampoo and conditioner for chemically treated or colored hair, which makes perfect sense. I think the salon in La Jolla I used to go to recommended sulphate-free.
I have tried a few versions of organic, fair trade shampoos and conditioners from Whole Foods and they don’t carry enough moisture. You’ll wreck your expensive hair by using products like this even if they are paraben-free or meant for dry or chemically-treated hair. If you have a product you like, please share it in the comments.
Masa at Montblanc Hair Field said it doesn’t matter what kind of shampoo I use… another sign that this technique is closer to what I’m used to in Hong Kong. Just to be sure (after prodding him for details… I think he really meant that I could use whatever shampoo I wanted), I bought some Japanese shampoo and conditioner that he said would work well for my dry scalp and newly-straightened hair. Since then, I’ve used hotel shampoo several times and it’s had zero impact. I like the Japanese shampoo but am convinced that I can used whatever shampoo I want (though I don’t dare).
The Bottom Line
I’m very pleased with my Montblanc Hair Field Japanese hair straightening experience and hope that you will be, too.
Where do you go in San Diego for Japanese hair straightening? What products do you use to maintain it? I’d love to know.