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 17+ 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 (QG Private i, located in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong). But, FINALLY, I have a go-to person after many years of misses.

Salons In San Diego That Offer Japanese Hair Straightening

After two very expensive, but OK, attempts at my prior local salon (with gratuity, it was around $600-650), I turned to the internet for help. Let me 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 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 without an appointment. I decided to stop in, but they were closed. It turns out they are closed on certain Mondays, and they failed to mention that, nor is there any mention of this online. I was 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 unsure where she went.

Hair Delight Salon isn’t fancy, but I only care about straight hair. I am not sure if it is family-run, but it 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 their hair. Don used the Yuko system, and it 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. As soon as the Japanese receptionist answered in that kind tone I’m used to, I knew this would 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 love 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 told that it was Japanese without any other details. It’s not Yuko or a big-name brand. It’s Japanese, from Japan. This oddly put me at ease because 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 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 lined 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 touch up the roots. So, it’s possible that after five years of subpar Japanese hair straightening my hair was damaged and not taken to it well, so 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.

Caring For Japanese Hair Straightening

In Hong Kong, no one gave me care instructions. I even used Finesse shampoo and conditioner, which is probably chock-full of chemicals and managed to maintain a 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 sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.

I have tried a few versions of organic, fair-trade shampoos and conditioners from Whole Foods, and they don’t provide 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 use 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.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. Great find 🙂 Thanks for sharing! I am an Asian girl that is so obsess in having my hair super straight (mine is a bit wavy). I’m currently here in the Philippines and it’s super cheap here. My worry is when I get to US (Beaumont, CA) and live with my hubby, I don’t know where to go in case it goes to being wavy again and this is a good start! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Katie, I love your blog! I really appreciate your reviews. You have great taste and standards, so I know when I read a review from La Jolla Mom, it’s something I definitely want to check out. I’m super picky about my hair as well and have only had the hair straightening treatments in Asia (they were great!) My hair is frizzy and wavy and I really don’t want it to get burned (which has happened) but I want it to last for longer than a month at the same time (doesn’t quite happen with the Keratin treatments, in my humble opinion). Just curious, how is your hair now? Did the treatment last? Have you gone back to Hair Delight? I would like to check out Hair Delight but was a little alarmed by all the negative yelp reviews. Based off of the picture though, your hair turned out great! Thanks in advance for your feedback. 🙂

    1. Hi Mia! My hair is hitting the point where it needs another straightening. It never got fully pin straight but I have a theory that it could be because we have a salt-based waters softener. I’m wondering if that’s why it’s still a little bit wavy after I get Japanese Hair Straightening. I will go back to Hair Delight because, in my case, the results are no different than the salon I paid almost 2x. Hair Delight did take much longer though, so there’s a trade-off. I’m optimistic though that it will take less time next time, now that they know how thick my hair is (I’ll go back in the next few weeks, hopefully and post an update). I, too, was nervous about the Yelp reviews.

      1. Thanks for the update, Katie! I am a huge fan and love reading your blog. I can’t wait to hear about your hair update. Have you gone back yet to get your hair straightened at Hair Delight? I still haven’t gone yet but with travel and holidays, I’m thinking it’s a good idea. (I hate traveling with a hair dryer/flat iron and spending hours on my hair.) I’m a little worried about the whole 2-3 days without washing it though (after it’s initially treated). Did you notice if your hair smelled burnt or like chemicals? Thanks again! And please do keep us posted more on your beauty regiments/products/things you try! 🙂

  3. If i’m not too worried about the “straightening effect” would you say the Brazilian one is much more “healthier” alternative compared to YUKO that uses more chemicals so it’s more damaging?

    Thank you

  4. I am also a veteran of Asian straightening (Korea, 10+ years ago) and have been unable to replicate the results upon moving to San Diego 3 years ago. Have you tried LA Koreatown salons?

  5. I'm looking for a place that does Japanese straightening in San Diego. I did it for 3 years in Japan and loved it. All you have to use is sulfate free shampoos and conditioners. I did Brazilian before moving to Japan and there's no way I would ever do Brazilian. Brazilian burned my hair and it was gummy, very expensive and had to use super expensive products Moraccon shampoo, conditioner and oil. Any advice where to go here? They should take more than 3 hrs. Either.

    1. I’m about to try Moda in Clairemont. I’ve been putting it off forever and am long overdue. Will definitely update when it’s done in a few weeks!

    2. Hi Dulce!,

      I encourage you and Katie (@lajollamom) to check us out! Of course consolations are always free. Relax, great a great cut and color (and of course Yuko) and enjoy a glass of wine.
      Instagram – @rinsesalon
      Facebook – rinsesalon

  6. I just had it done at Montblanc Hair Field in Clairemont and am very pleased. It's much closer to what I had done in Hong Kong. It was $299 and included a haircut!

  7. Try using Living Proof shampoo and conditioner. It's amazing. You can order directly on their website or it's now sold at Ulta and Sephora.

  8. I like Korean hair straightening better then Japanese hair straightening. I go to OK salon in Mira Mesa, and I am very pleased with my results! They do a follow up conditioning in about 6 months for me and its a mini straightening so in one year, I get the straightening in the beginning of the year and then the conditioning in the middle of the year and it last me one whole year. It’s not the stick straight type, it actually give you volume and you can also curl your hair still. Does not damage my hair like the Japanese straightening did. 🙂

  9. I had my hair straightening done when I was in Singapore. I loved it. But now, my hair grew 7 inches and I can see the wavy hair. I am due for straightening. I have not found any salon in San Diego that satisfies me. Would you recommend Yuko from Montblanc? I would love to try them rather than going back to Singapore just to get hair done.

    1. I’ve been really happy with my hair since going to Montblanc. They don’t use the Yuko though. I also thought the price is right and have been able to use pretty much any shampoo. While I love Singapore, it’s definitely not worth a trip unless you’re going anyway!

  10. Hi! I am considering having this done for the first time EVER. I am pretty excited! I was wondering will my hair still hold a curl, from a curling iron, after having the Japanese hair straightening treatment? Majority of the time I prefer to wear my hair straight; however, I still like to mix it up and use a curling iron every once in a while. Thanks in advance for your help!

  11. Im so glad I stumbled across your blog, my heart is in travelling and i adore watching you both venture. As for the Japanese hair straightening couldn’t agree more, get mine done once a year here in Auckland. Gives me so much freedom and confidence knowing i don’t have to wake up an hour early to date my GHD! xx

  12. Hello,

    I enjoyed reading this blog until something caught my attention was when you said.”It’s not Yuko or a big-named brand. It’s Japanese, from Japan. “.. YUKO Hair Straightening is the Original Japanese hair straightening. It was founded in Japan by Miss YUKO Yamashita know as the “Yuko Hair-Straightening System” it has been around for more than 26 years then brought to America and been here for 16 years and still growing! I’m sure YUKO feels special for considering them their “big brand name” 🙂

  13. You can also try “Terra Salon” on La Jolla Blvd near the Pearl street. It is a Japanese Salon, the stylists / owner are Japanese and they do great Japanese straightening ! I have done twice there, they also use Japanese products and magazines 🙂

  14. I have read all your comments above ( and I am confused as to what salon you have your hair done at?? Montblanc Hair Field, Hair Delight or Moda in Clairemont? Would really love to know. I have been using a straightening iron and blow dryer on my hair for the past 35yrs. Can you imagine what a nightmare ?. Tried to have it straightened once with no success years ago. PLEASE NEED ANY AND ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!!! Gladly welcome advise from others as well. My hair is VERY kinky and long, down to my waist. HELP

    1. Of all, I like Montblanc Hair Field the best. And, that is where I currently go. I would say that it’s a combination of value and results.

  15. I just went to Monteblanc today on your recommendation and so far very pleased with the results. Thank you!! They told me to wait 24 hours before washing, but everything I read says wait 72 hours. What did you do, La Jolla Mom?

    1. Oh! I was in there today, too! I usually go two days mostly because my hair still looks good for that long. At three… it looks a little greasy. So 48 hours but they do say one day is O.K.!

    1. Sorry for the delay! Yes, I am still getting my Japanese hair straightening done at Mont Blanc on Clairemont Mesa.

  16. Funny…I’m also half Japanese. I’ve done Yuko & Brazilian Keratin. I’d say a big difference is with Brazilian, you can’t go in a pool or ocean. No salt or chlorine. The Brazilian seems more natural looking. The Yuko you can use any products but I prefer the ones my stylist sells…which is made for Yuko. For Brazilian I prefer the Brazilian blowout products – the Ionoc Bonding spray helps it last longer. My Japanese stylist charges about $300 and she is in RB.