Hair, and what to do with itA change of hairstyle can do a lot for your outlook ― and might even change your life.
There’s precedent. Switching from long hair to a boyish cut catapulted the virtually unknown model Linda Evangelista into stardom in the early ’90s. Orlando Bloom’s impeccably combed, platinum-blond hair in the “Lord of the Rings” films (his hair is naturally dark and curly) had a lot to do with making him a star. Sarah Jessica Parker’s bob cut in the midst of “Sex in the City” was not only good for her character, but started a trend (“Make me look like Carrie!”).
But if your aspirations soar that high, the results of a hour-long, perhaps painful session with your stylist can be sharply disappointing. (Even the stars can go awry. Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow briefly sported a long, black “Elvira” cut?)
Getting the right hairstyle can be very tricky for non-professionals. To create a certain look (especially for celebrities), experts can spend weeks, even months, studying and experimenting. The look that, say, Nicole Kidman is sporting on the red carpet is in fact the result of intensive teamwork among stylists, designers, coordinators, personal trainers, publicists and so on.
How can you compete? Well, maybe you can’t compete with Nicole or Sarah. But that doesn’t mean you can’t maximize your hair’s potential, as long as you keep some rules in mind. Here are some “hair management” tips, compiled with help from some of Seoul’s beauty and style experts.
Make sure you’ve got a good hairdresser.
How can you tell whether yours is good? Well, if you have to go back within two weeks, it means your stylist basically gave you what looks good temporarily. A good hairdresser understands how to plan for hair growth so it won’t ruin the overall harmony of the cut. If you give it more than a few weeks and the cut (not necessarily the color) maintains its general proportions, you’ve got a stylist to hang onto.
Also, a great hairdresser is not merely a good listener, but a good interviewer. If you two aren’t talking about the points listed below, he or she is probably giving more or less the same haircut to everyone.
A hairstyle should reflect a lifestyle.
A good stylist will ask you about your personal habits: “What is your occupation?” “How much time do you have to get dressed in the morning?” “How often do you wash your hair?”
Most jobs in the legal and government sectors require a conservative hairstyle that doesn’t stand out ― short to medium-length, simple, with no fancy coloring. At the other end of the occupational spectrum, wildly teased long hair can suggest professional and personal freedom; unique cuts, sculpting and bold colors can promote an image of creativity.
For those over 35, stylists tend to suggest shorter, neater hairstyles. A 55-year-old woman with long, gray hair is making a statement about defying convention (think Willie Nelson). If you’re pressed for time, or active in sports, or just lazy, shorter hair is recommended. Obviously, having a lot of hair makes washing, drying and styling more of a chore. Most women golfers, for instance, have either short hair or shoulder-length hair that can be neatly tied.
Unusual hairstyles require care and investment.
Most people might not regard a dramatic change of hair color or style as requiring an important investment of time, money and care. But unless you have a “safe” color ― that is, only a slight variation on your natural color ― and a cut that will grow out proportionally, you need to plan ahead. Those who didn’t can be spotted everywhere in the street: hair that looks damaged, brassy or greenish hair with roots of a different color, etc.
Colors more than two shades lighter than your natural color require touch-ups at the roots every two to three weeks. To retain color and luster, monthly visits to professionals are recommended. A complete change of color is recommended every three to four months, provided the hair has been well cared for. Tight curls on naturally straight hair should be treated like colored hair: they require daily conditioning and nourishment.
If you’re over 25 and have a history of multiple chemical treatments, malnutrition or below-average physical condition, don’t rely on the hair care products you can find in the supermarket. It’s time to move up to high-quality private labels, formulated to meet specific needs.
At the salon, know what’s going on around you (even if it means annoying the staff).
You may have the most trustworthy hairdresser in the world, but everyone makes mistakes. Don’t let a slip of the stylist’s fingers ruin your hair right before your eyes (or behind them). Especially when more than one person is working on you, miscommunication can happen.
Pay attention to sounds. If you’re just getting a routine trim, you shouldn’t hear a “snip” that sounds like they’re cutting off more than they ought to. Watch what’s going on in the mirror to make sure your instructions are being followed (and keep in mind that wet and flattened hair will look much shorter after it dries).
Double-check the coloring agent being tested, especially if an apprentice has been asked to do the job. What looks yellow on the palette might turn your hair a different color altogether. If you suspect something isn’t right, speak up. If you’re getting a chemical treatment and your scalp is burning, say so ― it shouldn’t be.
Perm rods should be curled in tight against your scalp; if they’re hanging limp, your hair will look droopy and won’t get the volume you want. Pay attention to the size of the perm rods; the diameter of the rod does not equal the actual size of the curls. Here’s a general rule: A rod thinner than your pinkie will give you an Afro, while a rod more than an inch in diameter will give you, not rich curls, but a hint of wave or volume.
For color changes, do consult a professional.
Bleaching and coloring require knowledge and experience more than they do artistic talent. Coloring doesn’t work like a paint-by-number set; at the molecular level, the pigmentation process is complex. The black in the hair of Asians and Africans, for example, is actually yellow-based. Hours of bleaching in the salon might not turn their hair white, as it does Caucasians’. Only a special kind of bleach, designed to “erase” all pigments within a few hours, will do the job, after which the whitened hair can be dyed. Dying the hair from light to darker shades is easier than going from dark to lighter, and if your hair was dyed blue-black before, dying and bleaching will be difficult.
Don’t try too hard to hide a “flaw”; instead, enhance it.
Growing up in Korea, her mother’s homeland, Laurie Sanderson, a 23-year-old Amerasian, always hated her curly hair, and went to Korean hairdressers every few months to get it straightened. It was tough to comb, and became severely damaged after years of chemical treatments.
One day, a stylist suggested she “enhance” her natural curls, and gave her a Andie MacDowell-style perm, using thin rods. The result was a smashing hit.
The same principle can apply to just about any hair “flaw.” Guys with receding hairlines, for instance, can go extra-short. Remember the World Cup 2002, where we saw all kinds of hairstyles that worked beautifully ― from rainbow colors to no hair at all.
The envelope, please: Korea’s styling Oscars
The Academy Awards of hair styling in Korea were handed out last week. And if you were to judge by the effort that went into the ceremony, you might have thought you were at its equivalent in the U.S. film industry.
The aT center in southern Seoul hosted the L’Oreal Mondial 2004 Colour Trophy awards, the fourth annual such presentation. Some 150 styling teams competed, with 15 finalists selected. Three of those 15 were named winners.
The show’s scale, coordination and production values almost seemed designed to convince the audience that the hair care industry was key to Korea’s economic survival. And indeed, the remarks by Pierre-Yves Arzel, the CEO of L’Oreal Korea, weren’t much less ambitious than that. “In this economically hard time, L’Oreal wanted to offer vision and hope for the future of Korean salon owners and hair designers,” he said.
The ceremony capped a nine-hour convention that drew more than 3,500 people to three aT Center convention halls. Amid the nose-tingling hair spray were 2,500 hair professionals from 1,500 salons in 20 cities, making contacts, setting up booths, attending runway shows and song-and-dance performances and, finally, filing in for the awards ceremony (and the receptions and parties afterward). The budget for the day’s festivities was a considerable 100 million won ($85,000).
Commercial booths offered consulting sessions, seminars on hair care and techniques on cutting, coloring and styling, as well as salon operation strategies for professionals and students. Meanwhile, Korea’s leading hair stylists presented coming trends for the spring and summer.
At the ceremony, hundreds of supporters turned up to cheer for their favorites among the 15 Colour Trophy contestants, displaying placards and flowers.
The Grand Prize (pictured above, bottom left) went to Ha Hee-jung of Ko Hyun Jung Hair, whose entry called to mind a futuristic Joan of Arc: hair of varied length that was first bleached, then dyed in multiple hues of violet and rose, creating a contrasting cascade of feminine colors.
Two other winners (bottom center and right), Chun Hye-jin and Min Su-ji, expressed urban sophistication and sensuality with wispy, asymmetrical cuts and beautifully contrasting colors.
Stylists were judged on hair color technique, cutting and styling, total fashion, makeup and photogenic image-making.
by Ines Cho