Harsh temperatures, water and air quality and other environmental factors can wreak havoc on your body. Short term, this may not have a notable influence, but a combination of these factors can have an impact on your body’s daily function and appearance over time – and hair is no exception. Combine this with an impending trip to a local hair salon, and you’ve got a problem. But fear not! Allow us to guide you through the art of hair care in China.
Shanghai's Effects on your Hair
Whether you’ve lived in Shanghai for years or find yourself at the start of your Chinese adventure, it is safe to say that you are not alone if the bad hair days seem to outweigh the good. Tap water
in Shanghai, for example, contains high levels of chlorine
; the good news is this kills bacteria, but the bad news: it can seriously dry out your hair. Jeni Saeyang, founder of Eco&More, explains that “any buildup of chlorine at the base of your hair follicle may cause the hair to become brittle and break off. You know when there is chlorine in the hair if it feels gummy when wet and straw-like when dry.” She suggests using green, organic and sustainable products, as "plant-based hair care products can help to revitalize and hydrate your hair without further damaging its natural structure."
Another way to combat breakage and dryness is to invest in a shower filter. Most of the products available in Shanghai remove bacteria, chlorine and heavy metals by using Tourmaline (a non-metal mineral) and Vitamin C, resulting in noticeably softer water. The filters also help to relieve dandruff and dry scalp, as well as to extend the life of color-treated hair. Shower filters range from approx. ¥400-¥1,000, depending on the model, and filters must be replaced every three months. Reputable brands include PureLiving, Renaud
Eat Your Way to Healthy Hair
As the saying goes, “you are what you eat,” and this should come into consideration when cultivating a healthy crop of hair. Kimberly Ashton of Sprout Lifestyle
advises eating a balanced diet alongside the following superfoods, which all contain vital nutrients
to help grow luscious locks:
• oats, brown rice and nuts (containing biotin, a B-Complex Vitamin)
• sesame seeds and flax seeds (essential fatty acids and Omega-3 oil)
• sunflower seeds, almonds, pine nuts and dried apricots (all high in Vitamin E)
• dried fruits and cashews (iron)
• pumpkin seeds and pecans (zinc)
Shanghai Hair Salon Solutions
Finding a hairdresser whom you can trust back home is tricky enough, let alone in a foreign land. As an expat living in Shanghai, the perils of navigating your way through a trip to the salon could become a potentially hair-raising experience. So we spoke to some local experts to help put your head at ease.
Tip #1: Bring a picture
The single most important thing when entering a salon is that you communicate what you want effectively. The key is to make sure the person at the other end of the scissors understands the same lingo, even if they can’t speak the same language. “A picture is worth a thousand words!” comments Felix Xiao Feng, bilingual hairstylist at Toni&Guy (TIGI), Jing An Kerry Centre. Alternatively, “an expat whose Chinese is not good is advised to bring along a friend who can speak Chinese, or look for a salon with English speakers,” he advises.
Tip #2: Use professional products when possible
Jeffrey Jiang, stylist and store manager at Head To Toe in Jinqiao, Pudong, also stresses the importance of making sure customers feel good when entering and leaving the salon. “A lot of clients who have moved to Shanghai notice their hair becomes a lot more dry, mostly because of the air or water, but we can recommend a great range of products to help combat this,” he says. The products he recommends include both professional brands available in the salon as well as brands like Schwarzkopf, which can be easily found at supermarkets.
Tip #3: Find a hairdresser who understands your type of hair
“Understanding different hair textures, be it Caucasian or Asian hair texture, is crucial to being an excellent hairdresser,” explains Artistic Consultant at Bijin Hair (Hilton Hotel, Huashan Lu), Phoeve Lim. Feng echoes this sentiment, and shares that in his 15-plus years’ experience, he has noticed that “generally speaking, expat hair is softer than Chinese hair and tends to be wavy. Chinese hair is usually straight.”
Lim stresses the importance of finding a seasoned stylist who understands these differences. “Every client’s hair texture is different,” she says. “They require different hair-cutting techniques, and this is where the exposure and experience you have had as a hairdresser will come through.”
Hair Care Product Guide
It’s not always easy to find your favorite products in the city, so why not see what’s available on the local shelves? Shop assistants can help you locate items for:
- Shampoo 洗发露 - Conditioner 护发素
- Curly hair 卷发 - Greasy hair 油性发质
- Dry hair 干性发质 - Normal hair 混合发质
Or look for reputable brands like Kérastase 卡诗, Goldwell 歌薇, Wella 威娜 or L’Oréal 欧莱雅, available at supermarkets and salons around town. For dry hair, try Eco&More’s French Lavender Oil shampoo and conditioner (purchase online at www.eco-more.com or in grocery stores like City Shop and city’super). The brand has also launched a new shampoo made with pure lemongrass essential oil (see right) to help combat hair loss. REnex products cater to all hair types and are designed to care for the delicate skin on your scalp (purchase at supermarkets like Ole and city’super, where you can find the new Mama’s Care range).
Shop for the products above:
1) Eco&More Shampoo with Thai Lemongrass oil, ¥140, www.eco-more.com
2) REnex regular conditioner, ¥98, www.renex.cn
3) Schwarzkopf Extra Care Anti Hair Fall Conditioner, ¥40, available from leading supermarkets
4) Kérastase Specifique Balancing Shampoo, ¥240, available from specific hair salons such as Toni&Guy or Head To Toe
5) L'Oreal Moroccan Spa Oil Shampoo, ¥38, available from leading supermarkets