Asian Hair

Asian gir with long hair
Long Asian hair - Photo: Shutterstock
I was recently asked about the possible difficulties in dealing with ethnic hair types, specifically with the hair of those persons of Asian descent. Asian hair is generally very straight, coarse, and often resistant. This means that the hair can be difficult to work with for those individuals who lack the experience in dealing with the hair of this type.
Most hairdressers when learning their trade deal with a limited variety of hair types, depending upon the setting in which they study and practice. In a school environment, this is often a matter of dealing with manikins whose hair has been treated to provide uniform texture and response to styling techniques. If the hairdresser trained in a salon setting with ethnically diverse clientele, then odds are that he or she will have had some experience in dealing with different hair types.
Furthermore, most stylists are trained to deal with the specific needs of different hair types and learn to adjust their styling techniques according to the specifics of the individual’s hair. In the case of Asian hair, someone who works with Asian hair types exclusively will be more adept at styling Asian hair. And some people feel that having an Asian hairstylist is the best means of insuring that you get great service as an Asian, but this isn’t a necessity.
Let’s look at the challenges you might face in dealing with Asian hair, and discuss how to adapt your styling techniques to maximize your results. We’ll deal with the areas of Cut, Color, and Styling. We’ll outline the potential problems and offer solutions.
Since most Asian hair types are very straight, many Asian individuals opt for linear cutting lines and styles that use a blunt cutting. Layering is generally done as beveling and tapering of the edges to remove bulk and keep the hair looking sleek and smooth. This doesn’t mean that Asian hair types shouldn’t be layered. On the contrary, many Asian individuals have facial shapes that call for layered cuts to add or remove volume in different areas of the head to provide a flattering silhouette.
The texture of Asian hair means that most of these layered cuts will need specific styling to help boost the volume in the desired areas. We’ll get into this in the section on styling. For now, just know that the general rules of esthetics apply in dealing with Asian individuals and their hair the same way they apply to anyone.
An Asian individual with coarse, thick hair might need more tapering and respond better to layered styles than an Asian individual whose hair is fine and/or thin*. For those with fine/thin hair, tapering should be minimized and the cut should generally be kept blunted with cleaner, sharper cut lines.
{* Note that in the use of terms like coarse and fine, thick and thin, we are discussing two separate traits of the hair. Coarse and fine refer to the size of the individual hair shafts, while thick and thin refer to the density of the hair and the number of hairs per square inch on the scalp.}
When it comes to styling Asian hair types, the same factors that are key in cutting the hair are doubly important to consider in styling. We mentioned the styling facet earlier as we discussed cutting the hair in layered styles and adding volume to Asian hair: this can be done a variety of ways with the traditional techniques that are used. However, sometimes you will encounter Asian hair that is hard to style and lacks what we generally refer to as “body”.
In these cases, you might consider a chemical service known as a “body wave” which is basically a “large curl perm” where the wrapping tools don’t create actual curls, but rather a bend in the hair. In cases where the hair lies flat to the scalp, making sure that the rollers are set fully “on-base” will help to instill some lift at the scalp area and more volume in the hair overall.
The benefit of a body wave for the more problematic Asian hair types is that it opens the cuticle layer and allows some friction between the hair strands, allowing you to style the hair with traditional techniques to better results. Most stylists find that a body wave will allow them to heat style and roller set Asian hair that previously wouldn’t hold curl for longer than several minutes.
In cases where chemical services aren’t necessary, the texture of Asian hair may require you to use higher heat settings to get the same results. Furthermore, if the hair is also thick, be sure to avoid overloading your appliance. Instead, work with small segments of the hair to ensure full heat penetration and allow the hair to cool completely before further manipulation.