Category Archives: Hair

Hair Travel

{Tokyo} Insolite Salon

This is a travel post about hair. If you don’t care about hair, I’d suggest drooling over pictures of Jiro’s sushi or cooking up a simple frittata. Back to food soon enough, but I just had to share a little more about my visit to Japan!

This is a picture of me in a crowded Tokyo toy store surrounded by Furbys a day before getting my hair done, standing next to someone who is clearly not Japanese.

As the owner of a head of Asian hair, one of the things I looked most forward to on my trip to Japan was getting my hair done. Tokyo is full of beautiful people with amazing hair and incredible wardrobes, so I’ve spent the first couple of days here forgetting that most Asians have naturally black hair and starting to think I need to add false eyelashes with feathers on them to my daily routine. I also now think it barbaric to have to sit on unheated toilet seats that don’t include noisemakers, air fresheners or adjustable bidet jets.

The last time I got my hair cut with a new stylist at a trendy beachside salon back home, I asked the stylist what she would do if there was anything she could do to my hair. She said, “The Rachel. Your hair is perfect for that.” which, 1) I know to be untrue, 2) the Rachel should not be suggested in 2012 and 3) should have sent me running immediately. But I was feeling adventurous and said, “Not the Rachel, but do what you think would look best.” What I know now is that if you’re Asian and you say that, you will get a local news anchor haircut, not like Connie Chung circa 1985.

I went home, cut some choppy layers into my hair and have been cutting my own hair ever since.

Sandra made me an appointment with Hiroshi Noda, or “Noda-san” at Insolite Salon in Hiroo. I decided to try color, since I had just cut my own hair two days before and figured that since I don’t speak Japanese, it would be easier not to have to try to mime “texturize” and “more volume here.” I’m not sure why I thought acting out color would be easier though.

Sandra, or San-do-ra, on the left, made my reservations for Insolite and Jiro’s sushi place. I am standing like a superhero.

The Salon is beautiful and everyone who works there has amazing hair. I felt an unfamiliar feeling…of hope.

The upfront communication was the hardest. A color swatch book came out, and without a clear outcome in mind, and through the English-speaking shampoo girl, I asked for a recommendation. I basically wanted to do something non-committal, since I knew I’d be poor at maintenance, like highlights that would grow out ok if neglected. After a game of charades we narrowed agreed to mix a couple of colors. Then:


Sandra and I shook our heads. “Color.”

Some Japanese and then, with a mimed snipping motion, “Cut-0?”

Exaggerated head shaking: “Color.”

Noda-san pulled out pieces of my hair. He asked about the last time I had a cut – a year ago? Clearly my hair indicated that I had spent the past year in a cave.

I giggled maniacally and confessed that I had just cut my hair two days ago. I think they were laughing at my hair.

I agreed to a cut.

The appropriately unflattering “before” picture. Noda-san is on the left, laughing at me. Noda-san’s hair is cool in real life but looks shocked in this picture.

I was given an arm rest that goes around your torso and across your lap, which I can only describe as a luxurious version of a Boppy pillow, and which was wonderful. I may start to bring one with me for any situation that requires me to be in a chair…because why should my arms be allowed to fall ever.

Noda-san wore a holster, which held more scissors than a preschool classroom. He fluffed my hair out and pointed to the longer straggly ends and said, “Jellyfish.” I was impressed with the vocabulary he possessed for mockery. He was quick, precise and, I was glad to see, employed a different technique from my own. His scissors were so sharp that I rarely saw him bring the blades together – the hair just fell on contact with a blade.

I wanted to say, “Can you rough it up a little? I want the layers to be a little more edgy” but instead I nodded and said “Domo arigato.” It was fine. People are always giving me conservative, age-appropriate haircuts (I blame my round face), and I’m always trying to get them to rough it up a little more. But I really liked the way he volumized the top of my hair, and his technique was very good. Plus, knowing an addict when he saw one, he gave me tips for the next time I cut my own hair.

Next, a crew put little plastic shower caps on my ears. I laughed because I’m immature. I asked Sandra if she had gotten those too and she said no, since she had highlights and I was getting allover color. Which is when I learned that that’s what we had agreed to. Which was fine; it’s only hair.

I was brought to a rinsing station and experienced the longest and most wonderful hair washing experience of my life. My face was tented with an aromatherapeutic gauze of my choice, followed by an amazing shampoo experience and a loooooong scalp massage. I was then brought back to my chair and given a second head and shoulder massage. Which is when I decided that I really needed to move to Japan.

Noda-san came back and dried and styled my hair. The color is great – it’s subtle enough to grow out without too much trauma, but visible enough that it warmed up my complexion a bit.

“After” – me and Noda-san. I know, you can’t tell from the picture that much happened but I got two massages and aromatherapy out of it!

In writing this post I discovered that Noda-san has a blog! Which features a bunch of models and shows and conspicuously (and wisely) excludes me and my shower-cap-covered ears from it.

So if you’re in Tokyo and looking for a pampering hair experience, I’d recommend Insolite. If you’re looking for the exact haircut you want, I’d recommend going to Insolite and speaking Japanese.

Insolite Salon

Green Core 1F 5-16-13 Hiroo Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 
TEL 03-3280-1062 FAX 03-3280-6040

Beauty Hair Shopping

Back to the Basics

My latest haircare discovery costs $1.29. Pictured to the right is the upscale version of it. Yep, you got it — corn starch. If you want to trace back the blame for this idea (and you should always assign blame), I’d say it goes back circa 1995 when some Allure editor started to slip in advice from haircare gurus that washing your hair daily strips it of its natural oils and to keep it healthy, you should wait a few days between shampoos. Over the seven years following that I made at least ten failed attempts to convert from daily hair-washing, all thwarted by the fact that I could smell my hair. I really didn’t want to smell like hair.

It wasn’t til I had kids that I successfully made the transition — driven mostly by fatigue and a general loss of will (this was also around the time I started driving a mini-van and favoring elastic waistbands). Still, I was really turned off by the hair smell — I just feel like we’re beyond the evolutionary stage where it’s necessary to smell distinctly human. So I experimented with multitudes of dry shampoos, all of which were either too medicinal (some actually had copy that read “For hospital patients who can’t get out of bed”), too disgusting or had faulty packaging (the Oscar Blandi spray shampoo was the best of the bunch, but the nozzle never failed to get stuck and let all the aerosol out). I eventually moved over to baby powder, which worked just as well, but left me smelling a little too babyish and, at worst, like a baby that smelled like hair (plus, isn’t talc a carcinogen when inhaled?). I’m thinking fragrances + hair smell just don’t cancel each other out.

So a few weeks ago I tried the corn starch. And yes, the stuff right off the grocery store shelf, and the same stuff I use to thicken up gravy in the kitchen. It was good. It didn’t result in a sickening medieval-era effect of covering a bad smell with a perfume; it just neutralized the smell. It can be a bit tricky to get onto the scalp without also getting all over my clothes, but I’m sure I’ll master that at some point. Perhaps Eddie, who just moved to Oregon, might have time now to experiment in that regard and advise me on the best dispensing method?


Haircare shortcuts and social networking

I work. I’m married. I have two kids. I’ve spent years mocking blogs (I mean, who has the time? Um, I guess I do.). So, this is what I’m going to do now after taking care of the kids, putting them to bed, taking a shower, cleaning up, and sometimes doing a bit of work. I can’t promise exceptional prose. I can’t promise revolutionary ideas. I can’t even promise that I’ll be in a good mood. But I think I’ll start off with a simple format: a Tip, a Rip, and a Clip. Tip being something I think might be helpful to you, if you’re at all like me (meaning, you work, have kids, are married, or are inherently lazy). Rip being something I don’t understand (or just think is dumb). And a Clip is just a word I had to stick in there to rhyme with the other two — but will likely be a product review that you can clip away for storage, just like a coupon (ok, it’s a stretch, but work with me here. It’s my first post.). I will also include random rants that I might have. Sometimes I might not include all categories. Sometimes I might overshare. Luckily, you don’t know me.

I never thought I’d end up this way, but here it is: I have two preschoolers, and I have to drop them off at school in the morning, so I have to shower at night after they go to bed (there are several logical mental leaps in between, but trust me, I can’t shower in the morning). Sometimes, at the end of the day, I’m just tired. So tired that I just really want to go to bed. I weaned myself after my first kid was born from daily hair-washing, so I’m on an every-other-day rotation. If you have hair you’ll understand that the implication of washing is drying, which for whatever reason I have come to view as a cumbersome task. In the face of need comes innovation, so I’ve come up with a few ways to work around hair washing on those days when you really just can’t face it:

  • Baby powder. Remember the 19th century? Powdered hair was in for a reason. It not only soaks up the grease pretty well, but it covers what I call “hair b.o.” as well. There’s nothing I like less than smelling of hair (or more specifically, scalp). Just rub a bit of the powder into your hair at the hairline (and anywhere you think it’s particularly greasy), and presto! Almost clean hair. I have on occassion over-powdered and found myself choking on the powder all night. I wouldn’t advise this, since I’m pretty sure that inhaling a bunch of talc is a very bad idea.
  • Dry shampoos. These are basically baby powder in a spray can, but the benefit of these is that they’re generally propelled by some type of carrier substance (like isobutane — again, don’t inhale too much) that feels really good on your scalp if your hair is dirty. Spray only at the roots, and after a few minutes, brush out. I’ve tried two brands: Klorane and Algemarina. I prefer the Algemarina (the Klorane has a smell that I can best describe as “old person”), since it has a nice fragrance, but the can I got from Amazon was defective. I’ve heard it’s better to buy it in a store.

Facebook. At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I just don’t get it. I have an account just because I’ve been invited (by some clearly earlier-adopting people than me). I’ll grant that it’s good for stalking, which is of course an honorable pastime (I was just notified in my “news-feed” that my husband added “bad spackling” and “magma” to his interests). But what’s up with the “wall”? Isn’t it just a really inefficient way to send email? In my experience, a friend will write something on my “wall”. I then get an email telling me that my friend posted to my “wall”, at which point I have to log back onto Facebook to see what it is that was posted on my “wall,” so I can post to my friend’s “wall”, at which point she will also get an email notification that I posted on her “wall”. As a stalker tool, I find the “wall” insufficient since the postings make no sense to an outsider — which is what you would be as a stalker. And the other thing — why would I want people to know so much about me? Better to be the stalker than the stalkee.

I do like LinkedIn though. It’s a pretty good stalker tool for being professional in purpose. I’ve gotten invitations to be a connection on LinkedIn from people that I don’t know that well at work. Like they’re in IT, and I haven’t ever spoken to them. When I see them in the bathroom I give them a knowing look, like I know that you know that we’re connected on LinkedIn but I’m pretty sure that they just find me creepy.

But in addition to being a stalker tool, LinkedIn is great if you’re looking for a job, or looking to hire. It’s just interesting to see who’s in your network. And what those people have grown up into.

So there you have it. Come back and visit for more posting on all the newfangled things this world has to offer. Thanks for reading.