In a Hairy Situation

I write this with a heavy hair.
 Yep, heavy from the accumulated natural oil and keratin treatment I had. I was getting tired of all the frizz, and waking up extra early to blow dry my hair. I’ve been trading jogging/running time for that so I decided to get my first major hair care by way of keratin treatment. 
With that, I thought about sharing how it’s like to get your hair done abroad, especially if you don’t speak the same language. I never thought it’s gonna be a problem but all my hair experiences here in Taipei have gone from exciting to educational to horrific to awesome…it was a heck of a rollercoaster ride. 
To my fellow Taipei expats who are in dire need of a proper haircut, this post is for you. 

Been 48 hours since I got the keratin treatment done and no, that’s not wet hair. It’s icky oily hair. Shampoo and conditioner, I miss you so so much!

I didn’t have any particular stylist back in the Philippines. I was more particular of the price than the person who did my hair. The most I’d spend was getting a rebond plus cellophane which will cost me around 2,000 PHP max. I needed it because my hair is coarse and goes on a frizz-fest, thanks to 365 days of tropical country humidity.
When I moved to Taipei, one of the things I noted was the number of hair salons peppering the place. Moreover, some salons seem to go for 24 hours or at least, until midnight. I thought I wouldn’t have a problem in case I’ll need some major hair treatments like rebonding, but that ended up being just a thought.
My first local salon experience was via Mod’s Hair, back in 2012. That taught me that Taipei salon visits are customarily by appointment only. A Taiwanese colleague helped make my appointment 3 days before. I was planning to get my hair rebonded, but changed my mind when I saw the styling prices. Since my hair was still okay then, I decided to just go for a haircut priced 1,000 NTD for mid-length hair. I was initially bummed about it because I’m used to the 250-300 PHP price range, but the experience turned out to be very nice and reasonable.
The stylist I chose turned out to be very accommodating and professional. My only problem was that he spoke little to no English so I just told him to do “whatever will be nice for me, BUT don’t cut more than two inches.” 
The service and atmosphere at Mod’s Hair were also very good. We were offered free tea and coffee plus English magazines to keep us occupied. I had a relaxing head massage during the shampooing, which was an individual service apart from the cut. The shampooing took 15 to 20 minutes and they used this funny face mask to protect you from the water or shampoo while you lay your head on the sink. They switched from hot to cold water and the head-and-shoulder massage I got was so relaxing.
My haircut also turned out nicely. It was simple and highlighted by side bangs. I remembered thinking how I ended up looking like a local (in a good way) as I checked my reflection on the mirror. But I also knew that 2 days after, when I finally wash off the blowdry and styling, my hair would unveil and go back to its true poofy reality. 
From that day on, I decided to research Taipei salons known for doing expat hair in case I wanted to get treatments done with a haircut, or try a new hairstyle and ask if it would suit me. It dawned on me that having an English-speaking stylist would be very important so that I can make the most out of the experience, given the price and the expertise that they have. 
I did plenty of online research and discovered a stylist who spoke English. Most of the reviews I read swear by this person’s ability to understand the texture of non-Taiwanese hair—it didn’t seem to matter much now. But what really got me then was the fact that this person is a fluent English speaker and the credentials this stylist has are quite impressive. So book an appointment, I did. 
Initially, I went to the stylist to have a bob cut and told him I want Japanese straightening to tame my natural yet kinda coarse waves. But the stylist recommended that I try getting a perm instead and eventually some red hair color. I remember the recommendation was punctuated with, “have something fun and youthful!” I got convinced to try the perm because I was feeling adventurous at that time, and also knew how long and potentially harsh straightening can be. I ended up letting him do the perm, but not the coloring.
And the rest turned out to be this history…
WANTED! for possession of too much leave-on conditioner and illegal possession of curls that make a round face even more circular

It’s not that I hated my curly hair. But I wouldn’t deny that after seeing it for the first time, and as the stylist released the curlers, I felt fear and dread. What went through my mind was, “I am so gonna die on Monday.” Good thing I did my hair on a Saturday, so I spent Sunday trying to see how I’d be able to present myself to work on Monday. By the end of Sunday, I was already contemplating to go on leave for two weeks.
Aside from the shock of a lifetime, because I’ve never tried perming before, I also smelled awfully dreadful for the first two days, no thanks to the curling chemicals used. Long story short, I had a year of love-and-hate relationship with my curls. When it grew longer, I started to truly enjoy and like it. Some of my officemates said it was great, though some teased me about having grandma hair. So I tried to compensate by wearing sneakers and dressing ruggedly to help tone down the look. 
With all that behind me now, I don’t think I will ever get such curls again. 
After that, I swore never to get my haircut here. But as my hair became curly tresses to a wavy long hair, I found myself forgetting what I swore for practical reasons. I blame the summer days for the full-on frizz I’ve suffered. At that time, I decided to try Dra’s Hair Lab since it was one of the pros recommended online by Taipei expats. I’m glad I did because now, I think I’ve finally found my go-to hair expert here in Taipei.
Dra’s Hair Lab is different because Sandra (the stylist and owner) works with just one salon chair and one shampooing area. Inside the salon, you will immediately feel the comfort and coziness of the place and the friendliness from Sandra and Roz. Initially, I was just very happy that they speak fluent English. And as Sandra worked on my hair, I realized I was in for a real hair treat. Finally!
Check out their website to see how the salon looks like. Trust me, this unassuming facade houses the coziness that is Dra’s Hair Lab. 😉

That first appoint with Dra’s Hair Lab, months ago, was for a haircut. I simply asked her to take out the dry and split ends from my then growing out curls. She did a great job removing the unhealthy parts and left enough length for me to style as I please. She even told me I actually had healthy hair and the right way of blow drying would keep it tamed.
And best of all, she only did as I asked her to and didn’t try to up-sell me other things or treatments. If there was anything added, it was her professional stamp as a hairstylist.

The curls took a year to grow out, enough for me to cut them off. Roz was also kind enough to email me an image of the blow drier Sandra recommended.
Roz’s email about Sandra’s blow dryer recommendation. So nice of them to remember doing this. 🙂

The haircut price was like Mod’s and varies depending on hair length. A booked appointment is a must prior to getting a haircut or treatment. I’m fine with it all because, apart from the service I got, I’ve also noted how hygienic and pleasant the place is, also Sandra. Looking back, I dreaded a lot of things about my cheap haircuts such as cigarette-smelling fingers, hair clutter beneath the salon chairs, and the annoying up-sell I had to put up with.
Because of my pleasant first try with Dra’s Hair Lab, I decided to go back to try the Keratin treatment. It was expensive, but the prices are not that far from what’s in the Philippines. I decided to get this instead of the Japanese straightening because of the healthier benefits. Though the Japanese straightening is also popular here, and some say safe too, I really wanted to avoid getting anything done on my hair that involves breaking down its components. Keratin treatments (based from bestfriend Google) are more empowering for the hair.  It promises to help minimize styling rituals after taking a shower. I’d rather wake up extra early each day for a jog instead of blow-dry purposes.
Though I am writing this, knowing Sandra doesn’t accept new clients in the meantime, I still think they deserve a really good review for their hard work. In case they would be open to getting new clients again, I would highly recommend them without hesitations.
In the meantime, if you are now looking for a good salon in or outside of Taipei, or if you need an immediate haircut without booking an appointment, here are some things I tried that might help you:
Try QB House for a hair trim

I passed by a QB House inside the Zhongshan metro mall and decided to get my trim there. The cut was 300 NTD and fuss-free, without shampoo. They would use a water spray to wet your hair a little before beginning the cut. But what’s great about the QB House is their sense of hygiene. As you sit down on the salon chair, you will see a UV oven (or microwave?) which supposedly sterilizes the scissors to be used on your hair. The comb will also come in a sealed package and will be given to you after the cut since it’s for you to keep.
Go to Yellow Ted for a bit of hairstyling. – Before I had my keratin treatment, I decided to do away with all of my remaining curls. I was so tired of tying them up in a ponytail, the summer heat’s just terrible, and I also wanted to help Sandra work on just the healthy portions of my hair. I decided to try Yellow Ted near my apartment, and they assigned an English-speaking stylist for me. 
The shampooing was the same as the one I got in Mod’s Hair and I was pleased because the stylist didn’t simply chop off my hair to shoulder length. He applied some layers to the ends to avoid that straight line chop. Although it wasn’t exactly what I expected, I think he did a style that suited me. I paid 700 NTD for the shampoo-haircut-blowdry regimen, as a walk-in customer. 
This was the trim I got last week which led to…


Lighter and ready for humid summer days. ^_^
Do some online research. I would recommend Forumosa because that’s where I read about Dra’s Hair Lab. But of course, I would also encourage you to simply Google based from where you are here in Taiwan. I would also encourage you to try a local salon, like I did with QB House and Yellow Ted, but better check if they have websites which you can read up on. By the way, the reason why I had the courage to try QB House and Yellow Ted was because they had professional looking websites. I took it as a sign that they are pros who could work on my hair, whether I’m a local or not.
This was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made before. Since I’m a low-maintenance girl, I didn’t think so much of how I could take care of my hair in Taiwan. What most locals would love might not exactly fit your taste as an expat. I, for one, couldn’t comprehend all the highlighting done on one’s hair here. What works for the locals may not work for you and if you trust your stylist to work his/her magic, they might work the magic they thought you would appreciate based from local experience.
To make things clearer, I suggest you get a photo of the hairstyle you prefer before getting a haircut. One of the things I regret with my Yellow Ted visit was that I forgot to show my stylist the photo of the bob cut I truly wanted. But that’s okay, he still ended up getting what I explained for him to do. However, I could have made better best if I only showed him this photo below.
I like the haircut, not the color.Anyway, I still ended up happy with my haircut. 🙂

I hope you don’t take this as a sign that local hair salons would not be able to accommodate expat hair. Of course not. I’m sure if you can communicate to them properly about what you want, and if you have a local friend who can help you talk to them, then they can also do a great job on your hair. But as for me, I’m pretty happy with Dra’s Hair Lab and would not hesitate going back to Yellow Ted/QB House in case I need another quick and easy haircut.

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