My mane is as au naturale as can be in this day and age.
That’s to say never has my hair been treated, straightened, permed, or coloured (or anything else a professional hair salon might offer for that matter, besides a basic hair cut).
I’ve always fancied waves and curls, but never was fond of the idea of my hair damaged by harsh salon perms. As ironic as how curly-haired girls like to straighten their hair, I usually make do with braiding my hair to sleep or using a curling iron for temporary curls. (These days though, since keeping busy in Hong Kong, I usually just bun my hair up and find the effect of that to be adequate.)
When I was in Tokyo earlier this year though, I plucked up the courage to try a Japanese air wave perm. Given that it was Japanese technology and how many Japanese girls get their hair done, I felt I would be in the safest hands to test it out.
I couldn’t find much information on getting air wave perms in Tokyo, or anything much on the Japanese air wave perm for that matter, so I thought writing this review would help others who might be interested.
Some background information before we get started…
What is an air wave perm?
Said to be less damaging for the hair, the air wave perm is a Japanese technology that basically works on a shape-memory system with the use of air/wind (as its name suggests). The effect is natural-looking and bouncy curls/waves.
My hair specs
Do bear in mind that this review on the Japanese air wave perm is written based on natural hair. The effect on hair that isn’t natural (has been previously coloured, or permed) is vastly different.
– My hair is dark. Black. It’s like charcoal black. I’ve ever done a photo shoot and the hair stylist had to spray some brown tint on my hair because you wouldn’t be able to see my braids in the photos. That’s how black it is.
– My hair is naturally straight and super fine. Any hair stylists’ nightmare because hairstyles don’t hold. Even with a ton of hairspray and lots of product, you might not get far dealing with my hair.
The Japanese salon experience
I had made an appointment to have my hair cut and permed by Sachi, a ‘Top stylist’ at Shinka Hair Salon in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. Reviews on the hair salon were promisingly good, and knowing that the staff could communicate in English was a major plus.
Firstly, I’d like to point out how neat and clean Japanese hair salons are in general. You don’t see a chunk of hair here and there on the floor or over the counter. Everything is kept in its place and the crew at Shinka, in particular, did everything to make us feel welcome and comfortable.
I was given a little iPad to entertain myself throughout the salon session and Sachi showed me how to find their Japanese fashion magazines on it (which I guess she somehow knew I loved). They also provided my fiancé who was accompanying me, and I, some hot tea, and you even got to choose between two flavours.
Before she began, Sachi showed me some Japanese hair magazines for a reference of what kind of waves I was hoping to achieve. She asked if I had done anything to my hair before, and gave me honest advice on how I would require multiple sessions before the air wave perm would give me my desired look and would last longer. I was glad she tried to manage my expectations; telling me she would try her best to achieve the look I wanted, but it might prove difficult for hair that is completely natural. I understood completely and was also happy to know that the perm wasn’t harsh that way.
Nothing fancy was done. I came for the air wave perm more than the haircut. She created some volume at the crown of my head, and just trimmed my locks a little because I liked preserving its length. Amazingly my hair did look more voluminous at the crown, and I would actually go back to her just for that because flat hair has long been the bane of my existence.
The air wave perm
The perm took an estimated time of probably 2 over hours. Sachi told me that there were a couple of steps to an air wave perm, and pleasingly explained to me exactly what she was doing along the way.
– Firstly, they apply all the treatment lotions and oils to prevent and minimise damage to your hair, rolling small sections of your hair into rollers and tying them into place. They then apply the chemicals necessary for the perm to work. The resulting look ain’t fabulous at this stage — be prepared to look like your granny.
– After your hair is left for a while to absorb all the goodies, it gets washed before being put into the machine. I don’t know what you call those giant perming machines, but the air wave perm machine looks somewhat similar to the typical ones you usually see in salons. You’re left with the machine zipped to your crown for about 15 minutes with some pretty hot air circulating, followed by colder air for another few minutes.
– Unzipping and detaching your head from the machine, the hair salon people remove the rollers and all from your hair, and again you get another free hair wash. After the wash, they blow dry the hair roots, twirl your locks and apply a hair foam to keep your newfound curls bouncy and in place.
Sachi highlighted the importance of hair care to maintain the waves, that I needed to twirl my locks with the foam (I personally use the Liese Wave Style Defining Foam) every day to preserve it.
The end result? Natural waves. It wasn’t as wavy as I had desired, but as said before, that would require multiple sessions. I was quite happy with how it turned out.
I could tell the entire process was pretty tedious for the crew; at times they had to redo the rolling and tying of my hair. Not to mention, my hair was long and it was indeed time-consuming to roll up in sections! I’m glad I had Sachi directing the process because the kind of curls you get at the end is very dependent on the hair stylist managing the process.
All in all, I very much enjoyed my Shinka hair salon experience without a doubt, and would highly recommend the lovely Sachi for hairdressing needs.
The result (written a few days after the experience)
Because my hair is completely natural, the waves are said to last for about two months (it lasts longer if your hair has been coloured or permed before). And after repeated sessions, it is supposed to last longer and longer. It’s been just a couple of days and I am still loving the waves. My hair isn’t frizzy or dried out like what perms usually do to your hair, so my fears haven’t been realised and I am quite the happy camper. As mentioned above, and under direction from Sachi, I use a Japanese hair curling foam to maintain my new locks; once in the morning when I get my hair done up, and once at night after I wash it out. This keeps my hair nourished and locks the curls in-place without weighing them down.
Now, just to see how long before my hair returns to its naturally boring state…
The verdict (5 months later)
It’s been around 5 months now and this is what my hair looks like in the mornings.
Here’s what I have noticed:
– The curls started to loosen up only after 3 months. Even after then, my hair was still wavy. So they lasted longer than was expected. Remember, if your hair isn’t natural though, it would last longer than mine.
– My hair is a bit drier, which Sachi did mention would be an effect of the perm. It isn’t a huge problem because I’ve been loading on some hair serums and it fixes it. I do also think I need to be more disciplined about my hair care routine in general.
– My locks curl more easily. My hair obviously isn’t as wavy as 5 months before, but it does curl easily now when I bun it up or just twirl my hair while drying it.
My verdict? I would do it again. The air wave perm did achieve what it was supposed to do — curls with minimal damage. I think the best part is that my hair curls easily now.
I really want to get my hair done by Sachi again — but I’ll probably want to keep my hair natural for the things coming up next year, so I might have to leave my next air wave perm session for the year after.
What are your thoughts on the Japanese air wave perm? Ever gotten one done or thinking about trying it out?
If you’re looking for more temporary/short-term curls, check out my review on the BaByliss Pro MiraCurl!
Bunny de coco
*This is not a sponsored review*