Thursday, September 20, 2012

Suffering for the Sake of Beauty

When moving to any new city, it may take some time to find your beauty team. When moving across the globe, it may take even longer due to language barriers and cultural beauty regime differences.  For example, in Shanghai it is next to impossible to find hair dye in any other color than black in stores because most native Chinese folks want to keep the black hair of their youth.  Also, many Chinese people value porcelain white skin; so many makeup products contain bleaching agents to lighten their skin.    It was for these reasons (and more) that I realized I needed to find a hair stylist, pedicurist, and aesthetician (waxer) who understands western beauty.

Luckily, the first week I was in Shanghai I found a little nail place called American Style Nails across the street from my subway line!  The owners, Chu Fan and her husband ran a salon on Madison Ave for 10 years.  They are American licensed cosmetologists, keep their salon to the American level of cleanliness, and import all of their products from New York!  For 126 RMB (around $20) you can get a brow wax and pedicure.  AND THEY SPEAK FLUENT ENGLISH!!!!  Since their brow waxing got the Pat (my mother) seal of approval, and my pedi lasted 3 weeks I quickly became one of their regulars.  I love that since my first visit, Chu remembers me every time I call.  If I do not call within 2-3 weeks, she will answer the phone,
            “Long time, no see…” When I call.  If you are a future or current expat, their place is definitely worth checking out. 

Since Chu did a great job with my toes and brows, I figured I could at least ask her for a hair referral.  After I asked her, she replied
“Oh, I know someone who would be perfect for you.  I will call her and make you appointment.  What time you want to go?” 
“Are you sure she knows how to cut curly hair?”  I asked. 
“Oh yes, what time?” She asked.
“And she can color light brown/ blondish hair?” I needed to be sure that my hair was not going to look like a bird’s nest.
“Yes.  I send my western girls to her and they all love her.  What time?”
This seemed almost too good to be true.
“Do you think she could see me Tuesday morning? Around 9:30?”
Fortunately Zinna at iSalon was available and willing to cut my hair.

I arrived at iSalon bracing for the worst.  Luckily they had a chalkboard sign that claimed they had an English-speaking stylist who was trained in London!  BONUS!  Zinna greeted me in the street because I looked like a lost Lowei.  She whisked me to her chair and had her assistant match my hair color with a hair dye card.  I was relieved …this was normal salon procedure. 

She then asked me what I wanted.   What I really wanted was my hairstylist from the states, Denise, to do my hair but that was not going to happen.  So, I showed her a picture of me right after my last haircut, and she and her assistant went to town. 

I pulled out my iPad to read my latest downloaded book, and she said the three words any techno-girl wanted to hear.

“We have wi-fi.”  FABO!!!  Not only was I getting my hair done, I could surf and relax. 

One hour later, at least half of the aluminum foil supply of Shanghai was on my head, and it was time to let the color set in.  While the color was cooking, a tall man approached me while I was in the chair.

I have never had this much metal on my head...EVER!
“You need treatment.” He said.

Tell me something I don’t know. 

“What kind of treatment?” I ask.

“Treatment for your hair.”  He replied. He then proceeds to pull out an iPad with a menu of different treatments, each when translated into English said,

“To improve the quality of colored or damaged hair.”  I was afraid he was going to suggest Keratin treatment on the sly.   (For you boys out there, Keratin treatment is a kind of treatment to make your hair straight and shiny.)

“Um, that’s okay.  I want to wear my hair curly.”  I figured that would make the man go away.

“You need a treatment.”  The man insisted.

“Will it make my hair go straight?  I want to wear my hair curly.”  Oh Denise, why couldn’t you move to Shanghai like I suggested!

“It is for color.”  The man pulled out a small vial of L’Oreal something or other. 

“Are you sure I will be able to wear my hair curly?” I could not believe that I was getting bullied into a treatment.

“It is for color.” He insisted.  At least it said L’Oreal.  How badly could it mess up my hair?

“Okay fine, I will take that one.”  Please go away.  Please go away now you greedy salon owner!

After I was shampooed my hair looked like a bird’s nest…literally.  I was thankful when the treatment began.  The highlighting assistant would spray a couple of blasts of treatment, roll his thumbs in my hair and then comb it straight.  The color was okay. Perhaps this would work out.  After the rolling and combing, the assistant brought out a device that looked like it would suck my brains out.  What did I agree to?

The assistant pinned my hair into a French twist and leveled the device over my head.  At first I was calm…this was like one of those hair dryer devices that my mom owned and never used because the hand held blow dryer was invented. 

Then something beyond my wildest imagination happened.  Smoke started oozing out from the hood. 


“Yes.” She answered.

“I think my hair is on fire.”  I reply.

“I don’t understand you.”  Great.  How could one understand free wi-fi but not understand my hair is on fire?  More steam started pouring out.

“Zinna?  Is everything okay?  There is smoke coming from my head!”  I ask.

“Hang on, I find someone for you.”  Nice.  At least it is hair.  It will grow back?  Two minutes later, the evil salon proprietor came around.

Me with my head "on fire". 

“Is there a problem?”  He innocently asked.

“I think my hair is on fire. ” I blurted. “Do you see the smoke?”

“Your hair is not on fire.” He laughed and walked away.

A couple of minutes later, a cool breeze replaced the steam, and my hair was ready to be cut.

Zinna cuts my newly treated hair.  

30 minutes later, I was out with my new do.

It is by no means perfect, but it is a start.

Me before.
Me After.

Denise…if you are reading this, PLEASE come to Shanghai! J