Here’s the post I promised (I often promise posts and get side tracked, but I was determined to do this one!) — a complete guide to finding and visiting a hair salon in Seoul.
Many people want to cut their hair when they visit Korea, as it’s cheaper and caters more to their hair style tastes. I’m always asked the same thing from readers and friends about it, so here we go!
1) Where to Go
3) Korean Hair Salon Vocabulary + Common Phrases
Where to go 찾아가~
Where should I go?
University areas offer the best price for quality (just think students on a budget). There are lots of salons around 이대 (Ehwa Women’s University, subway station). Color dye + cuts are around $30 there.
If you want middle to upper scale, try visiting 강남 (Kangnam; also good for night life, drinking, and clubs). Expect $40~ for a cut; $100~ for dye. However, most people on a short trip to Korea don’t usually have time to visit Kangnam, as it’s not a common touristy area.
You can also find all ranges of salons in 명동 (Myungdong), the most touristy shopping area so you don’t have to make a separate trip for your hair. You can easily tell from the outer appearance of a salon what the price range is.
Hair salons are almost everywhere. Just keep your eyes peeled!
Where do the celebrities go? I want to visit my Kpop band’s salon!
Most celebrities go to luxury beauty salons located in 압구정 (Apgujong). Apgujong is the high class area of Seoul, where the rich and famous usually dwell.
Side note: I rarely visit Apgujong, but of the few times I did, I actually saw 신애 (Shinae) from We Got Married (as Alex’s “wife”) at a pet store with her dog and real husband. If you walk around the area while looking for a beauty salon, it’s very possible to even run into a celeb!
Where do you go?
I go to Aka Hair at 천호 (Cheonho) station on the pink #8 line, exit 2, walk straight about a block or two and it’s on your left, 2nd floor, with the main street on your right, across from Hyundai Department Store.
www.akahair.com – click for a Korean map
Above is their business card, with the name of the hair dresser who did my hair once, and the times he works. However, I am not recommending any specific hair dressers because there has never been one I liked enough, but overall, I like the price, service, product quality, and hair cut results.
I’ve dyed and cut my hair about 6-7 times over 3 years at Aka Hair, always making an effort to go out of my way there. They claim to be a celebrity hair salon (though I doubt it), with a clean and spacious interior, both young and older hair dressers and customers, and is usually quite busy, especially during peak hours.
Can you suggest any more specific salons?
I am not very adventurous when it comes to salons, so I cannot personally recommend any more salons.
Instead, I can only recommend that you keep your eyes peeled, walk into a salon, and don’t be afraid to ask for the prices. If you don’t like what you see, it’s perfectly fine to walk back out (that’s what I did before finding my salon!).
If you live in Korea with a phone, and are too shy to walk in, call them instead to ask for prices. Their phone number is often listed on the hanging store name signs.
random hair salons in Myungdong (명동)
Would you be able to spot all the salons without the yellow star to indicate? XD
Just look for the word “hair” or “헤어” in English or Korean (more vocab below).
How much does it cost?
It depends on where you go and the length of your hair.
I always go for middle-scale salons, so hair cuts are 15,000 won ($14 USD) and color dye, essence treatment, or perms are around 50,000 won ($45).
About 10,000 won is added per 2 inch for hair below shoulder length.
More on hair dye costs below.
Can they speak English?
Foreign based salons like Toni&Guy probably can, but why would you go to Korea to get your hair cut at Toni&Guy?
Upper scale Korean salons like Juno Hair might speak a little.
Chinese mandarin or Japanese speakers may want to hit up 명동 (Myungdong) salons as the area caters largely to Chinese/Japanese tourists and many employees can speak it almost perfectly.
My advice to you is to just choose the salon you like, bring a few photos, and be very descriptive, use simple English, and a lot of body language. Try to ask for a stylist who speaks a little of your language when you enter the salon.
You can also use the vocabulary + common phrases I offer at the end of this post!
Can I perm my hair like the celebrities?
The wavy hair you see on most Korean actresses are actually not perms, but curls created by a curling iron. It is a temporary curl, not a permanent perm.
Consult your stylist to try and get the closest perm to what you want. There are many kinds of perms, wave perms, volume perms, etc.
I’ve never permed by hair before, only asked about it and seen my Korean friend’s hair, so I’m not really an expert in this area. I’m more of a hair color girl.
What services does a hair cut / dye / perm include? Do I pay extra for wash + dry? Does it include anything else?
Korean salons charge separately for wash and dry. Aka Hair charges $3 for hair wash + dry.
All color dye jobs includes cut + wash + dry + curling/styling. I’ve never permed my hair before but it will include at least a wash and dry.
A really special service offered at Aka Hair (I’m not sure if it’s same everywhere) is that after a 50,000+ won dye job, they will curl your hair for free.
Even when my hair was super long, and it took an extra 30 minutes after a 3 hour dye + wash + cut + dry job, the hair dresser still offered to curl my hair for me using a curling iron (NOT a permanent perm!).
Top: pictures taken shortly after a hair cut at Aka Hair
Bottom: after hair dye + cut + curl at Aka Hair
What hair dye products do they use? How do they charge for longer hair? What is the price range?
The salon I go to offers 3 different costs and dye quality — 30,000 won ($27 USD), 50,000 won ($45) and 80,000 won ($72). I always go for the 50,000 won, which is L’oreal. I’m not sure what other salons use.
Remember, these prices are just minimal costs. About 10,000 won ($9) is added for every 2 inches for hair below shoulder length. When my hair was the length of the picture above, top right, it costed 80,000 won to dye.
Root touch-ups for hair dye is the same as the minimal cost. So, root touchups cost the same as dying your hair if it is above shoulder length.
Do hair salons also do makeup?
Not the lower to middle scale salons. If you want to have your makeup done by a professional makeup artist, you are probably looking for a higher end beauty salon, not a hair salon.
High end salons in 앞구정 is where all the celebrities go to do their makeup and hair.
What other services do hair salons offer?
Basic nail art prices are usually decent at hair salons. They may also do eyebrow bleaching. Wedding or special occasion hair styling is often available as well.
Do I have to pay tips?
Usually, you never pay tips in Korean restaurants, for food delivery, or most other things.
I usually never pay tips at Aka Hair because I never have a stylist I like and will return to (and I’m cheap, bleh =p). However, I have seen a guy pay tips before. Also, the hair dresser always unnecessarily stands behind the counter with the cashier as you pay. It’s part of the payment procedure and they are most likely hoping for tips.
Tipping is not a common custom in Korea, so you won’t get any dirty looks if you decide to go tight on your wallet. However, for a stylist I want to return to, I would tip for better service next time. Remember to get a business card and ask for the name and working time of the hair dresser!
Vocabulary + Common phrases 배우자 ^^
Here is just a list of very basic vocabulary and simple phrases.
There’s really no way I can teach you how to describe all the possible things you can want in a hair cut, but hopefully with a few main vocab & phrases, pictures of the hairstyle you want, and good body language, you can get the point across.
If you have absolutely no Korean ability and don’t think that you can even pronounce these phrases properly, I suggest you just print the chart out (Save Image As), bring it along with you, and point to it!
Good luck, and do share with me if you ever have a chance to cut your hair in Korea or uses any of the vocab or phrases ^^