Hair salons in China are open late, so after dinner on our last night, several of the team members decided to experience a Chinese hair washing. For approximately $4 clients are treated to a relaxing hair wash, uncomfortable ear washing, face, neck, shoulder/arm massage and then a blow dry and style.
Like most businesses in Hengyang, the salon was small, run down and crowded. We were lead to a dark, dank, sour smelling room and told to lie down on a table with a sink attached to the end. The hair washing ritual lasts about an hour and starts with a eucalyptus/lemon scented substance that is used to massage the forehead/temple area. Next comes the hair scrubbing. Never has my hair been washed so thoroughly. The texture of American hair is very different than Chinese so Lacey’s hair, which is just above waist length long, got pretty tangled up in the process. It took a second stylist an additional 20 minutes to untangle her locks. Following the hair wash was an ear wash which most of us found rather uncomfortable; fingers of strange little Chinese men don’t belong in my ears. Even worse was the cotton swab drying process, it took every ounce of self control to not slap away the hand that was drying my ear. I prayed that the torture process would end quickly. Relief followed in the form of a neck/shoulder and back massage.
The fun really began after all of the hair washing/massage was complete. I set off on this adventure for the sole purpose of having my hair blow dried straight. The little Chinese man in charge of my hair had other ideas. Curly hair is non existent in Asian culture so I guess they’ve no idea how to manage it. The gentleman brought out a bottle of conditioner that I assumed was a detangler or something. It didn’t take me long to realize he had no intention of drying my hair. I gestured to the dryer so he grabbed one but attached a diffuser. Wrong again! I gestured that I wanted my hair straight. He mimicked my gesture and once he realized what I wanted erupted into Chinese shouting that had all the employees speaking/laughing loudly. Apparently straightening curly hair provides shocking entertainment.
No kidding, it took six Chinese stylists to straighten my hair. First I was led back to the scary room to have the conditioner rinsed out of my hair. Then a new stylist began drying my hair. When he grew weary another took over. They pulled the flat irons out of storage (none of the other team members were treated to flat irons) and used not one, but two irons, operated by two different stylists, to fix my hair. I was very pleased with the end results and they were very glad to be rid of my curly hair and demanding request.