Yet, it has been my experience in Korea that sometimes going to the salon has a completely opposite effect. And it's not just me. Other international residents living here have told me they often leave the hair salon feeling less secure, having been insulted (however unintentionally) by stylists, and left with the complete opposite of what they asked for, most often because they were coerced into getting a "hot Korean style," or were not able to communicate because of a language barrier.
The fact is that I don't have Korean hair. Nor am I Korean. I have unruly, curly hair and my own personal style is not influenced by the latest trends of K-pop. And I feel like many foreigners would agree with me that sometimes it can be difficult to find a stylist who can understand this.
Which is why I was utterly THRILLED to discover Soonsiki Hair.
Walk into this famed Hongdae beauty institution and you'll immediately be greeted by a staff of incredibly hip stylists, each of whom is donned in the latest street fashions and possesses an air of cool confidence. In fact, everything about Soonsiki is cool, without being the least bit pretentious.
When I took a seat at the salon's bar, which doubles as a waiting area, I was quickly greeted and offered a drink from an extensive cafe-like menu. I then met BK, who, with his waistcoat, perfect hair and swagger, instantly reminded me of a Korean version of Justin Timberlake. I had a great first impression of BK, thanks to his willingness to understand exactly what I wanted: Emma Stone auburn and a snip of the dead ends. This was not the least bit difficult to communicate, as BK speaks flawless English.
I opted to get a hair manicure, which is similar to a dye, but uses a colored cream to add a slight tint of color and a shiny gloss to the hair that is only semi-permanent. After seeing a picture of what I wanted, BK immediately whipped up a cocktail of color that he assured me would be perfect for me. His adorable assistant "Gangster" began applying the color to my hair, checking on me every so often to offer some new reading material or another drink.
Soonsiki's specialist designers have a reputation for being the top experts on dyeing non-Asian hair and their color bar is more varied than a giant Crayola box. Unlike many other salons in Seoul, Soonsiki offers toner-only coloring options, rather than the bleach ones at other places.
After washing out the color and getting a fantastic scalp massage, I had a Japanese treatment cream added to my hair for about 10 minutes, which made my hair incredibly soft, fantastically scented and prepped for a cut.
BK took over the reins and prepared his scissors for a bit of snipping. As busy as he was with other customers, he took the time to talk with me, share some of his travel stories and his personal Instagram account. Which, I should add, had a few images of he and Jay Park, one of his most loyal customers.
During the cut, he assured me he wouldn't cut off too much of my length-- just what needed to be cleaned up. And he was true to his word. While he cut, I took a look around the room and saw that the stylists are very well versed in the latest funky trends (I mean, this is Hongdae, after all) but had mastered all the classic styles, as well. Each customer seemed completely at ease, often joking or engaging in banter with his or her stylist.
BK's assistant offered up his services once more for the styling, in which he battled my lion tame with a straightener, resulting in beautiful waves in a color that couldn't have more perfectly matched what I wanted.
Soonsiki Hair's unsurpassed hospitality, professional services and comfortable, modern atmosphere are only just a few of the reasons why it is the best hair salon in Hongdae, if not all of Seoul. Whether you need a trim, highlights, or an entire new look, this is the place to go. Do note, however, that BK is the only stylist that is fluent in English, and he's often booked, so be sure to make a reservation in advance. Also, inquire about their discount for foreigners when you make your reservation.
More Information: Soonsiki Hair
Address: 5th Floor, Seokjeon Building, 29 (Seogyo-dong) Waoosanro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul (서울시 마포구 와우산로 21길 29 (서교동) 석전빌딩 5층)
Phone: 02-326-5982 ~3
E-mail: Click Here
Website: Click Here
Hours: Daily 10am-10pm
Prices: Cuts start at 30,000 (Men) / 35,000 (Women); Color starts at 122,000; Perms start at 149,000
Get There: From Hongik University Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), walk straight out of exit 9 to the first main intersection. Take a left and walk straight until you reach Forever 21. Take a right and cross the street. Walk straight on Parking Street for a few minutes until you reach the first main intersection.Take a left and walk straight. Soonsiki will be on your right, next to Zara, on the fifth floor.
Disclaimer: Although Soonsiki provided the above mentioned services free of charge, the opinions are, of course, my own.
Words and photos by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching unless otherwise noted. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.