There are few things as pampering as a visit to a Japanese salon - the culture's attention to aesthetics obvious from the moment you step into the beautiful establishments, the pride they take in their high-level craft, their trend-leading styles, and of course that famously unparalleled service. Most Japanese salons assign you a dedicated stylist to serve you from the moment you step in till the moment you flounce out with your gorgeous makeover, as opposed to some other salons where the stylist rushes between customers to maximize profit. And of course, their respect for your comfort and personal space means you'll never be made to feel uncomfortable with hard-selling and upselling of services.
There's only one possible source of stress- the language barrier. With authentic, native Japanese stylists for whom English is not a first language, there might be difficulty communicating during the consultation, meaning the client is unable to clarify specifics beyond pointing to a photo of some celebrity.
Accordingly, we at Beauty Undercover have tasked ourselves to find the best salons and stylists who are fluent in English, so you can have a truly leisurely day enjoying a hair service as good as in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Colour: From $175
The eponymous Izumi of Izumi Hair Salon is both the salon's owner and its head stylist, and thus takes it on herself to make her clients feel completely at ease. This is facilitated by her flawless English from having worked in New York for 20 years, training under the directors of Vidal Sassoon and Toni & Guy before opening her own salon there. Naturally, she's got a solid foundation in Japanese aesthetics as well, having begun her career in Tokyo where she worked her way up in various hair and beauty salons, while learning from the country's top stylists. She even studied under makeup artist Shu Uemura, to see how to best integrate hairstyle designs with makeup for overall perfection, so you know she takes an overall view of how to make you look your best.
While Japanese stylists are known for providing undivided attention, no one quite does it like Izumi - there is only one seat at the salon, and Izumi (with no fellow stylists or colleagues whatsoever!) serves whoever sits there from start to finish.
Feel free to let your own attention be divided though, with a prime view of Marina Bay Sands and the CBD from Izumi Hair Salon's windows.
Cute brown by Izumi
Some of our favourite services there would be Izumi's hair colours - while bleach can be damaging, Izumi's superior mixtures and techniques mean damage is minimised, even when you go for lighter, brighter shades.
Hazelnut hair by Izumi
Her signature colour technique is Sunkissed Highlights – vibrant but natural highlights that grow out almost unnoticeably.
Sunkissed Highlights by Izumi
Her haircuts are also supremely sought after, since Izumi's cuts for women can last over 6 months without going out of shape - now that's value for money! And of course, because of her three decades of international work experience, she can work with various different hair types, including Asian, Caucasian, African and Middle Eastern. And clients from just about every culture love how, other than continuously updating herself on the newest trends, she has mastered the classic Motegami technique - cutting locks to make the face look more slender and the eyes, bigger.
Do note that as her salon is a one-woman show, she may initially miss your calls, but we can attest that it's completely worth dialing that extra time to get in touch with her.
Haircut: From $120
Colour: From $150
Branche Japanese Hair Salon is a premium beauty destination with masterful stylists, amazing service and luxury in spades - all stylists are required to wear suits during work, and complimentary champagne is served to all clients. It's no surprise that many of its customers hail from the upper echelons of society who are happy to pay extra for the Branche experience.
And believe us - it's totally worth the higher price tag: Clients have their hair washed on the luxurious yume (Japanese for 'dream') bed, which is electronically adjustable and extremely plush and comfortable. You may be lulled into actual dreams with the delicious head massage you'll get during your wash. And if you want to complete your makeoever, Branche also serves up lash treatments and hair spas at the adjacent store unit.
While you may not want to regularly splash out for this VIP treatment, it's a fantastic occasion destination, like for your birthday, or to reward yourself from time to time.
Branche also prides itself on providing timeless styles, that will both maintain their shape and appeal for a good long time. We are especially enamoured of the top stylist/salon manager Kai, with extensive experience in styling models and even working backstage at the Tokyo Girl Collection in Shanghai. He knows exactly what to do to provide glamour and elegance and yes, he is a fluent English speaker.
Golden brown hair colour by Kai
His speciality is fusing bob haircuts with an intricate combination of highlights and lowlights to bring out the best in your skin tone. Kai's work is very meticulous, and he uses from 30-60 foils (as opposed to the 10-20 foils used at other salons) to achieve a seamlessly natural colour gradation
Ash lavender by Kai
While Kai is the most eloquent, the other Branche stylists also have a respectable and continually improving command of English, since they've worked in Singapore for years now. Ichi and Eri are two very well-loved Japanese stylists who have built many friendships with their Singapore-based clients.
Haircut: From $78
Colour: From $120
If you're new to Japanese salons, this non-intimidating space will make you feel right at home. Firstly, most of the Japanese stylists here are fluent in English, as are the Japanese receptionists, so you'll hardly feel out of place.
And while you shouldn't expect communication barriers, there are pretty partitions between each customer's space so you retain some level of privacy. Even the salon's name - COVO - means "hidden place" in Italian, and like the name suggests, the outlets are strategically obscured from those who don't already know about the salon location, so that clients can take their visits there as brief personal retreats from the world.
For their beautifying services, we'd say COVO is one of the best Japanese salons when it comes to hair treatments. They have a massive selection that includes popular treatments such as Tokio Inkarami...
...as well as salon-exclusives such as the very affordable ECLASTA treatment,
As for our favourite stylists, we really like Kei at COVO's Katong outlet. Other than speaking English effortlessly, he has also won numerous haircut competitions back in Japan. Be it a beautiful bob, intricate updo or the most exquisite, complex styles, Kei's skills will more than awe.
...or the NOV keratin treatment, just to name a few.
Meanwhile, if you ever find yourself needing to wear a kimono, Sara from the Katong outlet is one of the few kimono specialists in Singapore who can help you put one on classily and correctly, navigating her way around the Obi on your behalf. Plus, she'll be able to help you complete the look with a delectable do.
At the Keong Saik outlet, you can rely on Natsumi for some fun conversation since she has hairdressing experience not just in the top salons of Japan, but also Canada, Australia and now, Singapore. She's known for her skill in cutting fine, curly hair, and is also the go-to-girl for wedding styling due to her 3 years experience as a bridal beautician in Okinawa.
Purple pink colour and cut by Sara
Blonde balayage by Natsumi
Haircut: From $90
Colour: From $120
In a true gathering of the greats, stylists Chiho from AVENTA and Aki from S.A.D.'s Hair Design have joined forces to found The Fluxus House, an extremely cool salon concept. Enter to delightful floral scents and the sight of carefully curated paintings, which are changed up every quarter. Really love the artwork? Buy it and take it home. This is the gallery space of the salon, and it functions how an actual gallery would.
In fact, the Fluxus House has ample room for various functions, including generate a sense of ease and space for its visitors.
The team is anchored by the aforementioned Chiho, one of our favourite Japanese stylists in Singapore. A mistress of both cuts and colours, she knows exactly how to balance trends, personality and lifestyle for a sophisticated yet easy to manage do that you can flaunt both at work and after hours.
Loosely permed Bob by Chiho
As she has accumulated working experience in the makeup, fashion as well as hair industries since her youth, Chiho has often proven spot on when recommending hairdos based on her holistic assessment of a customer's character and personal style.
Beach waves with lavender tips by Chiho
S.A.D.'s Aki is also a guest stylist here, and we'd say this quirky hair artist is our top choice for adventurous and transformative makeovers.
J-rock Perm by Aki
On the other hand, if volume and body is your main hair goal, go to Koichi - one of the few Japanese hairstylists who's great with the Lather Haircut, or a cut that looks as volumizing as a perm.
3D colour by Koichi
Also, rest assured - designer aesthetics, popular stylists and central location notwithstanding, Fluxus House has also made it a priority to keep its prices competitive, so you won't have to worry about paying through the nose for this exclusive beauty experience.
Pearl ash grey by Koichi
Haircut: From $75
Colour: From $100
Hairstylist Sone Ryuichi - well-known for his mastery at conjuring up dreamy ash hair colours - is just one of the attractions at this salon, tucked away in a quaint shophouse on Amoy Street, with warm woody interior design, a subtle and soothing house fragrance, and an excellent playlist of relaxing tunes to make your visit there nothing short of a mini holiday.
With beautiful lighting from the full-length windows and charming, earthy decor, this is one of the most instagrammable salons in Singapore.
Anchoring ROOM are Sone and Emiko, two briliant Japanese hairstylists who have amassed a huge number of Singaporean acolytes in just the past 3 years. Sone in particular is especially popular with BU agents for his up-to-the-minute hair colours and perms.
Titanium blonde by Sone
Other than having stellar Singaporean influencers such as Xiaxue constantly seeking his services, he also has the less dubious honour of receiving regular invitations to lecture about cuts and colours at leading salons throughout Southeast Asia
White purple by Sone
With his experience and skill, Sone is able to suggest the exact hair hue that's right for you by just having a quick glance at your skin tone!
White cream by Sone
He's not just proficient at vibrant colours either - Sone is great at adding complexity to otherwise safe office-friendly shades.
Ash brown by Sone
If you're looking for beautiful Japanese perms though, hit up the sunny Emiko. Serving as either Salon Manager or Top Stylist at her previous salons in both Singapore and Japan, Emiko's technical expertise in haircuts and perms has earned her a massive following. A must-try at Room Japanese Hair Salon is their new Advante perm and treatment, which Emiko can proficiently provide. We recently sent Agent A to experience this service, and she was absolutely besotted with the results!
Advante perm and treatment by Room Japanese Hair Salon
Colour: From $140
There's a lot to love about Flamingo Hair Studio, from their amazing ambience to their personalised service. And while we haven't spotted any actual flamingoes there, there is plenty of nature populating the salon, with greenery artfully appearing on the floors, walls, ceiling and even framing the mirrors, all illuminated by ample natural light. It's a stunning and serene environment.
Located in the CBD area, Flamingo Hair Studio is popular spot for many office workers to have a resort-lite excursion after they are done with their assignments for the day. The Tiong Bahru outlet is particularly popular with families due to the spacious surrounds, and not just horizontally but vertically - just look at how high their roof is!
The stylists here are fluent in English, having worked in Vancouver and other cities around the world, making communication a breeze, as well as collecting experience with different hair types.
Purple ombre by Tetsuya
They're also skilled in the full range of services including cuts and perms, rebonding and keratin treatment, which isn't something common across salons. We also love their dye jobs:
Subtle pink by Aki
And if you have unruly hair that you'd like to tame, Flamingo Hair Studio has stocked up on a veritable arsenal of shampoos and concotions for all your straightening, rebonding, and Keratin treatment needs.
Keratin treatment by Asako
They also pride themselves on detailed consultations, so that every service is custom-tailored according to the customer's requirements and habits. They also prioritise providing a style that can be maintained even at home.
Perm and Cut by Aki
Haircut: From $50
Colour: From $110
Renowned for his haircutting technique and ability to tackle difficult-to-manage hair textures, customers were distraight when the stylist Kizuki parted with his previous salon and seemingly went MIA - until he opened a brand new venture set in the scenic CHIJMES.
We love how customers get individual cubicles to maintain their personal space, and of course, the salon's talented top stylists, including the eponymous Shun Sakurai.
It's not for nothing that he's considered one of the best in Singapore for perms and haircuts - Shun has won numerous hair competitions in Japan, styled for top brands such as Chanel, and also reached the position of Top Stylist in Kizuki+LIM in record time.
Perm by Shun
Haven't heard of Shun? Your current stylist probably has. After all, he has been invitied by not one, but three haircare manufacturers to share his skills in hair styling and management.
Ash grey at Shun Sakurai
Having experimented with most brands available in the market, Shun knows the strengths and weaknesses of every product and is therefore able to maximize the best properties of each one, creating custom combinations for each unique customer.
Perm and treatment by Shun
And if you'd like to change up your style, be sure to look for Tomoka. One of the salon's unique selling points is that they offer complimentary point makeup and advice to all customers depending on availability.
Here, Tomoka will perform a consultation with you to determine both your hair and makeup style to bring out your personality.
Agent XL got a hair and makeup makeover here that completely transformed her vibe in 3 hours. Read on to find out more!
Colour: From $130
One of our favourite hair salons in the west of the island, Art Noise is a big name salon from Japan. Situated in a sunshiny shophouse just opposite Wala Wala, we adore its top-of-the-range equipment and its humble stylists with such palpable camaraderie between them that customers feel like they're being welcomed into a Japanese home. And yes, many of the stylists here are fluent in English and enjoy having conversations with their clients.
In their pursuit of excellence, Art-Noise specially imports its own quality shampoos and products innovated by Art-Noise group itself. And while they have quality hardware, their software is incredible too, with the staff's skill at performing head spas likely to put you right to sleep.
They're also exceptional at cuts and colours, especially if you're talking about the charmingly geeky Takumi with more than 12 years of experience in one of Japan's top Salons, Neolive. He takes his own lived experience with coarse, unruly hair to develop techniques in managing his customers' misbehaving mops.
Rebonding by Takumi
Meanwhile, Yuka's 12 years of hairdressing experience means she has developed a virtuosity with hair colours, and her stunning beige balayage and 3D highlights add sophistication and depth to otherwise what might be run-of-the-mill, office-approved browns. She also has serious skills in hair arrangement and braids, creating princess-worthy dos for brides, prom-goers and socialites.
Beige colour + Perm by Yuka
We're also big fans of the cuts at Art Noise, like the one below that balances slickness and cuteness.
Chic bob at Art Noise
We also can't praise their Chiffon Perm enough. Art Noise has cracked the code for perming fine, thin hair that other salons might reject for perms. We actually shamelessly raved about this service in the article, Art Noise's first Chiffon Perm for Fine Hair in Singapore.
Colour: From $95
AUBE is one of Japan's most popular hair salon chains with more than 200 hair salons worldwide, which is known for its mastery with manes, high-quality hair products and state-of-the-art equipment, all made accessible at value-for-money prices,
You can get hair colours for less than $95 for all hair lengths. Of course, this doesn't mean you'll feel deprived of an extravagant experience. The Wheelock outlet even has the auto-reclining yume chairs that you see in much pricier salons!
Agent CW's mom and Agent G's nieces are big supporters of Aube, shuttling between the 4 outlets in Singapore.
And they absolutely love Kazuki, the Top Stylist from one of Aube's most popular outlets in Japan who was selected to open Aube's flagship store here in 2017. Even while he was still a stranger to Singapore, Kazuki's appointment schedule filled up extremely rapidly with customers who quickly sussed out his superior skill in cuts and colours.
Highlights and lowlights by Kazuki
He was after all apprenticed to a famous Japanese stylist, and also spent one year in the Vidal Sassoon Academy UK. This also explains his impressive command of English.
While Kizuki was the pioneer, we're happy to report that all stylists throughout the 4 Aube Singapore outlets are extremely capable.
Beige by Benjawan
And the outlets are conveniently dotted across the island, including one in Clementi, which is currently celebrated as one of the must-visit places for hair hues.
Berry hair colour at Clementi outlet
With such an extensive talent pool to choose from, we recommend browsing the customer reviews on our website to figure out which Aube stylist's specialities and personality are the best fit for you.
Gradation silver by Aya
There's a nifty new kid in town - Threes. As the first overseas collaboration between beloved Japanese salons Shine Hair, Miel Hair and Eight Hair, we had high expectations, and we weren't disappointed. One of their stylists - Ryo - was even previously selected to colour and style the hair of possibly Japan's biggest pop star of all time: Ayumi Hamasaki!
Rose by Ryo
The best part? You can have your hair dyed by the same celebrity stylist for a mere $90 for a single colour - and that's before promotions!
Lowlight by Ryo
Several of the stylists here have experience across different countries and even continents, meaning they are unlikely to be stumped by your particular hair goal or concern.
Cut and colour by Chie
All the staff here are Japanese, completing the authenticity of this J-salon experience. And yes, they're fluent in English, and can take you confidently from consultation to cut to cheerfully strutting out of the salon with your stunning new look.
Colour: From $95
With a clean, Zen layout comprising simple components such as wood and bricks with leather accents, the cosy Bump by AVENTA is definitely easy on the eye. While the stylists here are not uniformly proficient in English, the receptionist doubles as an experienced translator - when one of our agents visited Bump by AVENTA, she not only had no problem getting her desired cut and colour, but even had a fun little conversation with her Japanese stylist via this articulate interpreter.
Speaking of stylists, the inimitable Daisuke is the salons's anchor. As 2nd prize winner for Nagano Hair Design competition 2 years in a row, it's no surprise that he's a masterful stylist who works well even under stress.
Ash brown by Daisuke
We particularly love his care perm that is both stylish and frankly, cheap. It is also the perfect choice for someone who is completely new to perms.
Why? Well it's quick, suitable even for damaged hair, and creates natural looking waves - Look at how chuffed our Agent is while modelling the style.
The salon is also boasts Konomi among its stylists, and we'd say she's the top choice for those who want a low-maintenance high-on-beauty do. Her incredible cuts for medium-length hair have been known to maintain their shape for just under a year.
Honey brown by Konomi
She attributes that to her focus on and insight into hair's silhouette and balance. By paying careful attention to designing a haircut that is flattering from all angles, she ensures your cut will maintain its form for a good, long time.
Brown highlights by Konomi
Extremely affordable hair services with Japanese hospitality are a rare combination that we'd be mad to ignore. And speaking of combinations, the word Risel is a fusion of the name Rigel -the brightest star in the Orion - and the word Select (as in exclusive). Accordingly, the salon's motto is to help customers shine bright, with a hairstyle handpicked just for them. This salon is a favourite with female professionals who need an office-friendly hair colour or a classy new haircut, but is also popular across various demographics because despite their low prices, the salon doesn't skimp on good quality products and astoundingly adroit stylists.
Agent G's sister gives her stamp of approval, noting that her new hair colour - courtesy of Risel - remained bright and vibrant for an impressively long time.
Ash blonde bayalage
We attribute this to him having cut his teeth at a luxury hair salon back in Tokyo where he cut and styled models for Paris Collection, and beautified high-society customers eager to buck trends and craft their own signature look.
With bargain prices for Japanese skill and service, it's hard to think of a reason not to give Risel a try.
Haircut: $90 (Try their bikami set (Trim + Head Spa + Afternoon Tea) at just $70)
Hidden on Level 2 in a shophouse along Circular Road is a gorgeous salon cum cafe staffed by one of Singapore's most well-loved Japanese stylists Koichi.
Here, you don't just get a stunning hair makeover but also a pampering scalp massage along with the premium Japanese WHITETREE herbal teas (available at Capella and other top hotel brands) free of charge!
At the end of the day though, the highlight here is the haircut and colour by highly experienced Japanese stylist Koichi.
Whether long or short, Koichi manages to incorporate a femininity and charm into the hairstyle that got us going WOW.
As he has been in Singapore for a number of years now, Koichi has accumulated a keen sense of what we ladies love and is thus able to deliver exactly that beautifully! He has also picked up quite a bit of English, making communication with him quite easy.
To make sure that the chance of miscommunication is reduced further, there are Singaporean staff in the salon who can help with translation, making WHITETREE one of newest favourite Japanese hair experiences to recommend!
Tried any of the above stylists before? Share your experience on BU.sg!