Finding a good hair stylist who you can trust not to bodge up your locks can be a real mission in Hong Kong. Luckily, we’ve hit the jackpot with the Hair Doctor who has the perfect remedy up his sleeve at Indulgence salon.
A trip to the hair salon can often end up becoming a far more stressful task than you ever imagined in our bustling city. Too many times have our hopes of being spoiled (or at least well looked after) have been tossed out the window in place of the conveyor belt system that we inevitably fall into at some of the more popular salons.
Then there’s the whole issue of trust and wondering whether you can actually sit back and relax with that pile of gossip magazines, safe in the knowledge that your stylist won’t send you home with a Marge Simpson blue tinge (yep, I’ve been there) or lopping off far more than you actually asked for (been there too). With so many potential salon fails, it makes sense to find a good stylist and stick with them, so when the time came to give my hair a much needed makeover, I turned to Steve Mather — aka the “Hair Doctor” — to guide me painlessly through the process.
Who is The ‘Hair Doctor’ You Ask?
Well, that was a question I asked myself too when numerous photos of beaming women with luscious, sun-kissed locks began to pop up on my Facebook and Instagram feed. It turns out the Doc has a stellar reputation among his clientele, and earned his nickname by helping poor, disheartened women correct their bodged up cuts and colours after experiencing the nightmarish conveyor belt. This alone filled me with confidence, but I was also won over by the impressive list of salons, like Toni and Guy, the Vidal Sassoon Academy, Jean Louis David International Salon, and The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Salon, that graced his resume. With over thirty years of experience working and training students in London, New York, and Beijing, in all areas of hair styling, cutting, colouring, and my personal favourite, balayage, I knew I would be in safe hands with the Doc.
A Cut Above the Rest
So what gives the Doc the “cutting” edge in the salon world? Well, several things really — as I learnt from my recent appointment with him at trendy Indulgence salon in Central (pictured above) where he now operates from. First of all, the Doc won’t do anything to your hair until you’ve had a full consultation with him first. That way, he can spend some time getting to access the colour and texture and understand exactly what you’re hoping to achieve before offering suggestions and booking you an appointment — pretty rare in Hong Kong, right?
Luckily, my needs were fairly basic: a splash of balayage to add some vibrancy, and a much needed trim to remove the split ends. In case you don’t know already, balayage is a technique used to create sun-kissed, natural looking highlights with softer, less noticeable regrowth lines. This is highly appealing to low-maintenance girls like me who don’t wish to spend half their time (or money) in hair salons getting re-touches.
Named after the French word meaning “to sweep” or “to paint”, the method involves applying the hair colour below the roots, meaning the highlights can be left to grow out naturally without having to pop back for re-touches every six weeks or so. This has made it a hugely popular (and cheaper) option for women the world over – including many Hollywood A-listers who want that “I just stepped off a beach in California” look. So, after scrolling through the Doc’s iPad of #nofilter photos of previous “painted” clients, we agreed on a lovely shade of blonde and a hair cut to add some shape and volume to my tresses. The appointment was made and we were all set to go.
Now when I first arrived at Indulgence, I wasn’t expecting to have the Doc entirely to myself, but that’s exactly what I got, because one of his strict policies is that he will only ever book one client at a time, meaning he can focus on them 100 percent and give them the time they need — and crave. Pretty unheard of in Hong Kong, right? Sat in my comfy chair, overlooking the lush green backdrop of Central, with a stack of glossy magazines in one hand and a frothy coffee in the other, I let him begin to work his magic on my straw-like locks.
The “Proper” Technique
Now usually at the salon, the stylist applies the colour before cutting (which I’ve never really understood), so I was pleasantly surprised when the Doc grabbed his scissors and began chopping off my split ends with swift precision before adding some subtle layers to create volume. Respecting that I love my long hair, he promised only to take a few inches off the ends and didn’t try to bully me into going much shorter or worse — lop it off without asking me first which has happened in the past! #trauma
Once we were both happy with the shape of the cut, it was onto the colouring, where he began to tease small sections of my hair and paint on a “secret ingredient” with a sponge. I was hugely relieved to discover that this magic concoction didn’t make my eyes water with overpowering fumes and dried quickly like clay. What this mystery product is I can’t tell you, because I’m pretty sure the Doc will take it to his grave! All I can say is that it looks a lot like shaving foam and produces a clean blonde look with soft shading and no orange tones — phew!
Now I’ve had balayage done several times before in Hong Kong, but 9 times out of 10 the stylist has used foils in the process, which I soon learnt (from the Doc) is not the correct technique. I guess he should know, having studied it back in Paris — the home of balayage — before training a team to do it. The whole idea is to enhance your natural hair colour by creating contrast, but using foils eliminates your natural colour, thus making it look unnatural and saturated, while creating ugly regrowth that needs constant maintenance — no thank you!
The lack of pesky foils not only meant that I was in for a more comfortable experience, but it also allowed the Doc to rely on his incredible eye for detail and steady hand to freestyle it like a painter working on a canvas, standing back occasionally to observe where more contrast was needed. Once his masterpiece was complete, and my hair was sufficiently clayed, I spent twenty minutes under a heater before it was time to hit the wash basin and indulge in a relaxing head massage from his assistant. Interestingly, they didn’t apply a toner at this stage as there was no need to given the “secret ingredient” did all the hard work.
As the Doc began to comb and blow dry small sections of my hair using a big barrel brush to create soft curls, gorgeous tones of blonde began to emerge and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that they weren’t bright orange or blue. My oh-so-natural spring glow came to life and the blonde tones contrasted beautifully, while keeping in harmony with my fair complexion. The operation was complete and I felt like a million dollars!
So the verdict? Apart from his charming quirks, the one thing that really struck me about the Doc was just how much he cared about my hair — perhaps even more than I do. This is rare in Hong Kong! And for anyone looking to feel pampered and spruce up their locks in the most low-maintenance way possible, then balayage is an absolute no-brainer – especially when you have an expert like the Doc behind the helm — or sponge. No roots, no touch-ups, no fuss, all you need to give up is around three hours of your time.
Surprisingly, the balayage treatment costs quite a lot less than other salons I’ve been to, coming it at $1,700 for first time clients, and a haircut at $1,000 — worth every dollar considering the time, care, skill, and love you receive when you walk through the door. This also works out lighter on your wallet in the long run, when you take into account the potential cost of frequent trips to the salon for highlight re-touches (around $1,000 a pop). Plus, who can be bothered with maintaining roots every every 6 to 8 weeks, or dealing with straw-like hair from overprocessing?
It’s safe to say that my appointment with the Hair Doctor was a total success, and I was only too happy to join the #nofilter album of beaming clients with luscious, sun-kissed locks. Turns out he really lives up to his reputation.
Indulgence, Silver Fortune Plaza, 1 Wellington St, Central, (+852) 2815 6600
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