Kashiwa Life Chapter Three: Hair Care

It can be downright intimidating going into a pharmacy for the first time to buy hair care products. Even if you studied Japanese for a while, there’s a whole range of vocabulary you’ve likely never heard before. Furthermore, there is a dramatic difference between Japanese summer and Japanese winter. This can mean that you have to switch all of your hair care products as the seasons change and you need to have a very good understanding of how your hair tends to behave. If your hair tends to be oily, winter will be your friend and you’ll have to hit the products below harder in the summer. If your hair tends to be dry, summer might be a little kinder to you and you’ll want the products below on hand in the winter.

Here are some of the words to look out for as you shop for products to beat the heat or tame the dryness.

Type 1-Straight Hair (ストレートヘア)

Western woman posing for a selfie with 1A blonde hair

You may have problems with oil and putting products in your hair tends to make it look dirty. This type of hair is called 1A and has a soft, fine texture. Your hair may also appear flat at times and will not hold a curl. The words you’ll want to look for on your products are:

Useful vocabulary for 1A hair type. 油っぽい	Oily/greasy きめの細かい	Fine-textured スッキリ	Refreshing (usually these products are also clarifying) 無添加	Additive-free ヘアフォーム/ムース	Mousse ドライシャンプー	Dry shampoo ボリュームアップ	Volumizing 猫っ毛	Literally “cat hair”. Hair that is pin straight and resists curling.

Vietnamese woman with her hand on her chin in a black denim jacket

1B hair is straight but somewhat voluminous. The biggest difference between your hair and 1A hair is that your hair can hold a curl and naturally curls under slightly at the ends. Most Asian hair falls into this category or 1A, so you shouldn’t have problems using the majority of Japanese hair care products. You can basically use whatever products you’d like in your hair, but you may have some of the same problems that people with 1A have with oiliness. In that case, the above table should prove useful. Otherwise, go to town!

Western woman looking at a stone wall

1C hair is the most voluminous of the straight hair with thicker individual strands. This category tends to have coarse hair with some wavy strands here and there. Because there is naturally more waviness to this hair, it will hold a curl well. However, this hair type can become frizzy. Some of the important vocabulary words for your hair products are:

A table of useful japanese vocabulary for 1C hair types. やわらか	Soft 縮れ毛 / くせ毛	Frizzy hair ノンアルコール	Alcohol-free 界面活性剤不使用	Surfactant-free.

Type 2-Wavy Hair (くせ毛)

Asian woman with back turned to show 2A balayage hair

2A hair doesn’t have as much of a problem with frizzing as other types of wavy hair. You have fine strands with loose natural beach waves. Generally, you’re going to want to lay off the oils when wearing it naturally because your curls are fragile. Look for 無添加 (additive-free) products. Luckily, you don’t have any issues styling your hair, as your hair will straighten easily and form a curl nicely.

2B hair has a nice amount of volume and body but gets dried out and occasionally frizzy. The waves are strong, so you have more flexibility with products. Fortunately, there are some Japanese people with this hair type so you should be able to find products that work with your hair. Some words you’ll want to look out for are:

A table of useful japanese vocabulary for 2B hair types. ヘアフォーム/ムース	Mousse 縮れ毛 / くせ毛	Frizzy hair ノンアルコール	Alcohol-free うるおい	Moisturized やわらか	Soft ヘアクリーム	Styling cream 界面活性剤不使用	Surfactant-free
Laughing woman with red wavy hair wearing a scarf

2C hair is the most difficult to style and becomes frizzy easily. At the same time, it is naturally voluminous and looks great the less you touch it. To control the frizz and return moisture to your hair, you’re going to want to use the same products as 2B. You may also want to look into ヘアパック (a hair mask).

Type 3-Curly Hair (カーリーヘア、天然パーマ)

Closeup of curly-haired woman looking off-camera

3A hair is a mix of large, soft curls and waves. This hair type also works better if you don’t mess with it too much. The curls are fragile and your hair is sensitive to humidity. You’re going to want products that say:

A table of useful japanese vocabulary for 3A hair types. 縮れ毛 / くせ毛	Frizzy hair ノンアルコール	Alcohol-free 洗い流さないトリートメント	Leave-in conditioner 界面活性剤不使用	Surfactant-free

Girl out in the sun with curly hair and glasses

3B hair is springy and more defined. The curls are tighter and hair tends to remain closer to the head than 3A hair, but frizziness and dryness can still be an issue. You might want to look for:

A table of useful japanese vocabulary for 3B hair types. ひまわりオイル	Sunflower oil 縮れ毛 / くせ毛	Frizzy hair ノンアルコール	Alcohol-free 洗い流さないトリートメント	Leave-in conditioner うるおい	Moisturized ヘアクリーム	Styling cream スタイリングジェル	Styling gel 界面活性剤不使用	Surfactant-free

Before I go any farther into hair types, I just wanted to let all of you with afro-textured hair know that you do not necessarily have to go all the way to Tokyo to get hair products for your hair or get your hair cut or styled. There is a salon in Kashiwa called Addition-B that specializes in afro-textured hair. They also have styling products on hand.

Since we’re now getting into afro-textured hair territory, I consulted the expertise of a friend who has been living in Japan for some time now. She gave me some great resources about hair types and I came to find out from her that porosity and density are a much bigger deal when it comes to hair care than curl pattern. Let’s get into some of the vocabulary that will come in handy for different porosity types.

Black woman with large dyed afro and hoop earrings

High Porosity Hair
Your hair loves product and soaks it up like a sponge, which is great when it comes to adding shininess. Because of your hair’s porosity, drying is a breeze but sometimes it dries too well and you end up with frizziness and tangles. Some of the words you might want to be on the lookout for are:

A table of useful japanese vocabulary for high porosity hair types. パラベンフリー	Paraben-free ひまわりオイル	Sunflower oil 縮れ毛 / くせ毛	Frizzy hair ノンアルコール	Alcohol-free 洗い流さないトリートメント	Leave-in conditioner うるおい	Moisturized ヘアクリーム	Styling cream やわらか	Soft 界面活性剤不使用	Surfactant-free ヘアパック	Hair mask アルガンオイル	Argan oil くすみ	Dull

Black woman walking outside with tattoos wearing overalls

Medium Porosity Hair
Your hair tends to be lower-maintenance, but this can vary based on the season. You’ll have to keep an eye on your medium porosity hair and change your products as necessary. This is particularly the case in Japan since the humidity levels change dramatically from summer to winter. Maintain a good routine throughout the year to protect your hair, but don’t be surprised if you lean toward high porosity in the winter and low porosity in the summer. To maintain your hair’s condition, use ヘアパック (a hair mask) and 洗い流さないトリートメント (leave-in conditioner) so it can be protected from damage.

Black woman outside wearing a headband and braids

Low Porosity Hair
Your hair is naturally luminous and handles humidity well, but it doesn’t absorb product easily and even water doesn’t always want to penetrate your hair. Adding more just increases build-up so you have to be careful that the products you use are compatible with low porosity hair. Some useful vocabulary for you might be:

A table of useful japanese vocabulary for low porosity hair types. パラベンフリー	Paraben-free はちみつ	Honey 縮れ毛 / くせ毛	Frizzy hair ノンアルコール	Alcohol-free 洗い流さないトリートメント	Leave-in conditioner ヘアミルク	Hair milk スタイリングジェル	Styling gel 界面活性剤不使用	Surfactant-free ヘアパック	Hair mask グリセリン	Glycerin

For more information about afro-textured hair care, check out the Black Women in Japan (BWIJ) Facebook page!

Nobody knows your hair better than you, but I hope that this article can serve as a guide to help you on your shopping trip!

For information about skincare and pharmacies in Kashiwa, check out my seasonal skincare article!

This article is written by:

United States




Hey guys! I’m Sydney, your friendly neighborhood foreigner! I moved to Japan in 2014, but I came to Kashiwa in 2019. Despite my name, I’m American not Australian.

When I first arrived in Japan, I was so relieved to find articles written by other foreigners about how to make my way in my new country. Now that I’ve been here a while, I’d like to share what I’ve learned as well and pay it forward.