10 Korean products I would export to the U.S. (if I had an export business) #9, Mens' Hair gel/wax
This is continuing the series of Korean products which I think we should export to the U.S.
#9 Mens’ Hair Gel/Wax
In the U.S., there are generally only two types of hair styling products, those made for “straight hair”, and those made for “curly hair”. These are in fact code words for what they really mean, products for white people and products for black people. A significant portion of the U.S. isn’t either white or black (the U.S. also has many Latinos, East Asians, South Asians, and Middle Easterners). Unfortunately for these people, we are forced to use the products designed for white people by default. For some, this poses little problem. But in my case, I always found that American hair gel and hair spray was simply not strong enough, smelled funny, and generally didn’t do the job it was designed to do.
We’re not just talking hair gel or hair spray here either. I remember wanting to dye my hair to a lighter shade once. So, I went to the local CVS, picked up the strongest hair bleach I could find, with the blondest Swedish looking woman on the front. The instructions said to apply it for 30 minutes and rinse promptly. After 30 minutes, my hair was still jet black. So I waited another 30 minutes, and it was still jet black. I decided to wait 2 more hours. After 2 hours it was dark brown. I decided to wait some more, but being an idiot, I fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning with copper colored hair. After washing it out, I wasn’t at all satisfied with the color, but I figured that 11 hours with the stuff in my hair probably wasn’t a good idea, considering that the instructions suggested 30 minutes. For the next two weeks, I had severe dandruff, as the hair bleach had killed the top layer of skin on my scalp.
Needless to say, it’s pretty clear that hair products designed for white people don’t exactly work for me.
This all changed in 2002, when I moved to Japan. In Japan I never had this problem, as the Japanese hair care products worked exactly as I expected they would. It was in Japan that I learned about a specific brand of “Super Hard” hair gel. This stuff is so good that one time I used some before a camping trip. I had impeccable hair for the the whole weekend, even though I had styled my hair before the camping trip, and I didn’t shower for the duration of the trip (afterall it’s camping). I came back with hair looking just as perfect as when I had left. This stuff gives a whole new meaning to “helmet hair”. And it’s water soluble to boot.
People in Japan also used hair wax, but being as how I had never used it before, I decided against it. Also my hairstyle at the time happened to be a little bit longer, and gel worked better for me.
Then I came to Korea in 2006. Being the fashionable guy that I am, I quickly adapted to local hairstyles. (See the above picture of International Superstar Rain, for an example.) At first I attempted this with the same Japanese hair gel that I had been using (which they sell in Korea also.) Later, my friends told me that I should start using hair wax if that’s the kind of look I was going for. And so I switched to hn styling wax. HN was the cheapest brand, and I could experiment with it until I found a wax that I liked. This wax is made by Somang cosmetics. Those hair waxes, were good, but for some reason I couldn’t seem to match the expertise of the hair salon by myself.
I then switched to “Procure Transtyle WAX” Extreme Pricky” made by Missha. The name sounds funny, I know, but this stuff is magic. After applying it, you can style it in any way you want, and your hair will hold whatever shape you want.
Why would this sell in America? Afterall if you have an export business, you’d need to make money, right?
That’s a pretty important concern. Usually these products (and probably all the ones on this top 10 list )can be found in Asian groceries, but they are usually 3 or 4 times the price that they would be in Korea. And this is where you need to somehow go mainstream with them. One thing is for certain, that if we are going to sell these in America, we’d need a strong marketing campaign.
But how are you going to compete with already established European and American hair styling brands?
In the late 1990’s I was into the underground live music scene, and a lot of the kids who would go to these shows would spend hours before the show doing their hair in strange punk styles, sometimes going to the extreme of using egg whites to style their hair. They would also have to shampoo with egg removal shampoo afterwards. Think of the smell after a few hours of eggy hair! Well, this hair wax would probably do even a better job than egg whites, and it’s water soluble. So you could market it to them.
You could also market the stuff to anyone with thick straight hair, meaning Asians and (some) Latinos. With the correct marketing strategy, this stuff would easily sell, and provide a much overdo service to those of us who find American hair styling products ineffective.
(Disclaimer: I don’t normally think this much about my hair and hairstyles. The product itself got me off on a tangent.)