The Top Hair-Color Trends in South Korea for 2019, According to Seoul's Biggest Hairstylists

The Top Hair-Color Trends in South Korea for 2019, According to Seoul's Biggest Hairstylists

Korean woman with ashy purple and blue hair

Find out how Koreans make cherry blossom season happen whenever they want and why they love ash tones.

K-pop stars aren't the only ones in Seoul, South Korea, with a penchant for having literally any hair color other than their natural hue. They may not be constantly changing it up at chameleon-like rates, but the general public does too. "These days, most people want to dye their hair," hairstylist Eunji Kim tells me when I sit down with her at Jennyhouse, a hair, makeup, and nail salon in Seoul's Cheongdam-dong neighborhood. "Even if it’s not a dramatic change, people don’t want to keep their natural, black hair."

With more people coloring their hair than ever before, I was curious to know what kind of dye jobs they're indulging in lately. For added insight, I also stopped by the incredibly Insta-friendly salon Woosun to see owner and hairstylist Sunwoo Kim. He's the go-to hairstylist of model/entrepreneur Irene Kim, who helped popularize rainbow hair in South Korea. By extension, Sunwoo is basically one of the major sources of South Korea's most popular hair-color trends. Keep scrolling to find out what exactly they are.

1. Ash Tones
The Top HairColor Trends in Korea for 2019 According to Pros

As I was browsing beauty stores in Seoul, I noticed of the names of the at-home hair colors available were proceeded by ash: gray, brown, pink, blue, purple. Tonymoly even sells an ash green hair-color treatment with Monsta X's I.M on the box. Needless to say, when Sunwoo and Eunji brought up ash in our conversation, I wasn't surprised at all. Both of them agree that ash tones are just as popular in their salons as they are on the shelves.

Box of Tonymoly ash green color treatment with Monsta X's I.M on it

A bit of color theory is what's behind the boom. South Koreans naturally have red tones in their hair, and a lot of them want to get rid of the redness, according to Sunwoo. The cool tones of ash hair colors help cancel out unwanted red hues. Another reason is their complexions tend to have red and yellow undertones, and many believe ash dye jobs flatter both and brighten your face at the same time, he adds.

Eunji says that people are taking the trend up a notch by adding a metallic effect to their ash hair colors, and violet, lavender, and gray are the most popular color selections for this look.

2. Multi-Tonal Highlights
Korean HairColor Trend Woman with brown bob that has multitonal blonde highlights
Sunwoo Kim/Instagram

OK, multi-tonal highlights may not seem like something worth bringing up, as it's usually the go-to way to add dimension to hair in the U.S. However, the trend is just catching on in Seoul. In the past, people highlighted their hair in one tone because they believed it was a cleaner, more polished look, Sunwoo explains. "Now, they like to mix it up, and one tone is considered old [school]."

Not only has the popularity of highlights among celebrities impacted the shift, but Sunwoo also says the revival of the '90s aesthetic has brought back highlights in its new modern, multi-tonal way. Also, people aren't dyeing their hair bright colors all over as much anymore. Instead, they are opting for subtle highlights in pink, purple, and blue, Sunwoo reveals.

3. Cherry Blossom

Korean HairColor Trend Selfie of woman with Cherry Blossompale pink hair
Eunji Kim/Instagram

Cherry blossom season may be fleeting, but South Koreans extend it through late spring and summer by dyeing their hair petal pink. Eunji even had cherry blossom hair herself when I met her. I was so caught up in the excitement, that I was tempted to match my hair to the flowers, too.
According to Sunwoo, this softer, muted tone is replacing bright pink, which was popular last year. These days, people prefer toned-down hair colors because they have a "cooler vibe" that fits the '90s comeback trend.

4. Personalized Brown

 Irene Kim with brown hair at Chanel x Pharrell event
Getty Images

The easiest way for South Koreans to switch up their hair color is going brunette. A specific shade of brown isn't typically requested, though. Lately, clients have been entrusting their stylists to whip up a formula based on their complexion and personal tastes. Eunji notes that different levels of beige, pink, and red are added depending on the person.
"People have shifted toward their own personalized look," Sunwoo says. "A few years back, people would come in asking for Irene’s colors, but these days, many people tend to want a color that fits them rather than [wanting] to follow someone else." Even Irene herself is moving toward more neutral hair colors. Sunwoo says she is doing so to improve the health of her hair as she grows it out.

5. Living Coral

Korean Hair Color Trend selfie of woman with Living Coral hair against a white background
Eunji Kim/Instagram
At the beginning of 2019, we ID'd Living Coral, the Pantone Color of the Year, as one of the biggest hair-color trends stateside. It's just as major in South Korea. Eunji points out that the coral hue she's been coloring her clients' hair isn't as bold as the Pantone paint chip, though — it's more of a pastel coral. (Again, she's also tried out this color herself.) BTS's Jimin, on the other hand, has been sticking true to tone with his latest dye job, though.
BTS's Jimin with Living Coral hair on the red carpet against a black background
Getty Images
According to Lee Hee Jung, who works on Jennyhouse's marketing team, many South Koreans love Living Coral because they believe it flatters their complexions. They even match it with Living Coral makeup for a fully coordinated look.
Overall, the biggest hair-color trends in South Korea are a lot more subtle than the vibrant looks that K-pop stars love. However, all of the trends offer up fun ways to change up your hair, no matter what the season may be.
Devon's trip to Seoul was made possible by the Korean Tourism Organization.


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