I’m going to let you in on a little secret, Koreans aren’t born with perfectly wavy hair. They have to earn it!
The good news is, PATIENCE and MONEY are all you need to get that pretty Korean perm.
And that hard work pays off for up to 6 months.
Appearances are EVERYTHING in Korea. So perms have evolved to be pretty good.
Korean perms may cost you some money and time up front, but you’ll get it all back by not having to style your hair every morning. Best of all, you’ll only need to visit the hair salon once or twice a year!
What a bargain!😘
Read on to find out how to achieve your desired results.
What is a Korean perm?
Have you noticed how every Korean man and woman has perfectly styled wavy hair?
Some use hair irons or Dys*n Airwrap, but most would’ve gotten a wave perm at a hair salon.
Of course, the flawless hairstyles of K-celebrities are blow-dry/iron done by professional hairstylists.
And, when you show their photos to a hair designer as a reference, you’ll hear, “this was done by iron, ms./mr. (손님, 이건 고데기에요)” 99% of the time. In other words, manage your expectations.
Still, a Korean wave perm will guarantee a natural, elegant and volumizing hairstyle for 3-6 months.
Don’t be shy to go to a Korean hair salon whether you’re in Seoul or Koreatown in the States.
Oh by the way, Koreans used to call perm as “파마 (pah-mah)”, but this is associated with the ajumma perm image of super curly short hair. Younger Koreans now call perms, “펌 (peom without an R sound)”.
What are the types of Korean perm?
Build perm, rain perm, jelly perm, cloud perm, flower perm… It’s so hard to keep up with Korean perm names. It’s difficult not just for us, but for hair designers too!
As a matter of fact, despite the million names, there are 2 main perm types: standard cold perm (ilban or 일반 파마) vs. thermal hot perm (yeol or 열파마)
|Standard “Cold” Perm||Thermal “Hot” Perm|
|Method||Perm agents/chemicals applied to dry hair and hair put into curlers (perm rods). Cold wave solution is added and left on for 15-30 minutes then neutralizing solution is applied.||Perm agents/chemicals are applied and rinsed. Hair is divided into sections. Then, hair is rolled up with rods and attached to heating machine. Neutralizing solution is applied to fix the curls.|
|Duration||Short (1.5-2 hours)||Long (over 3 hours)|
(usually double the cold perm price)
|Recommended for||Thin hair that can be easily damaged||Thick hair that’s prone to get frizzy|
|Pros||Quick, easy and causes less damage||Glossy waves, less maintenance and long-lasting curls|
|Cons||Curls don’t last long|
Hair gets frizzy
|Skill level of hair designer matters the most|
|Styling Tips||Apply essence to wet hair||Follow the instructions of hair designers as blow-drying is important|
|Types||1. Wave perm|
2. Hippie perm
3. Baby perm
|1. Lovely perm|
2. Magic perm
3. Setting perm
4. Bonnie or Bob S curl perm
5. C curl perm
Setting perm (세팅펌) and digital perm (디지털펌) are both types of “hot perm” using different machines with different temperature settings.
- Uses a machine with high temperatures over 248℉
- Creates bouncy curls that last the longest
- Is for long hair, and doesn’t touch the scalp due to high heat
- Uses a machine with temperatures starting from 176℉
- Creates natural, flowy curls and volumizes hair
- Is for both short and long hair as it can touch the scalp with low heat
The boundary between setting and digital perms has become vague, as technology advanced. Now, one machine can handle temperature settings from 104 to 266℉.
Korean blow dryer?
No matter what hairstyle you have, your blow dryer really matters.
I’m using a model by JMW, which is the one Korean hair salons use the most. It quickly dries hair, minimizing damage.
Your Korean hairstylist will teach you how to blow dry and style depending on your perm.
Using a large hair roller for bangs also helps volumize!
What are the popular perm styles in Korea?
Korean perms for men
You might be surprised, but many Korean men get perms. My brother gets permed up at a hair salon more frequently than me, like every three months.
Let’s check out trendy perm styles for men!
1. As Perm (애즈펌)
As Perm is similar to parting perm, but the biggest difference is that it covers the forehead with curls up to the front, showing a tiny window of forehead.
This style is perfect for men who are self-conscious about their foreheads. It’s a perfect boyfriend perm. As perm costs about 60,000 to 80,000 won (46-61 dollars) in Korea.
2. Parting Perm (가르마펌)
Parting Perm volumizes bangs and reveals about half the forehead, making it perfect for a summer look. This style has been trendy steadily since the K-drama, “Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (도깨비)” on Netflix.
It should also cost about 60,000 to 80,000 won (46-61 dollars) in Korea.
3. Shadow Perm (쉐도우펌)
Shadow Perm has layers of curls like shadows. It softens the impression with a warmer look. Since it volumizes hair overall, it’s best for spring, fall and winter, not summer.
4. See Through Perm (시스루펌)
See Through Perm gives a neat and tidy look. It’s perfect for men who want to cover their foreheads or M-shaped hairlines.
Well, anything will look great on Cha Eun-woo, who’s known as “얼굴천재 (face genius)” in South Korea, but this perm does look great. (´▽`ʃ♡ƪ)
Korean perms for women
Korean women get wave perms to have a gorgeous hairstyle without any hassle!
I started getting “magic (매직)” in middle school. Read on to find out what magic means and other trendy perms for women!
1. Bonnie Perm (보니펌)
Bonnie Perm means C-curls in the back and S-curls on the side (or just C-curls) to bob hairstyles (short to medium length haircut). IU started this trend and made everyone catch “short hair syndrome (단발병)”. It makes you look younger and lovelier with volumized hair.
2. Hippie Perm (히피펌)
Hippie Perm creates a unique look with tightly coiled curls and exotic image. It can look cute and sexy at the same time, depending on how you style with it. I once got a hippie perm unintentionally in Spain when I asked for “natural curls”. 🤣🤣
That’s when I realized the definition of natural can be so different in other countries. (In Korea, natural-looking curls mean loose waves.) FYI, baby perm is a form of this one for shorter hair, but it’s out of fashion now.
3. Magic (매직)
When it comes to hair, magic means magic straight perm in Korea. It gets rid of frizz and creates that silky smooth hair you see on shampoo commercials. Korean girls usually start getting it in middle and high school.
Hairdressers will use chemicals and straighten every inch of their hair with an iron. It removes volume though, so most people now get volume magic or magic setting perm to have smooth texture with a bit of volume and curls.
4. Grace Perm (그레이스펌)
Grace Perm is also known as goddess hairstyle (여신 머리) in South Korea. It adds S-curls to naturally volumize, making it perfect for long hair. It has a really nice feminine look. I think this perm looks great throughout the year, but especially in fall and winter. It just has that F/W mood.
How to get the best Korean perm?
- Figure out what you want first, then look for salons that specialize in your look and hair type
- Do you want a Korean or Japanese perm? Like the two cultures, Japanese perms are milder whereas Korean perms are wavier and more expressive
- Start with healthy hair by giving it a break a few days before getting one
- Check Instagram for the look you want. Remember that they took a lot of time getting the lighting and angle right though.
- Read reviews on Google and Yelp, preferably in Korean
- Show don’t tell. A picture is worth a thousand words, so have a few handy!
- Ask about the price beforehand
- You get what you pay for sometimes. Make sure the stylist uses better hair products with natural ingredients free of parabens, silicones, sulfates and behentrimonium chloride
- Let your stylist know if you feel any discomfort during the process
How long does it take to get a Korean perm?
Cold perms take about 1.5 to 2 hours, and hot perms take at least 3 hours.
I have long hair and normally spend 4 hours at a hair salon, which includes haircut, lots of shampoo in between, either coloring or perming, and styling at the end.
Don’t worry though! It’s tiring, but not that boring since Korean hair designers will serve you a cup of coffee or tea, give you a magazine to read on a comfy cushion over your lap, and have a chat with you.
Once your hair is done, you’ll feel so confident!
How long do Korean perms last?
Korean perms last about 3-6 months depending on your styling and conditioning.
Even after the perm fades, your hair will still look natural and beautiful. So, if you don’t feel like it, you can revisit a year later, or not!
Some of my friends with perfect hair at all times get their hair done once a month or quarterly. I usually visit hair salons once or twice a year. ♪(^∇^*) It’s entirely up to you.
When can I shampoo after getting a Korean perm?
A day after, as in 24 hours! When you want to wash your hair before that, try rinsing with lukewarm/cold water or use only conditioner/treatment to maintain the waves. If your perm is too strong, you can shampoo it to weaken the curls.
Can I put my hair up or wear a hat after getting my hair permed?
It’s better to leave your perm alone for a while (about 1-7 days). Since perming agents are still in your hair, ponytails/hair buns or a hat may leave marks or alter the hairstyle. Short story long, leave it alone!
Should I get hair treatment at a salon?
If you’re concerned about damaged hair, you can ask for hair treatment as an add-on. If your hair is already too damaged, your stylist might suggest it (or they might give you one as subeesu). When you want to save money, you can buy a product either from the salon or Sephora/CVS and use it at home.
How to make your Korean perm last longer?
- Ask your stylist for some recommendations on how to maintain your hair
- Don’t wash your hair for one full day (24 hours)
- Make sure your conditioner has protein and minerals
- Let conditioner and hair treatment/mask sit in for 5 minutes in the shower
- Use a microfiber towel instead of a cotton one
- Wash your hair every other day for the first week to make it last
- Brush your hair with your fingers to ride the waves and avoid wearing them out
- Avoid swimming and getting your hair wet
- As tempting as it may be, try not to touch it
How much does a Korean perm cost?
Korean perms for men usually cost about 60,000 to 80,000 won (46-61 dollars), but this depends on the hair salon and stylist.
Korean perms for women cost about 100,000 to 200,000 won (77- 154 dollars). They’ll charge extra for longer hair.
You can kind of negotiate the price with a hair designer. When you pay in cash, they’ll give you a discount around 10 to 15% as well.
You don’t tip in Korea, but follow the tipping rules in the States. Some places in K-town won’t ask for a tip as well.
What type of Korean perm should I get?
The million-dollar question that most Korean girls think about A lot.
It depends on your face shape, hair type and hair length. Asian hair is different from other types, so check if your stylist is comfortable with yours. Here are the most popular Korean perms:
- Shorter hair with a round or oval face looks better with bonnie or magic setting perm
- Shoulder length hair with a heart-shaped face looks great with body perm
- Longer than shoulder length with a square or rectangular face would work with magic, grace or hippie perm
- Frizzy curly hair that goes crazy in humid weather responds well to magic perm
- Flat hair can benefit from a Korean root perm to add volume (makes your face look smaller which is a good thing in Korean culture!)
Should I get a Korean perm first or dye/color first?
I know we want it all. We just need to get the order right for that perfect wavy hair with nice coloring.
Your hair designer will tell you the same, but basically, you can get a Korean perm first, then color your hair after a week or two.
Why? You may ask. If you color your hair first, it’ll damage the hair, making it difficult to form pretty curls. Also, perming agents will further brighten your hair color.
Do most Koreans get perms?
Yes! Most Koreans get perms on a regular basis. Within my family alone, my mom, brother and I get perms, except my dad, so the ratio is pretty high.
Most of my friends get perms, even the macho types. Only when my friends get pregnant, they put a pause on visiting hair salons. It’s because of all the chemicals.
Where can I get a Korean perm in the USA?
To be honest, most Koreans will just go back to the motherland since it’s cheaper. But, if you don’t plan on taking a trip overseas, here are some good options.
928 S Western Ave #323, Los Angeles, CA 90006, United States
400 S Western Ave #201, Los Angeles, CA 90020, United States
333 5th Ave 2nd floor, New York, NY 10016, United States
149-48 41st Ave, Flushing, NY 11355, United States
Miracle Hair Salon
3705 Old Norcross Rd, Duluth, GA 30096, United States
407 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002, United States
4209 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105, United States
13615 Inwood Rd #160, Dallas, TX 75244, United States
9620 N Milwaukee Ave, Niles, IL 60714, United States
Did we miss anything?
Grooming well in Korea is always a good idea.
Let me know if you have any questions about Korean perms!
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