When it comes to Korean beauty trends, we’ve been inspired by 12-step routines for glass skin, soft-focused gradient lips, and, surely, ever-elegant Korean perms. Gone are the days of tightly-coiled curls, and here to stay are the loose, cascading waves that define the trending Korean ‘do.
But a Korean perm is not suitable for every hair type, and there are many other things to consider when getting K-style curls at the salon too.
To find out just what it takes to flaunt a graceful coiffed hairstyle, we spoke to Chez Vous: HideAway’s Associate Director, Oscar Lee for his expert tips. Here’s everything you need to know before you get a Korean perm in Singapore!
What is a Korean perm?
Oscar explained, “Korean Perm refers to the soft and wavy hairstyles popularised by many Korean celebrities in the last decade during the Hallyu wave.”
A Korean perm, in other words, is the style of your curls and not the method that’s used to achieve the hairstyle. It’s characterised by soft and loose waves, unlike the tight coils that are featured in a traditional perm.
Types of Korean perms
While there are a myriad of ways that Korean women can wear their curls if they choose to, the perms that are hot and trending in Korea (and now in Singapore too) are the S-curl, C-curl, and face-framing waves.
The S-curl Korean perm describes the shape of the waves perfectly: a gentle back-and-forth coil, shaped like the alphabet S.
“S-curl perms are suitable for customers who want to add a little movement to their hair, so that it does not appear pin-straight,” shared Oscar. “The best part? The S-curl perm does not damage the whole hair as it is done only on its ends.”
Since these S-shaped curls hold better on hair with good elasticity, Oscar also emphasises that it’s ideal for those with already healthy and neat hair.
If you’ve got ultra-thick and dense tresses, then it might be best to skip this style completely or opt for a pre-service hair treatment that’ll first help to tame your mane; aside from taking on an odd A-line silhouette, your hair is likely to become more unruly and unmanageable than usual.
On the big plus side, S curls are suitable for every face shape, whether round, heart-shaped, oval, or square.
The gentle upward curl at the ends of the tresses is why the C-curl perm has its name.
Unlike the S-curl perm which features loose coils along nearly the entire length of the hair, the C-curl perm features a casual flick upwards and inwards only at the very ends of the strands.
However, “C curls will be more short-lived than S curls,” Oscar noted. “And the hair has to be even more healthy to hold the C curls.”
Popularised by Descendants of the Sun actress Song Hye-Kyo, who donned a shoulder-length bob with curled ends in the television series, the C-curl Korean perm is evidently a perm that works well for both long and short hairstyles.
Not quite so for hair that’s in between, aka shoulder-length tresses, because the C curls will bend messily both inwards and outwards where the sections rest.
Oscar recommends that you pair a C-curl Korean perm with hair that’s short, above the shoulders, or at least six inches below the collarbones.
Focus on bringing attention to your face and features with these K-inspired curls.
“Face-framing waves feature big waves coupled with a face-framing fringe,” explained Oscar. “The fringe is usually shorter than the chin level to contour and frame the face.”
Although this Korean perm style isn’t face-shape-specific, it does help to soften the features and slim the face in a way that’s similar to curtain bangs, according to Oscar.
A hairstylist’s tip? Don’t excessively layer your hair to mimic the ‘dos worn by those in Korea. Instead of look stunningly wavy, your hair will end up looking frizzy and messy, no thanks to Singapore’s hot and humid weather.
How to achieve a Korean perm
There’s no one way to achieve a Korean perm at the salon but a digital perm and ceramic perm are the most popular options.
That’s because the digital perm technique allows the stylist to create more sculpted and natural-looking curls, which are characteristic of Korean-style waves.
“Ceramic or digital perm is the technology which involves heat, rollers and chemicals to break and re-shape the hair bonds. Hence, it re-moulds the strands to create those Korean-perm-like looks,” detailed Oscar.
If you had to choose between the two, just keep in mind that digital perms are less damaging as they use lower temperatures to curl the strands.
On the other hand, cold perms forgo heating the strands entirely, and they rely solely on chemicals paired with plastic curlers or rods to re-structure the hair; this results in tighter, frizzier coils.
Steps to achieve a Korean perm at the salon
Hairstylists at Chez Vous: HideAway choose the digital perm technique to bring full and natural-looking Korean-style curls to their customers’ tresses.
Stylists will first apply chemicals to break the hair’s bonds, allowing strands to be shaped during the later parts of the process. Then, the stylist uses rollers to secure the hair, heating the hair to about 60°C to 85°C to shape the curls.
Finally, perm neutralisers are applied to the hair to lock the shape of the curls in place, before the hair is washed, blow-dried, and styled to reveal bouncy, billowing Korean-type waves.
Is a Korean perm suitable for any hair type?
A Korean perm might look great on about everyone but, unfortunately, not everyone can wear it – the curls can only hold well on hair that’s strong and healthy.
“Most perm specialists will agree that perming healthy hair with good elasticity will produce beautiful and bouncy curls,” Oscar underlines. “They tend to be less frizzy, dry and dull too.”
“This explains why many customers with bleached, highlighted or rebonded hair experience sub-optimal perm results.”
It’s also why it’s not advisable to perm and colour your hair on the same day unless your strands are in great shape. “Colouring hair after a perm procedure will reduce hair’s elasticity further,” Oscar emphasised. It’s damage that your strands might not be able to handle.
People who have fine hair should also avoid getting a Korean perm because, as Oscar noted, “when the hair is too fine, it lacks the elasticity and strength to hold the curls in place. Consequently, the curls either don’t last, or they tend to have lots of flyaways.”
“In general, the best types of hair to undergo a perm procedure are those that are healthy and have good elasticity. Also, they should not be too soft, hard, thick or thin.”
What is the best way to maintain a Korean perm?
The natural style of a Korean perm doesn’t exactly translate when it comes to the effort you have to put in to maintain it after.
To keep a Korean perm looking K-pop-idol-worthy, Oscar advises his customers to adopt a two-step post-shower routine:
Step 1: Apply a leave-in curl cream on towel-dried hair.
Step 2: “Finger-twist” your curls in an outward motion as you blow-dry your hair, which will help to sculpt and tame your waves.
The reality is also that curly locks tend to look a lot frizzier and messier compared to straight hair – what more, curly locks that have been achieved through a digital perm. “Curls formed via perm require intensive moisture to look good, glossy and sculpted,” highlighted Oscar.
That’s why, he suggests that customers swap their usual conditioner for the Advante Treatment, which contains concentrated Cell Membrane Complex to “glue” hair cells together and lock in moisture.
The Advante Treatment doesn’t weigh hair down either, therefore helping your Korean perm to retain a light and bouncy appearance.
His pro-tip? “Add one drop of hair oil into your leave-in curl cream to further nourish your curls.”
Does a Korean perm damage the hair?
Like with any other chemical or heat services, getting a digital perm to attain Korean-style waves will damage your tresses.
To ensure that your mane remains healthy and strong, it’s best to pair your perm service with a hair treatment. Not just any hair treatment, but a pre-service one to maximise your hair’s elasticity before it gets permed.
“Strengthening and boosting your hair’s elasticity before a Korean Perm procedure will enhance the way your curls look,” explained Oscar. This way, your perm holds better and your locks will be much less damaged and dry too.
What hair treatment to pair with a Korean perm?
Since the next step is to find a pre-service hair treatment that preps your hair for healthy curls, we’ve got just the one to recommend: Chez Vous: HideAway’s Advante Water Perm.
Two-in-one hair treatment and digital perm, the Advante Water Perm transforms the mane into a gorgeous Korean perm whilst reducing damage to the hair.
Using expensive, patented “water”, the Advante Water Perm effectively delivers hair-supporting ingredients deep into the hair’s strands. The “water”, made in only two factories in the world, is electrolysed to form ionised H (hydrogen) and OH (hydroxide) particles.
These charged particles automatically rearrange to form highways into the hair cortex, carrying the treatment’s infused 18 types of amino acids and bond-realigning Cortex Cell Membrane Complex deep into the hair strands.
The amino acids are miniaturised to a molecular weight of less than 180 to better penetrate the shaft, and the actives fill up the “holes” in the strands so that hair is less porous, stronger, and more elastic.
The Advante Water Perm, by boosting hair’s elasticity, enables the curls to be shaped better and, thus, enhances the appearance of the cascading Korean-style waves.
Not to mention, the curls will also be healthy, glossy, and silky-smooth – must-have qualities for a celebrity-worthy perm.
About Chez Vous: HideAway
Since getting a Korean perm (and hair treatment) can take several hours at the salon, why not enjoy half a day of pampering at Chez Vous: HideAway?
A concept outlet by multi-award-winning Chez Vous hair salon, Chez Vous: HideAway will surely elevate your salon visit into the ultimate soothing experience.
The salon offers little but luxurious add-ons like a 30-second opening and closing massage, a five-minute shiatsu scalp massage, and a customised essential oil ritual to really delight your senses.
Besides a one-up on services, the hair salon also boasts a chic Instagrammable interior that makes the perfect backdrop for you to capture your stunning hair refresh.
You’ll also enjoy complimentary access to the relaxation lounge, which features plush massage chairs, anti-hair-loss red light lasers, and snacks if you’re feeling peckish.
Best of all, the Associate Directors at Chez Vous: HideAway take only five appointments per day, allowing them ample time and full attention when working on your Korean perm.
Chez Vous: HideAway’s Advante Water Perm is priced at S$398 and Advante Water Perm with Rebonding is priced at S$498. A haircut is inclusive for both.
Address: 391B Orchard Road, Ngee Ann City Tower B, #14-04, Singapore 238874
Opening hours: 11am – 8.30pm (Mon to Fri) | 10.30am – 7pm (Sat) | 11am – 6pm (Sun)
Contact: 6219 3558
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This article was brought to you by Chez Vous: HideAway.