Sunday, September 25, 2011

Getting my hair did (and permed) Korea.

I've been meaning to make a post about this for a while.

So, I've now been in Seoul for a little over 13 months.  So far, I have had 2 haircuts and 2 perms.  Yes, you heard right..PERM.

As for the haircuts...I waited almost 5 months before getting it cut for the first time.  There were 2 reasons for this:  1.  I wanted to grow my hair out.  and 2.  I was pretty much afraid of walking into a Korean hair salon where they can't speak English and have them butcher my growing out hair.

When I finally built up enough courage, I went to Park Jun's salon which is a chain all over the city.  There is one semi-close to my house, and I assumed someone there would probably speak English.  I was wrong.  I walked in there after learning the word for "cut" in Korean and imitated scissors with my hand.  The person at the desk proceeded to run all over the salon trying to find someone who could speak English.  He found nobody.  Eventually he gave me a book to choose a I just tried saying "layers" and that seemed to work.  My coat and bag were taken and I was whipped up into a chair with the lead stylist at the salon.  He dry cut my hair and THEN washed and then his assistant blew in dry all in probably less than 30 minutes.  The cut was fine..nothing too impressive, but it got the job done and only cost 20,000WON (roughly $20..although I'm told that if I hadn't had the lead stylist, it probably would have been slightly cheaper..though this seemed pretty cheap in my book).

The next thing I did to my hair a couple months later was get a setting perm.  I had been eyeing all the Korean girls with wavy hair all year.  I always thought Koreans had naturally straight hair, but then I assumed I must have it all wrong...some do have curls.  I was wrong.  Any Korean person with curly hair has had a PERM.

I noticed that a new hair shop was opening up very close to my house, across the street.  Then one afternoon I found an advertisement for their GRAND OPEN EVENT in the lobby of my building.  I could read the word perm on there because it is phonetically very similar in Korean, and I saw that the price next to it was a mere 30,000WON.  I started google imaging and reading tons of blogs mentioning digital perms, and within a couple days, I walked into the shop to get my first perm.  At the time, I didn't know there was a difference between digital perm and setting perm so I asked for setting perm because I thought that's what the promotion was for.  The woman who did my perm did not speak English, however, her friend she called her and made me talk to her on the phone at least 4 times that day.  I requested loose waves because I didn't want to end up with a frizzy, curly mess.  The setting perm seems to be very similar to a normal perm except that the rollers that were used were hot rollers.  After the rollers were put in, she squirted on some chemicals and I sat with a cap on for a while.  The whole process took about 3 hours that day, but mostly because the shop was mad busy and I had to wait a lot.  Here is what it looked like that day.  It was really mostly wavy and that's how it stayed.  I also washed it the next  day because I was unaware that I shouldn't wash it for 48 hours after so maybe it would have been wavier if I hadn't done that.

setting perm: day of..she kind of blow dried
from the back: maybe 2ish months later

I also curled with a curling iron sometimes toward the end of the lifespan of my first perm.  My hair had always been stick straight and could NOT hold curls produced by an iron.  With the perm, my hair would magically hold the curls!

on my birthday with iron curls (4 months after setting perm?)
After going to that shop for my first perm, I went back a couple months later for another haircut.  I looked at some pictures and talked to the woman's friend on the phone again.  She eventually understood that I just wanted long layers and to cut the dead ends off.  She dry cut my hair ENTIRELY with thinning shears (you know the ones with ridges that stylists in America usually use at the end of a cut just to thin it out a little).  I LOVE these scissors.  I always always requested them.  Anyway, my hair was cut and curled with an iron and I was out the wash..I guess I should have requested that?  It only cost 10,000WON!  The only problem after getting this hair cut is that a lot of my perm was cut out and thinned so much that it started to diminish and I was forced to curl it more often than not if I wanted it to look nice.

SO, I went back again just a few weeks later for my second perm.  This time I requested a digital perm, not knowing the price difference or anything.  I also told her she could do a little bit tighter of a curl because I thought this would make the perm last longer than the first time.  The digital perm is different because she applies the rollers with some kind of solution and some pieces of foam to protect the scalp from the heat.  Once the rollers are all in, they attach each individual roller to cord attached to a machine that evenly distributes heat throughout the head for a set amount of time.  I sat for about 45 minutes, but the heat was only on for 2 sets of 10 minutes each I believe.  Then she applied the neutralizer and I sat for a little wile longer.  There was only one other girl in the shop at the time who was also getting a digital perm so the process went a little faster.  After taking the rollers out and washing, I was basically done.  She applied some product and semi-dried it with a blow drier.  This perm cost 79,000WON...a little pricier than before but WAY cheaper than some of the other prices I've heard of around the city at fancier salons. (someone I know paid 250,000?  crazy. and a ripoff.)

On the first day, it was SO curly.  I was a little nervous, but this time I persevered and didn't wash for ALMOST the full 48 hours.  I mainly put my hair back in a bun so nobody could see the untamed mess.  Here is what it looked like:
digital perm: day of
digital perm: 2 months later

2.5 months later

The final verdict:

Hair cuts in Korea are cheap and awesome.  I like the digital perm the best!  The main reason for this is that I get more satisfaction out of knowing that my hair is really curly and the perm will (hopefully) last longer.  You can see from the pictures that the digital has more of a ringlet type of curl whereas the setting perm was just wavy.  I also highly recommend going into your local hair salons as opposed to the big chains.  I know it's kinda scary, but the price is much better and it's a little more personable.  I will keep going to my salon simply because the stylist now knows who I am (even though she doesn't speak English).  I don't have to fear every time I have to get something done to my hair and explaining to the front desk person my issue.  So far, I'm really happy with my perms and hair experience in Korea.^^


  1. hy.. i'm living in seoul and am thinking to get a perm soon.
    so u ur got ur latest perm for 79,000won? that's so cheap compared to other places i've asked, mind telling me the location of the salon?
    thanks before <3

  2. What's the name and location of the salon?

  3. hi sorry i've never paid attention to the name since it's so close to my house and it's in fancy korean font..but it's located at bomun station line 6 if you walk straight out of exit 4 for maybe 5's just past the i.p.s.e cafe on the left

  4. Thanks for your blog. It was really helpful to read. I'm about to go to Korea and want a digital perm so badly but kind of scared of how it will come out. After reading this I'm even more excited to get one!!! =D

  5. Hi there,

    Thanks for your blog - your hair looks great! I would love to get my hair done while I am in Korea, too - I wonder if you know if your hair salon is still open? Thanks!