Planning to perm your hair? With the advancements in perming techniques, there are various styles to choose from. Previously, at the very mention of perms, one would think of those “auntie curls” – but perming has come along way since then.
Today, we have S curl perms, C curl perms, rebonding perms, and so on. Perm styles also differ across countries. So, which perm should you get?
We spoke to top Perm experts in Singapore, including Justin from Zinc Korean Hair Salon, Ryu from Flamingo Hair Studio, Jesly from Picasso Hair Studio, Megumi from COVO Japanese Hair Salon and Junhee from LeeKaJa Korean Hair Salon to explore the differences between a Japanese perm, a Korean perm, and a Singapore perm.
The Japanese were the first to introduce the idea of taming the hair via a permanent change of hair shape to the world. Whether we’re talking about hair straightening or creating curls with a perm, it was the Japanese who created the chemicals and pioneered the techniques that the rest of the world use today.
Megumi from COVO Japanese Hair Salon shared that all Japanese hairstylists are well-versed in perms because it is an integral part of their hairdressing exams and because this is still a service that is highly in-demand in Japan.
Many Japanese men and ladies now go for perms regularly – but you may not realise it because the perms just look so natural.
Compared to the super-defined digital perms of the past, the Japanese favour perm styles that achieve a light wave. As many Japanese women take the time to tong and style their hair before leaving the house, all they expect from the perm is something that makes it easy to style hair, and which lets the styled hair stay in place longer. In addition, their drier climate makes the slight wave more than sufficient to help them look effortlessly stylish.
As they go for perms regularly, a light perm that wreaks minimal damage is therefore highly popular.
Such perms include cold perms, airwave perms and digital perms. Cold perm is among the most demanded in Japan because it is the cheapest option and also and the fastest to get done – you are in and out of the salon in about 1.5 hours.
It results in curls that are more natural when wet and more defined when dry. Still, it tends to create waves more than curls, and possibly requires you to use mousse for longer-lasting curls.
The airwave perm is yet another very popular perm in Japan. It creates more volume without really creating any defined curls. It causes the least damage to hair and is suitable even for women with thin and damaged hair.
If you notice the image above, the perm creates waves rather than curls, drastically different from the type of curls you would get from a cold perm or digital perm.
A digital perm, on the other hand, creates the most defined curls out of the three. If done by a Japanese stylist, you’ll find that the resulting curl will be loose curls that look exactly like what you see in magazines!
Things to Know about Japanese Perms:
1. Japanese perms are the least damaging
All perms cause damage to your hair to some degree because they have to break your existing hair bonds and recreate your new desired shape.
Perm lotions from Japan are however known to be the least damaging because healthy hair is required for the resulting perm to look bouncy and beautiful… and because Japanese women are very concerned about hair damage. That is why you see perm lotions like Arimino and Tokio de Sinka Perm (both very popularly used in Japanese salons) being so mild that they can even be used on bleached hair.
Beyond the perm chemical itself, we find that Japanese stylists tend to heat up the hair to a lower temperature and for a shorter period of time during digital perming to minimise damage.
Due to the way they perm your hair, you’ll realise that your hair will not turn out as dry as if you’ve done your hair elsewhere.
2. Japanese perms are less defined, more natural and soft
Japanese women often use a curling iron to achieve their desired curls. Hence, their perms are used to create texture rather than curls. With a perm, it is much faster to achieve the desired shape using a curling iron.
As perming is used more to create texture rather than curls, you’ll find that the perm looks less defined and natural the procedure.
The lower temperatures and shorter duration of chemical processing, however, may mean that the perm doesn’t last as long as other types.
On another note, the perms may be cheaper depending on the type of perm chosen, so you may have to balance the pros and cons.
3. Japanese perms tend to have more layers
Another thing to note about Japanese perms is that they tend to have more layers.
As Japanese people tend to have very thick hair, they often create layers to thin out the hair and make it more manageable. This allows for the perm to be more bouncy and light.
For Singaporeans who have thinner hair, too many layers make the style a little harder to manage as the humid climate turns the hair frizzy.
We therefore found that Japanese stylists who have been in Singapore for some time tend to reduce the layers to make the hairstyle for more suitable for our weather.
Hot on the heels of the Japanese are the Koreans. The Japanese may have been the first to create the perm, but the Koreans are definitely one of the first few cultures to make perms their own.
While they’ve made slight changes to the perm chemicals and processes, we think that their biggest innovation lies in the actual styling of the perms.
From S curl perms to C curl volume rebonding sported by top Korean celebrities in dramas, Korean perms have revolutionised and redefined how we see perms.
Here are just some of the most common Korean perms we see:
S Curl Perms
An S curl perm has tighter and more spread out curls to create natural wavy hair. This creates volumes in the hair and is highly suited for those who want a low-maintenance hairstyle.
Unlike certain types of perms which require your hair to be of a certain length, an S curl perm can be done on shorter hair lengths as well, since the style is not too curly but instead results in soft waves that will look natural on short hair as well.
Body Wave Perms
There are fewer waves (than there are curls) for body wave perms; however, the waves are a lot more defined than the usual S curl perm.
The waves are also really big and this type is more suited for those who desire the beachy waves look.
You can see its full effect on long hair, but it also suits shorter hairstyles like this!
Meet the right stylist and she’ll be able to create the right wave perm for your face shape!
C Curl Perms
Who can forget the C curl perm craze brought upon by hit TV show “Descendants of the Sun”?
The C curl perm creates a natural look with C curls used at hair ends where the hair curls inwards. Most flattering on bob hairstyles, this enhances the contours of the jawline and is suitable for most face shapes.
It doesn’t matter what age you are – the C curl perm can take years off your face by making you look that much sleeker!
While it can look good on long straight hair, we think it looks best on short hair.
Aside from C curl perms, we also find many Korean stylists combining C curl perms with rebonding to add a little bit of volume near the ends.
This is often referred to as volume rebonding, as it helps to achieve the natural curves at the hair ends and is more voluminous than classic rebonding. As a low-maintenance hair style, it is highly suited for those who want natural silky hair with a softer feminine look.
Things You Have to Know about Korean Perms:
1. Korean perms are more defined than Japanese perms
Unlike Japanese women who are accustomed to using tongs to curl their hair, Korean women prefer perms that have slightly stronger and more defined curls. This is because this cuts down on the time spent styling their hair; they do the necessary application of curling lotion and blowdrying but do not tong their hair. Therefore, a defined perm is preferred.
2. Korean perms require less maintenance
According to LeeKaJa Korean Salon, Korean perms famously require low maintenance. Due to superior technique and use of better quality treatments, Korean perms can last up to six months or more depending on hair type.
Of course, it is not advisable to manage your hair only after six months or you’ll look as unkempt as Agent G.
Still, it demonstrates how lasting the perm can be!
3. Korean perms tend to be heavier at the bottom
Korean perms have been evolving, as seen by the many styles above. However, there is still an inclination to make the perm heavier at the ends.
This is probably because of the Korean hair texture; Korean hair tends to be coarser than Singaporeans but still finer than Japanese hair. The fewer layers make it more manageable.
We do however note that it can look a bit heavy and drag the volume down a little.
Whether it suits you will have to depend on your hair texture and face shape!
Singapore’s humid weather makes perming an ideal hair service for many Singaporeans with straight hair. It injects volume into our otherwise lifeless hair, framing our faces to make them look smaller.
Unfortunately for stylists, this service is also the most challenging. There are a few reasons for that:
1) Singapore women do not have the time to maintain their hair
Compared to our Japanese and Korean counterparts, a higher proportion of Singapore women work and have children. It is difficult to balance all our obligations and therefore, we do not dedicate enough time to maintaining our hair. Many of us neglect even a basic step like blowdrying.
Yet we expect our hair to look like what we see on celebrities without much styling, making this an impossible task.
2) Singapore women have many different hair types
Singapore is a multiracial and multicultural society made up of Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians. As a result, we have a huge variety of hair types especially when we may have mixed heritage in our bloodlines. You may, therefore, see Chinese women with curly hair and Indian women with straight hair. Hairstylists will, therefore, have to be familiar with the different hair types and how the perm should be done to achieve lasting curls.
To overcome some of these challenges and cater to ladies with different preferences, Singapore hairstylists have therefore come up with various perm styles.
1. The Long-lasting Glamorous ‘Victoria’s Secret’ perm
This is the probably the perm most of us have in our minds when we first think about the word ‘perm’.
While it is curlier than both the Korean and Japanese perm, this hot perm is not ‘auntie’ because it is designed to be more curly at the ends and less so at the top. The curls at the end give its wearer a more glamorous and feminine feel.
The reason why the curls are made stronger is that stronger curls tend to last the longest… and they look presentable even if you don’t blow your hair fully dry. (It still looks the best after it is blow-dried)
To achieve this type of curl, a combination of techniques from Japan and Korea is used – a little bit of layering to make the hair look lighter and the curls bouncier while keeping the curls slightly heavy like the Korean perm so that it doesn’t become too frizzy in Singapore’s weather.
This perm looks best on ladies with coarse hair, as those hair types can hold the curls well. In fact, the curls can last on such hair for easily six months or more!
The ending curls don’t have to be S curls, though. Although S curls do tend to create the most volume, we’ve seen many local stylists creating strong C curls or J curls that can look just as glamorous.
2. Freestyle Wave Perms
For those ladies who don’t want very defined curls, innovative salons such as Picasso Hair Studio have come up with perms that create volume with light and natural-looking waves. The result is hair that looks more like beach waves styling or just naturally wavy hair.
We’re especially impressed with the Freestyle Perm created by Picasso Hair Studio as they designed the perm in such a way that the hair can be blown dry in any way the customer wants… and it will still look good!
While this is a perm, the freestyle perm tends not to create much waves or curls if at all.
Instead, it gives your hair the shape and natural volume that is super easy to manage.
Although it can work for long hair, we still prefer freestyle perms on shorter hair because we think that it flatters our face shape the most!
3. Rebonding Perm or Volume Rebonding
If you are not too keen on having curls that start high or if you have naturally frizzy hair, you can rebond the top and go for lighter curls at the end to reduce frizziness.
The rebonding perm goes by various names depending on the salon, but for this type of perm, the haircut is heavier with fewer layers to reduce frizziness.
As mentioned, this is best suited to ladies with curly hair as rebonding will be done at the top while the ends are permed to achieve volume.
Look at the difference one hair procedure can make and you’ll understand why volume rebonding is so popular in Singapore!
4. Fine Hair Perms
Unlike in Japan or Korea where women tend to have thicker hair, a large proportion of ladies in Singapore have fine hair. Hence, local stylists have come up with special perms to give fine hair more volume and curls that can last longer.
These special perms tend to include a lot more treatments so that damage to the hair is minimised.
We do however note that the curls also tend not to look as bouncy as ladies with coarse hair. The results of the perm also does not last as long… on average, the curls last about two to three months.
Still, this is so far one of the few viable solutions that women with fine hair can pursue to give their hair much-needed volume!
For fine-haired women with too much volume, we note that the right perm can also help to tame your hair and give you the curls of your dreams.
Bleached Hair Perms
Aside from women with fine hair, more and more Singapore ladies have gotten their hair bleached due to the crazy colour trend. Bleaching, however, damages the hair significantly, making it very difficult to manage.
Hairstylists have therefore been thinking up new techniques to perm bleached hair with a small number succeeding in creating perms for bleached hair!
HARTS Salon is one of the first who successfully used the low-damage Tokio de Sinka Perm to create curls for Agent EH who bleached her fine hair a few months ago! We were wondering if the perm would be successful since fine hair + bleached hair makes the perm very challenging.
We’re positively surprised when the perm turned out so well. Agent EH’s hair gained so much more volume and definition after the perm… thanks to the stylists’ superior technique and the new Paimore machine she was raving so much about. The Paimore machine + Tokio de Sinka Perm lotion can perm hair at just 60 degrees celsius, making it possible even for very damaged hair.
Based on what we know now, only salons using the Tokio de Sinka Perm and Paimore machine are able to produce perms consistently for ladies with bleached hair and that includes LeeKaJa Korean Salon.
Picasso Hair Studio is the only exception, and manages to come up with their own proprietary method to perm bleached hair using Arimino perm lotion. Don’t you think the above perm on bleached hair looks lovely?
If your hair is bleached, it is still best to let the stylist take a look to see if your hair is suitable… because some bleached hair is so damaged that even such a perm cannot be done!
Things You Have to Know about Singapore Perms
1. There are many types of Singapore Perms
As explained earlier, Singapore stylists are very versatile and have created many different types of perms to cater to different hair types.
It is ideal to know your own hair type so that you can go to the right salon with stylists who can cater to your hair type the best!
This is because there is a huge variety of perm lotions out there, each catering to a specific hair type. If the salon doesn’t stock that specific perm lotion or doesn’t know how to use it well, you may then have a potential hair disaster on your head.
2. You have to know what you want: Defined or long-lasting curls
Although there is a huge variety of perms, Agent G finds that defined curls tend to be longer lasting than beach waves / big wave perms.
Defined curls can last you six months or more while beach waves or bleached hair perms may last only two to three months.
3. Some hair types will require more maintenance than others.
No matter how low-maintenance your perm may be, it is advisable to at least blow-dry your hair every day… otherwise, your hair is almost guaranteed to frizz up!
If your hair is fine or has been bleached before, more maintenance may be required and that takes the form of application of serums and curl creams to make sure that your curls stay. Do take the time to apply a hair mask once in a while to repair any damage sustained!
Despite our humid climate, we count ourselves very lucky to be exposed to so many perm techniques thanks to the proliferation of Japanese, Korean and local stylists here who are so good at what they do.
Although the techniques can be confusing at times, the right stylist will be able to create the perm of your dreams if he/she truly understands your hair texture and hair needs.
We hope the above article helps you to understand your perm a little better. If you need any recommendations on where to go for your desired hair type, just leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
P.S. Regardless of the type of perm you choose and where you do it, remember to apply curl cream and blow dry to 100% for your hair to look amazing!