Ask the Stylist EP 2 - Setting Perm or Digital Perm? Which is the Best Korean Perm

It's time for summer, so that means new fashion, new cosmetics and new makeover! Do you ever find yourself loving a kpop idol's hairstyle so much that you feel inspired to get it? Me too!

Irene with loose korean perm, she is the leader of Korean girl group Red Velvet, whose real name is Bae Joo-hyun.

Source | Red Velvet's Irene rocking pastel rose gold curls for Dazed's photoshoot

As korean perms are trending in Singapore, we asked Matthew Kim, a Korean hair stylist to share his tips on korean perms (setting and digital perms) for this week's Ask the Stylist. Let's go! 

Matthew Kim - This Week's Featured Guest Hairstylist for Ask The Stylist.
He is a Korean Senior Hairstylist at DuSol Beauty Singapore (Novena), which specialises in Korean perms and hair treatments. 

Setting Perm vs Digital Perm - What's the Difference?

Here's a dilemma that everyone gets before they get a new hairstyle. What's the difference between setting perm or digital perm? He talks more about these two types of Korean perms as they are more commonly seen in Singapore.

Matthew Kim at DuSol Beauty Novena, talking about permed hairstyle tips


"Digital perms and setting perms have a different process to create loose curls or tight curls," - Matthew Kim, Dusol Beauty Korean Senior Hairstylist

The key difference for Korean perms such as the setting perm and digital perm is the use of heat. The technique and perming product used affects the tightness and longevity of the curls.

Matthew Kim, DuSol Beauty hair stylist doing the Korean Designer Perm

Matthew applying Juno Hair perm lotion for the Korean Designer Perm at DuSol Beauty Novena

Korean Designer Perm with heated rods at DuSol Beauty Novena, Singapore

Source | Game-changing Korean Designer Perm by Matthew

Watch this video here to see the behind the scene (BTS).

What are the types of perm techniques involved?

Digital Perm

Both setting and digital perms are done by heat, he says. Digital perm creates tight curls, which creates well-defined curls with small to medium rods.

How it's Done

It is done by applying the perming lotion onto the hair. Roll the hair with hair rollers and then heat it to create natural-looking curls that requires less styling and maintenance. 

Yuqi with tight Korean permed curls, from (G)-IDLE which is a Korean girl group from Cube Entertainment.

Source | (G)-IDLE's Yuqi with her signature tight curls.

You may have seen (G)-IDLE's Yuqi with tight curls when she's co-hosting 'Keep Running' in China, which was previously known as Running Man. These curls were most likely created with the digital perm technique using small rods.

Setting Perm

Setting perms also produce the best voluminous curls as the curls are most noticeable when the hair is dry.

How it's Done

Setting perm is done using another perming lotion product. Apply the perming lotion evenly onto the hair. After washing the hair, apply heat onto the hair. For setting perm, he washes off some of the perming lotion applied to create the right state for the hair before heating it. 

"If you want a korean style perm, I suggest a setting perm with some rebonding because hair does not go in the same direction." - Matthew Kim, Dusol Beauty Korean Hairstylist

Rebonding the hair will straighten the hair, which will fix the root, which results in natural-looking permed curls, which is best for a daily and wearable look.

Irene, leader of Red Velvet, a Korean girl group

Source | Red Velvet's Irene with light brown curls 

In summary

Thanks so much to Matthew who gave us many hair insights about Korean perms. Do check out Matthew and the DuSol Beauty team's amazing hair works.

Here's a quick recap for you to remember the next time you're at your Korean hair salon choosing a new perm.

  • For a quick makeover, go get a setting perm which involves a shorter processing time. Loose, natural-looking and fuss-free, what's not to like?
  • For the best curl results, opt for a rebonding perm on top of your setting perm to ensure that your curls stand out without frizzy hair and flyaways.

We hope that answered all of your questions in this week's Ask the Stylist! If you have a question that isn't on here, you can drop us a comment either on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube

We also produce and upload weekly beauty related content on our channel, Hana Story Boutique, so be sure to join us and be part of the beauty community. We'll see you there!

Ask the Stylist Episodes: EP 1