I have naturally curly hair and I am very proud of it. It suits me. I am of the belief that people who have naturally curly hair were meant to have it. I always assumed that everyone who looked at me knew that my locks were natural. It never occurred to me that people might think I have a perm, which is exactly what happens in Korea.

Perms (aka perm-uh) are extremely popular here. Toddlers get perms. Yes, I said toddlers. I would never even think of taking a child with straight hair and giving him or her a perm. I didn’t even know kids could get perms. In fact, I didn’t think adults really even got perms anymore because I thought that was a trend that went out of style twenty years ago. I stand corrected.

Two out of five of the four-year-olds I teach have perms. And I bet they think I have a perm too. I guess it only makes sense though. They are surrounded by people who are born with stick-straight hair, it’s all they know. And that is excusable in my head, but I was shocked to find out that my older elementary school students thought I had a perm. I was actually downright offended. Why I was offended I’m not quite sure. It must have to do with the fact that I love my curly hair so much and I am so proud that nature bestowed this lucky gift on me. I don’t have to sit for hours every few months with chemicals in my hair, nor do I have to pay for curls. I’m lucky and I don’t want people to think I am changing myself in the name of beauty. I like the all-natural look.

Once I found out that ALL of my students thought I had a perm, I made it my mission to make each and everyone of them (with the exception of the four-year-olds who speak almost zero English) understand that I have never gotten a perm. The first class I explained this to didn’t believe me. I said I was born this way, which made them imagine me as a tiny baby with a full head of very long curly hair. We then had an argument about baby hair; they tried to tell me that all babies are born without even the slightest bit of hair.

After exploring that avenue of explanation, I told them that I hadn’t gotten my hair cut at a salon in a year and a half. “How could I have a perm if I haven’t been to a salon?” I asked. This question resulted in screams of terror because they decided I wasn’t human because my hair must not grow or fall out.

I then asked them if they knew if black people had curly or straight hair. They said curly and I asked them if it was because they all get perms. They seemed to know that they didn’t get perms, so I said, well I’m not much different. I have a different type of curly hair, but it’s not from a perm. Which I could see was an odd line of reasoning for them because they were trying to figure out how someone so white looking could be black.

After five more minutes on this topic I finally convinced my students that I have naturally curly hair. It seems silly for this to be so important to me, but I just couldn’t handle the idea that these kids thought I had a perm-uh. I have told almost all of my classes that I have naturally curly hair and I make them repeat sentences about it when vocabulary words like natural come up in our books. “Ms. Danielle will not get a perm because she has naturally curly hair. Ms. Danielle will not get a perm because she has naturally curly hair. Ms. Danielle will not get a perm because she has naturally curly hair.” I have drilled it into their heads.

I understand children not knowing about naturally curly hair, but now I’m dying to know what percent of the Korean adult population thinks all curly hair comes from perms. What if I’ve been traveling through all of these Asian countries and all along people look at me and assume “perm-uh”?!?


*Photo courtesy of my incredible boyfriend David Domagalski.

11 thoughts on “Perm-uh

  1. Well, you are aware of my love of my straightening iron, but I happened to come to work the other day with curly hair and my co-teacher was all “Wow, beautiful! Perma??” I had to explain to her that it is naturally like this and I choose to straighten my hair most days….she seemed a bit surprised as to why anyone would CHOOSE to make their straight, but seemed to understand that I was born like w/ the curls…

  2. my university students frequently ask about my perm-ah and are surprised when I tell them it is all natural. may i ask what shampoo you use?

    1. Wow even university students are surprised?! I was hoping it was just the kids. Do they call you Ramen Head too? 🙂

      I use something called No-Poo by DevaCurl. It was a gift from a friend and I’ve managed to make the whole bottle last over a year now, but I’m getting very low. If you haven’t tried any DevaCurl products yet I highly recommend getting a family member to ship some out to you. It’s a revelation. Turns out most shampoos dry out our hair too much making it frizz more. No-poo cleans it but leaves enough natural oils in it that it won’t frizz. Really incredible stuff. I only use a little on my scalp and then put a bunch of conditioner on the rest. DevaCurl recommends using baby shampoo if you don’t use No-Poo. It’s less aggressive. Hope that helps 🙂

      1. that’s the shampoo i’m interested in getting! i was hoping you had found a way to get it here! will have to ask the family to send a bottle!

        1. Awesome! It’s seriously incredible. My hair has never looked so good. And I don’t have to use a diffuser (which I can’t find here). The smell is so lovely too. The same company has hair salons just for curly girls. One day I’m going to splurge and get my hair cut by them. As of right now I cut my own hair. Hair cuts in Asia don’t mesh well with curls…

  3. my hair isn’t as curly as yours but i have had some bad haircuts here! my hair is really fine, so it gets stringy if it gets too much past my shoulders. when i saw your beautiful photo i thought maybe you had a secret stylist who knew about curls.will have to keep looking. sigh….

    1. i just ordered the DEVA from sleekhair website. shipping was outrageous but worked out to be the same price as getting it sent from canada. can’t wait to try it out!

      1. No secret stylist, but if it helps I cut my hair when it’s dry. I cut curl by curl until I like it. That’s what DEVA recommends. You are going to love No-Poo! It’s pricey, but worth it. I’ve been using a lot less than they recommend to make it last. Congrats on the purchase! Enjoy!

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