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Tired of flat, lifeless hair?
If you are, you’re probably wondering what else you can do to give your hair more life.
And what can do that better than having voluminous waves and bouncy curls?
But instead of having to use a curling iron all the time, you might want to try getting a perm!
Now, the first image that you may have thought of after hearing the word perm could be full hair with classic fluffy ringlets.
Don’t worry, because we’re not just talking about that.
In fact, perming has come a long way. There are now different types of perms that can cater to various hair lengths and types.
And if you don’t know which perm style will suit you, this post should be your trusty guide.
What Is a Perm?
Perm is short for permanent wave.
It’s a curling process that involves setting the hair in waves and curls using curling rods and chemicals.
These chemicals change the hair’s structure and texture. And because chemicals are involved, the style lasts for a long time, from six weeks to a year.
This hairstyle technique is time-consuming, though. It could take 2 to 8 hours, depending on your hair length and type of perm.
It is also a bit of an investment because you have to maintain it using special products and a new hair care routine.
Traditional Perm vs. Modern Perm
The most iconic character with permed curls is Sarah Jessica Parker from Sex and the City. You can easily steal her hairstyle by going to the salon and asking for a traditional perm.
But if you don’t want curls as tight and springy as hers, are there other options?
The answer is yes! There are several modern perm techniques you can choose from.
But first, how exactly does the traditional perm differ from modern perms?
The traditional perming method you’re probably used to was popular in the ’70s to the ’80s, giving you that big, voluminous hair with tiny coily curls. Both men and women sported the look. Or you might also be familiar with the larger curls on short hair from the ’30s to the ’60s.
Traditional perming uses hard perm rods, some with rubber bands, to hold the hair. Strong chemical solutions are involved in the process of setting the curl. Some techniques use heat; some don’t.
Traditional perms are still done today, though not as common anymore because nowadays, people prefer more low-maintenance styles and gentler chemicals.
Stylists have added new perming techniques that give people more options in shape and definition instead of the classic tight curls.
This modern approach to perm offers versatility to give you big curls, loose waves, or even straight hair. Yes, perms don’t necessarily mean curls anymore!
Modern perms also result in minimal damage because gentler chemicals are used.
Hot Perm vs. Cold Perm
Perms can be categorized as hot or cold, depending on how they’re done. Both hot and cold perms use the rod and solution process, but the difference is whether or not heat is applied.
Cold perm, as you can guess from the name, doesn’t involve heat. It only uses chemicals and rods or rollers to add waves or curls.
A cold perm offers bouncy curls with pin-up waves (think Marilyn Monroe) or go right up to the root with tight little rings (think Mariah Carey in her 20s). It all depends on the size of the rods that your hairstylist will use.
In hot perms, rods are heated up, and chemicals are added too. This results in looser, softer curls that can be adjusted to different styles or sizes you want.
11 Different Types of Perms
How many types of perms are there?
As mentioned above, there are types of perms that you can choose from. We’re here to walk you through each kind so you can determine what to try.
1. Spiral Perm
The spiral perm gives a bit of a retro look with springy, bouncy curls.
Best for people with thin, shoulder-length, or long hair and those who already have curly hair.
How it works: This process involves rolling the hair vertically onto a perming rod and applying a strong chemical solution to the hair. Your stylist can vary the curl size by changing the rod size.
The result: You’ll have very tight, springy, twisted curls that add volume to your hair. Each curl extends from the root to the tip. These curls bounce back when you pull and release them.
How long it lasts: 6 months
Maintenance Tip: Use products that are specially formulated for curly hair.
2. Beach Wave Perm
True to its name, a beach wave perm will give you the surfer chick vibe.
Best for people with heavy, straight hair.
How it works: The hairstylist uses Flexi rods (the soft, spongy ones) to roll the hair loosely and then saturate it with a curling solution.
The result: You’ll have slightly messy waves that aren’t quite a curl.
How long it lasts: 4 months
Maintenance Tip: Don’t put your hair in tight hairstyles like ponytails and braids.
3. Pin Curl Perm
Permanent pin curls can surely breathe some life and charm into limp hair.
Best for people with short to medium-length hair.
How it works: Instead of rods, the stylist uses a curling iron to make the curls and secures them in place using pins. Then the usual chemical perming solution will be applied to set the curls.
Traditionally, in the ’50s, a set of curlers or heating tools and a curling lotion or solution were used to set the curls for days to weeks.
The result: Your curls will be more S-shaped than spiral.
How long it lasts: 3 to 6 months
Maintenance Tip: Do not wash your hair for 48 hours after perming so the curls can be fully set.
4. Body Wave Perm
If you want natural-looking waves that don’t need too much maintenance, the body wave perm is for you.
Best for people with fine, straight, long hair.
How it works: This perm uses large rollers to get natural waves. However, unlike the beach wave perm, hair is wrapped tightly around perm rollers and not Flexi rods. The process produces tighter, more defined curls instead of loose waves.
The result: Your hair will get a full, relaxed look with large loose waves.
How long it lasts: 3 to 5 months
Maintenance Tip: Stay away from curling irons or straighteners to keep this style.
5. Digital Perm
Digital perm is a popular hair trend in Japan and Korea that’s perfect for transforming straight hair into beautiful wavy locks. It refers to hot perms in general.
Best for people with straight and thin hair.
How it works: Your hairdresser uses gentler chemicals and heated rods regulated by a professional digital machine. The waves or curls can also be customized by the machine according to the look you want.
The result: You’ll have full, soft curls, much like the hair of Korean celebrities.
How long it lasts: up to a year
Maintenance Tip: Since this perm can last for a long time, you can consider getting a trim every 3 months to make sure your curls don’t get weighed down and tangled.
6. Spot or Partial Perm
Cover a spot of thinning hair with neat-looking curls or perm only a specific area of your hair using the spot perm technique, also known as the partial perm.
Best for people with uneven curly hair or thinning hair.
How it works: This has the same process as cold perms, but the perming is done on only a specific section or area of the hair.
The result: You can customize your curls to look similar to the rest of your hair.
How long it lasts: 4 to 5 months
Maintenance Tip: Nourish your locks with hydrating treatments.
7. Root Perm
The root perm adds volume and lift to your hair at the roots. It is also used as a touch-up to already permed hair that is starting to grow out.
Best for people with flat, short hair.
How it works: This is a version of a spot perm that is done at the roots, 2 to 3 inches from the scalp.
The result: Hair is lifted and has more volume.
How long it lasts: 2 months
Maintenance Tip: Consider wearing a silk scarf over your head when sleeping to maintain the shape of your curls.
8. Stack Perm
Add the fullness and softness from the 70s to your hair’s overall look with the stack perm, which was also sometimes called the disco wedge.
Best for people with hair that is not cut in layers.
How it works: Hot rods of different sizes are stacked on the middle and lower section of the hair. The top part of the hair is left in its natural state and sometimes even straightened to become smoother.
The result: The curls create the illusion of shaggy layers.
How long it lasts: 4 to 5 months
Maintenance Tip: Use a deep conditioner once a week.
9. Multi-textured Perm
With a multi-textured perm, you can have an effortlessly beautiful look with varying curls ready the moment you get out of bed!
Best for people with medium-length or longer hair
How it works: The stylist will do a cold perm but use different sizes of rods.
The result: Your curls will look more natural as it varies in size and tightness.
How long it lasts: 2 to 3 months
Maintenance Tip: Keep your curls bouncy with essential oils for curly hair or leave-in conditioners.
10. Volumizing Perm
The volumizing perm is a low-commitment way of having full-bodied hair.
Best for people with flat hair of any length.
How it works: In this technique, the stylist uses larger sizes of rods for the purpose of adding volume. It may be done with heat or without heat. However, the hairdresser will only apply neutralizer after the rods have been removed.
The result: Removing the rods before neutralizing creates looser, more relaxed waves.
How long it lasts: 6 weeks
Maintenance Tip: Keep the quality of your curls using products for permed hair.
11. Straight Perm
This perm takes up to 8 hours to do, so make sure that you plan ahead or take a day off for this procedure.
Best for people with curly or wavy hair
How it works: The stylist applies a chemical solution much like the one used in hot perms. They will then wash and dry the hair, then straighten it with a flat iron. After that, they will apply a neutralizer.
The result: Also known as reverse perm, the straight perm gives you smooth, straight hair.
How long it lasts: 6 to 7 months
Maintenance Tip: Shampoo less frequently to maintain the smoothness of your hair.
How Much Does a Perm Cost?
A perm can cost between $60 to $250 on average. The price range is pretty wide because there are many factors to consider.
What you’re paying for:
- Type of perm
- Hair length
- Solution used
- Stylist’s skills
- Service quality
- Salon ambiance
As for the type of perm, digital perms are the most expensive to get.
Can You Perm Before or After Coloring Your Hair?
You can perm before coloring your hair or after you’ve dyed it.
However, don’t do the dyeing and perming processes right after the other. This can greatly damage your hair.
Instead, wait for a month or longer so your hair can recover.
Say Hello to Full Hair!
Isn’t it great how a perm can offer so much more than spiral curls? Thanks to innovative hair experts, a perm can now be enjoyed by pretty much everyone.
Best of all, perms can lift and give body-lifeless locks!
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