Is The Perm Making a Comeback?
Get ready to channel your inner Dolly.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by a bad hair day. For many women, the entire decade of the 1980s may come to mind, namely because of one particular hairstyle. We’ll give you a hint, it starts with the letter P…. That’s right, the perm.
Despite Southerners affinity for big hair, many of us have traded in permed styles for bouncy blowouts instead. However, we’re here to tell y’all that the perm is making a comeback — and it’s had a modern day makeover.
Interested in revisiting this blast from the past? Here are the answers to your biggest questions about this Dolly Parton approved do:
What Makes Today’s Perms Different?
Back in the day, perms were a one size fits all kind of hairstyle a.k.a. everyone had the exact same bushy, poodle-like curls. “Perms of today do not give you tight or frizzy curls — they’re are all about soft waves that give body,” confirms Carolyn Aronson, CEO and founder of It’s a 10 Haircare. Another differentiator is that they’re tailored to each individual’s needs through a number of different styling techniques. “A mega large roller or bending rod is used and placed vertically instead of horizontally,” Aronson explains. Plus, some stylists use fabric or do finger waves (where you pinch strands and comb in a S-shape). No matter if you want loose body or more springy rings, your stylist will personalize your perm by advising you based off your hair texture, face shape and desired end result.
Are There Different Kinds?
Generally speaking, there are three types of perms. Currently, the most popular is a beach wave perm. It’s an ideal option for anyone with straight hair who’s always reaching for a curling iron or wand to create effortless, I-just-left-the-beach waves. This treatment focuses on creating soft bend from the midshafts to ends with large rods, leaving little to no height at the top of your head.
Then, there’s the body wave perm that infuses lasting volume into all hair textures, so it’s a good choice if your mane is always falling flat the second you step outside. Finally, there’s a smoothing perm that’s designed for ladies looking to control overly tight or curly hair. It smooths the cuticle while also eliminating frizz.
WATCH: Southern Hairstyles Through The Years
Will They Damage My Hair?
Luckily, the harsh perming lotion of yesteryear has been reformulated to be gentler on strands, so you won’t be left with brittle, overstressed locks post-treatment. “Any chemical hair treatment can cause some damage to the hair, but the technology of today’s perms have improved,” says Aronson. Another thing to be happy about: The latest formulations allow women with color-treated hair to safely perm their hair as well.
How Long Does It Take — And How Long Will They Last?
Grab a stack of magazines or a good book before getting in the salon chair: A typical perm take anywhere from two to three hours to perform. The upside? You won’t need to book another appointment for a while. Depending on your hair type, your new do should last three to four months with the potential to remain intact up to six.
What’s The Proper Way To Style And Care For Them?
Now that you have an all new hair texture, it’s crucial to use the right products to play it up. “The best way to care for your perm is to use product made for curls and use less heat,” says Aronson. She suggests prepping hair with It’s a 10 Haircare Defrizzing Curl Cream to help hold the wave in place before using a diffuser on strands. You can also opt to air-dry for a more natural finish. Just avoid rough-drying it with your hands since that can cause frizz.
If you’re going to use hot tools, remember to proceed with caution. “Yes, you can use a dryer and iron on permed hair but do not turn the heat up to more than 300 degrees,” advises Aronson. If you crank up the temperature any higher, you run the risk of frying your perm.