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Perm 101: What Is a Perm? The Ultimate Guide

Perm 101: What Is a Perm? The Ultimate Guide

In case you haven’t heard, the perm has returned! That’s right. While the ‘80s are long gone, one of the era’s most iconic hairstyles is back in a big way – gracing red carpets, catwalks and regular babes about town. This comes as no surprise with perms being an easy way to change up your look. Depending on the type of perm you choose, you’ll be able to get voluminous bouncy curls or even silky smooth straight hair!

But, like any chemical process, it does have an impact on your strands, especially when done wrongly or without the right aftercare. Before committing to the popular hair trend, it’s best you wrap your head around exactly what a perm is and what it means for your mane. So, to help you out here’s everything you need to know about the springy style’s second wave.

What is a Perm?

In case you weren’t around in the ‘80s, here’s a quick lesson on the style du jour. Perm is a shorthand way of referring to a permanent wave or “permanent.” And perming involves a chemical process that changes the structure of your hair to achieve a different texture.

What does all this mean? That you can change your hair from the straightest of straight to curly or wavy – and the results won’t wash out! This process takes two to three hours and should be done by a professional. And while the word “permanent” is a bit of a misnomer, the results will last literal months longer than your GHD efforts. 

 

How Does a Perm Work?

First originating in the 1800s, the popular 80s beauty trend breaks and resets the hair bonds into permanent curls and spirals. Back then, the restructuring process was pretty uniform, a perm is no longer a one-size-fits-all process. Today, stylists can customize their own techniques and have more options. Different styles can be created with different approaches, with the placement of the rod determining the shape and movement of the curl. 

There are two main methods used to perm hair. Most perm styles are achieved through cold perms. This is when your hair is wrapped in rods to achieve the desired curl pattern and perm lotion is applied. For hot perms, the process is similar but with the addition of heat to activate the lotion.

But whichever method you choose and despite modern perms being less damaging, perms remain a chemical process that require proper aftercare, more of which we cover below!

How Long Does a Perm Last?

Although perm implies permanent, when your natural hair grows in at the roots the perm is pushed downward. Depending on the length of your hair, new growth, and your routine, perms often last between three to six months.

Typically, hair grows at a rate of half an inch per month. The new growth will obviously be in your old texture, necessitating a touch-up at the salon.

Types of Perms 

If your hair is fine and flat, a perm can give your hair the volume you’ve dreamed of, from tightly wound curls to beachy waves. No longer resulting in a one-size-fits-all poodle perm, there are loads of different options to choose from – so which one is for you?

  • Spiral perm - tight, voluminous curls. 
  • Body wave perm - natural-looking waves.
  • Spot perms - create curls strategically in specific areas of the hair. 
  • Digital perms - loose, natural, wavy definition. 
  • Straight perms - removes curls.

 

Can a Perm Ruin Your Hair? 

Like colouring and heat styling, perms can damage your hair. Sorry. While new formulas are less damaging, the powerful chemical is still changing the composition of your strands. No matter which you choose, hot or cold perms, the disulphide bonds will be broken apart and the protein structure of the hair altered. This means you should weigh up the pros and cons of a new do before going through with a perm.

But there is some good news. The same bond-building products you use to repair the hair bonds broken during bleaching can help reverse damage and protect hair against breakage. We’ll discuss this more when we get to aftercare.

Can You Perm Dyed Hair?

Who should get a perm? And who shouldn’t? As a rule, the process is not recommended if your hair is bleached, highlighted, or already chemically altered. Although perming coloured hair isn’t dangerous, it exposes the hair to multiple chemical processes – and the more chemicals, the more damage. Already compromised hair is more fragile, which potentially causes breakage, split ends, frizzy hair, and colour fade. 

Perms generally work on all hair types, but the ideal hair would be virgin hair that’s never been coloured before.

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Aftercare

While the style itself isn't permanent, the impact of the chemical process on your strands is. A perm cannot be undone, so keeping your hair in good condition is essential. After your hair appointment, avoid washing or wetting the hair for at least 48 hours. 

Once your hair is ready for some TLC, the right products will be your BFF. Your chemically treated hair will be drier and more vulnerable to damage, and a bond rebuilder should be a regular part of your routine. With 3D bond building technology, our Bond Building Pre-Shampoo Treatment repairs and restructures weakened hair for an 85% reduction in breakage. Remember those disulphide bonds that get broken? They can be fixed! 

For the altered protein structure, use a keratin repairing hair mask to help strengthen and smooth your frazzled strands! Leave the mask on for five minutes, or use our protective microfibre towel wrap to let it soak in overnight and wash out the following day. You can get both these repair power-houses at a discount with our Hair Repair Bundle!

After rinsing out the product, gently detangle your hair with a tangle tamer. Air dry or use the microfibre towel wrap to keep frizz at bay. 

Is your tousled ‘do extra dry? Hydrating products Like a Virgin Hair Mask are also a must to restore moisture and shine and maintain your perm's integrity. 

Once you’re tired of your new ‘do you have two options. Grow it out or cut it off.

 

Can You Straighten Permed Hair?

While you can straighten permed hair, heat styling is best avoided – especially in the first two weeks. But if you do decide to switch up from those effortless curls, make sure you coat your hair thoroughly in a heat protectant

Final Thoughts

If you want to switch up your style and can’t be bothered curling your hair every second day, consider a hair perm. The style has evolved since the ‘80s to look much more natural and there’s a curl to suit every taste and face shape. However, know that you’ll need to invest in more TLC, including hydrating and frizz-fighting hair care products – and possibly a bond builder too!

For more hair-spiration, check out our blog!

  

Edited by: 
Pip Jarvis and Iris

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