Perms can be fascinating and are usually hot topics of discussion among fashionable ladies.
Despite debuting around the 1920s, perms began to pick up mainstream popularity in the 1980s. Since then, modern hairstylists have been in constant demand for different types of perms.
Perms come in many different forms, sizes and shapes, and are chosen for many different reasons. Some might opt for perms to increase the volume of their hair, cover thinning parts or add an additional look on top while having a fade cut on the sides. There are even others who like to accessorized perms, owing to their easily customizable options.
Because of how versatile perms can be, they have stood the test of time and is still one of the better options for hairstyles in this modern, fashionable world.
If you ever had questions about perms, such as what a perm is and what different types of perms are, or wanted to try perms for yourself, this guide will help you with all you could want to know!
- 1 Different types of perms for men and women
- 1.1 Some men-specific hairstyles to consider with perms
- 1.2 Frequently Asked Questions
- 1.3 Which type of perm to go for?
- 1.4 Taking care of perms
Understanding what a perm is?
Before everything else, let’s answer the main question: what is a perm?
Because of the sheer variety of perms possible, it is tough to generally describe what a perm normally is.
However, a simple explanation would entail that a perm is short for ‘permanent hairstyle’, which can include several unique hairstyles under the broader umbrella term.
To make perms, hairstylists generally use chemicals that can change the hair texture. This way, permanent waves or curls can be created.
The chemicals break the bonds in the hair that determine whether your hair will be straight or wavy. Usually, this bond breakdown takes two to three hours to produce visible results.
Modern perm creation is a lot more customizable than back in the day. Nowadays, customers can choose what kind of waves and curls to keep when permanently setting their hair. There are also multiple custom options in which only specific parts of the hair are highlighted.
While perms are quite popular for women, there are tailor-made perm styles of men as well.
Some factors to consider before getting a perm
A perm can do a lot more than just provide curls for your hair. Some curls are used exclusively to increase the volume of the hair, while some are layered in specific parts to ensure different results.
Most perms are also quite manageable and stay in shape for a significant amount of time. Even the most lifeless locks can turn into objects of beauty and glamor if permed the right way.
Ultimately, like all hairstyle choices, choosing the right type of perm will depend entirely on your preference.
If you are on the fence about the decision, consider the following things.
You can consider not getting a perm if:
- You wash your hair every day.
- You swim or expose your head/hair to water regularly.
- You are a very outgoing person who likes to do physical exercise.
- Your hair has been bleached and dyed many times before, though this option can sometimes vary.
Regular washing will significantly reduce a perm’s lifespan, as the continuous application of water will weaken the chemicals used to tighten the hair bonds together that allow the perm to stay in place.
Thus, reducing exposure to water whenever possible is a must if you get a perm. Chlorinated water, especially, can severely damage perms, so swimmers are recommended to not seriously consider a perm.
For similar reasons, sweat can get in the way of keeping a perm as it should be, prim and permanent. Athletes who prefer perm do perm very often, so it’s not like perming isn’t an option for active people.
Also, if you have dyed hair, you will notice that your hair may be a bit more brittle than non-dyed hair. You can of course still perm your dyed hair if you want to, but hair that has been dyed multiple times might suffer long-term damage if permed frequently.
Aside from these factors, getting a perm should not be a problem for you.
Perms are extremely adaptable hairstyles, but at the end of the day, your hairstyle should fit your lifestyle. So obviously, you should not choose a hairstyle that hampers your daily activities.
If you are looking for an adaptable, easy-to-customize hairstyle, go for a perm.
Different types of perms for men and women
Finally, we get to the heart of it.
Perms can vary in shape, size and preference. The variety increases further if you are a man or a woman, for there are specific perm styles suitable for both.
For stylish men and women, these are some of the top perm styles to consider:
Spiral perms produce signature bouncy curls which, if pulled or stretched, can retract to their original size upon release.
They are made using the cold perm technique and are often the most preferred style for creating tight and springy curls.
The curls in a spiral perm start from the root of the scalp to the tip of the hair follicles.
This perm can be customized by making the size of the locks different from each other. This can be done by using various sizes of perm rods.
Once fixed, a spiral perm should last for up to six months.
It should be kept in mind that the curls will naturally retract in a few months, and expensive hair care products are often required to keep the curls free from frizzes.
Because of the amount of variety provided by spiral perms, they can be used to make super-tight curls such as the corkscrew and even loose curls like the sausage.
However, because of the expense and care required behind the upkeep of this style, spiral perms are considered a very high maintenance hairstyle. Be prepared with enough hair care products and styling equipment if you want to keep your spiral perms prim and proper at all times.
Body wave perm
Body wave perms are perfect for adding volume to your hair and are among some of the more popular hairstyles today.
They are made using the hot technique and are mostly used for volume increase or loose, wavy curls.
This style fits best with straight and long hair looking to add more volume. It can also be used for making flyaway curls stay attached to the main body of hair more easily,
Many users deem it as a romantic hairstyle because of how naturally wavy it makes the hair look.
Though not to the level of spiral perms, body wave perms can also add a bit of bounce to your hair and are often preferred to make limp-looking hair come to life.
Hairdressers use large rollers to make this style work, with the objective of making the hair look like sea waves in the end result.
Unlike spiral perms, body wave perms are quite easy to maintain. As long as the user avoids excessive styling and makeup products such as curling irons and straighteners, the hair will stay smooth and wavy for a long time.
You can expect body perms to last at least three months, though, with a bit of care, they can easily last five months without any significant change in look.
Spot perms are also called partial perms because of how a specific part, or spot, of the hair, is stylized instead of the whole hair.
Spot perms can fulfill the purpose of body wave perms by adding volume to the hair but can be a bit more unique in appearance due to the emphasis on the curl being on just one part of the hair.
Even though partial hair styling may seem counter-effective at first, this is a good style to consider if your head has thinning spots, as that specific portion can be covered nicely with a partial perm.
When spot perming, chemicals are first used so the hair is relaxed, and then a large rod curls up the desired portion of the hair.
While the user can choose which part to curl and which part to leave alone, it is usually a smarter choice to allow the hairdresser to choose those parts. The end result should look seamless, so you shouldn’t risk taking chances you don’t have to.
The lifespan of spot perms can vary, as they are entirely dependent on which side of the hair receives more prominence.
Spot perms may also require more frequent maintenance than other types of hairstyles, though, again, that depends on how the hairdresser chooses to stylize the side perm.
Nonetheless, because the perm does not involve all the hair on your head, a bit of conditioning before washes will usually be enough to maintain the partial perm.
Keep in mind that while spot perms are a clever way of hiding thinning areas, it is crucial to match the length of the perm with the length of the rest of the hair. Uneven hair will completely hamper the look.
Sometimes considered a type of a spot perm, a root perm consists of perming only the hair roots. These hair roots are usually situated two to four inches from the scalp.
Since root perm performs so close to the scalp, it can be done only by using the cold perm technique.
However, even though root perms perform close to the scalp, distance is ensured so that no damage is done to the head. The two to four inches distance is kept so that the rest of the hair is not affected in any way because of the perming.
Since root perms are also quite specific like spot perms, they are also required to be catered by an experienced hairdresser. Root perms will often require more care and attention when detailing because the main work is done at a much deeper level of the hair than most other hairstyles.
However, conversely, root perms actually do not require a lot of daily maintenance because they quickly grow out. Often, they do not last at the stylized length long enough to worry about any serious hair care regime.
Root perms usually last for a few weeks, though some can last up to a month.
Now to digital perms, which are usually considered the most modern look in the world of perms.
Instead of dousing you with powerful chemicals, digital perm styling utilizes a controlled amount of chemicals to balance out any possible side effects or long-term damage to your hair.
The curls are stylized using infrared heat to create very loose and wavy locks. This readjusts the hair molecules by reconditioning and repairing them wherever applicable.
A properly done digital perm will take a long time to complete, at least 3-4 hours, but the end result should be a special-looking perm that should last up to a year.
Digital perms, because of the combination of balanced chemicals and infrared curling, produce perms that have one of the highest longevity.
Keep in mind that digital perms are also hard to get rid of, so you will be stuck with a digital perm for a long time if you choose to get one.
Volumizing perms, in theory, are similar to spiral and body wave perms, owing to the fact that they all cater to increasing the volume of the hair.
Volumizing perms also utilize the same rods and chemicals as spiral perms, but the difference is in the method used.
The neutralizing chemical used to adjust the hair molecules is applied after the perm rods have been used. Conversely, in spiral perms, the chemical is used while the rods are still in the hair.
This difference in technique allows the curls to straighten and relax into shape before the rods have adjusted the shape. The end result is usually a fluffier, more volumized look than other hairstyles.
Volumizing perms usually last four to six weeks, so it is not too high on the longevity scale. This means if you want to consistently maintain a volumized look, you need to visit your hairstylist quite often.
Since volumizing perms focus more on creating volume instead of bouncy curls, they also might not be too visually appealing compared to other perms. However, this is just about the best option for anyone looking to increase hair amount over certain thinning areas.
Straight or reverse perm
Sometimes also called reverse perms, straight perms are often considered one of the simplest perms, because, instead of adding volume or making curls, straight perms simply focus on straightening the hair.
Utilizing the hot technique of applying heat, chemicals and a flattening iron are used to manually straighten the hair.
To be more technical, potassium hydroxide (KOH) is used as a strong base to cause a breakdown in the cysteine bonds found in hair molecules. This manually breaks open any curls, allowing the heat from the iron to shape the hair in a straight manner.
A neutralizer is used in the end to ensure the pH level of the hair goes back to neutral. The iron also cleans the hair before straightening it to shape.
This perm ranks quite high on the longevity scale, lasting a whopping six months at a minimum, with seven to eight months ranging on average.
However, such a long-lasting hairstyle means there is always the risk of seriously damaging your hair in the process.
The straightening process can damage hair follicles if not done carefully, and since the process utilizes a very hot iron, there are risks of burns and singes as well.
Remember to reduce exposure to direct heat when sporting a straight perm, for excessive heat can undo the chemicals and cause further damage to your hair.
For signature tight curls, a multi-textured perm is the way to go.
Usually considered a more advanced version of body wave perms, multi-textured perms utilize different sizes of perm rods to make curls that vary greatly in sizes and shapes.
Using the hot technique and the aforementioned different sizes of perm rods, a bunch of different tight and loose curls is made.
The combination of tight and loose curls will look like natural locks, thus giving a very realistic multi-layered look.
Multi-textured perm can last quite some time, at least three to four months, but it does maintain vigilant upkeep with proper hair care products.
Because they can be difficult to do, it is important to book an especially experienced hairstylist to do this perm for you.
Stacking in the end, we have stack perms. These perms also provide a natural look like multi-textured perms, but instead of just curls, opt for a more controlled combination of straight roots and curled ends.
Utilizing the hot technique, stack perms are used to straighten the roots of the hair while also curling the ends of the hair.
Like multi-textured perms, stack perms also use different sizes of rods, which are primarily used here to make the curled ends.
Stack perms usually last for up to five months and do not always require high maintenance. Though, of course, hair products do exist to ensure the most optimum upkeep.
Stack perms can be considered a combination of the other types of perms: has a layered look like multi-textured perms, are used in specific parts like spot perms and helps to add volumes like volumizing or spiral perms.
Beach wave perms
Beach wave perms produce locks that give off the ‘sea waves’ aesthetic.
Beach wave perms are considered similar to spiral perms and are preferred for adding bouncy curls and volume to the hair as well.
Pin curl perms
Usually used on shorter hair, pin curl perms use shorter-sized curling pins to make short, more manageable curls. This style of perm is also the most health-friendly, as it usually does not require any harsh chemicals to be used on the hair.
However, owing to the emphasis on short sizes, pin curl perms do not last very long, usually clocking in at three months on average.
Some men-specific hairstyles to consider with perms
For men, getting a perm usually means turning straight hair into curls.
Men perms tend to depend mostly on the length of the hair rather than other external factors such as focused area or hot vs cold techniques. Normally, short locks last about four months and longer locks about eight months.
Previously mentioned perm styles such as spiral and digital can work excellently for men, so if you are looking to add volume to your long hair, you can definitely consider spiral and digital perms.
For shorter or mid-length hair, men usually go for the following hairstyles with perms:
Fade and Mid-fade
Fade and mid-fade haircuts are normally common hairstyles for men, but with a bit of fade on the side and permed short hair on top, a fantastic look can be achieved.
Loose or tight waves
Similar to the beach wave perms, men can opt for wavy perms that can be either tight or loose depending on preferences.
Loose waves normally look better on longer hair, and tight waves on shorter hair.
Another optimum hairstyle to consider with a perm if you have natural curls.
Fringed perms will produce prominent bangs, and are adaptable with mid-length and longer hair as well.
Faux hawk and Mohawk
Naturally curly mid-length hair is perfect for both faux hawk and Mohawk.
Mohawks look more ‘aggressive’ than the more naturally looking faux hawk, but both can be ideal fashion statements.
A bit of an advantage of faux hawk for perms over Mohawk is that the former can be done with straight, non-curly hair as well, while the former is best done with exclusively curly hair.
Mullets are best done on longer hair, as you would want an accented look on the backside of your head.
Perming a mullet is a good decision as it makes the hair on both the front and back more permanent and easier to manage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How long do perms generally last?
A. Owing to its ‘permanent’ nature, the average lifespan of a perm can vary from three to six months.
However, since perms vary a lot, there are of course varying factors for their longevity as well.
The type of perm you get will also heavily affect how long it will last, owing to the shape and size of the curls and the hair growth around the perm.
Q. Can I color or dye my hair after perming it?
A. The answer would be an affirmative one, with a bit of twist.
Yes, you can color or dye your hair after a perm, though experts would usually recommend otherwise.
Continuous strain on your hair will leave a long-lasting impact on your hair strands. It is usually a good idea to slowly wait for the hair color to settle, for at least a month, and then consider perming or doing additional dying.
Q. How much maintenance is required to keep perms?
A. If you are considering a perm, remember to get a haircut at least once every two months to maintain the perfect look of your perm. Anything short of specific attention will affect the long-lasting quality of your ‘permanent’ hairstyle.
It is also important to use specific hair care products to keep your perm in tip-top condition. An idea would be to use conditioners that are catered to clean, nourish and de-frizz the curls in your perm.
You should be able to find more specific perm-related products in the market to make your daily perm management easier.
Q. Is getting a perm costly?
A. The cost depends on the type of perm and the amount of emphasis you want on specific parts of your hair.
To give an example, getting a perm can cost US$60 at minimum, with the range going up to US$250 depending on how many details you want to add.
Remember to include an additional cost for hair care products and any accessories you will be using to regularly maintain your hair.
While relatively expensive to maintain and take care of, a good-looking perm can still last a good amount of time.
Q. How do perms stay in place?
A. Perms are usually fashioned using two different techniques, named hot and cold after the type of material used.
Cold perms, made using an alkaline solution, produce tight, defined curls.
Hot perms, made using an acidic solution, produce looser, bouncier curls.
Which type of perm to go for?
Not everyone can rock any perm they want. Hair length and volume are often factors to consider when choosing which type of perm to go for.
Spiral perms are suitable for healthy hair, as strong chemical solutions are used to make the curls stay in place.
Recommended length of hair for spiral perms is eight inches or more, as this will give you more space to adjust sizes according to preferences.
Body wave perms:
Body wave perms are normally recommended to those who have naturally straight hair but struggles to maintain curls.
Adjusting your hair to the body wave perm style will not only make the hair look fluffier but will enhance the natural look as well.
Spot or partial perms:
Partial perming is also recommended for hair that naturally tends to lean onto one side.
You can either make the prominent side look more elegant, or balance it out by adding volume to the less prominent side.
Root perms are recommended for people who had done perms in the past and had those perms grow out.
For faster growing hair, this is a good option as perming the hair roots will provide a more effective and long-lasting solution than perming just tips and sides.
Those looking to add volume to their hair can opt for this hairstyle as well, as it adds a touch of life around the scalp and provides a natural bouncy feel to the entire hair.
Opt for a digital perm if you feel you want a unique look, and have straight and thin hair that does not require too much maintenance.
Digital perms do require a bit of investment in time, money and effort, so be aware on that front.
Volumizing perms are an excellent option for anyone looking to add volume to their hair, especially over thinning areas.
Any kind of hair length can utilize volumizing perms, and since the emphasis is not on curls, the amount of hair usually does not matter as well.
Straight or reverse perms:
Those with naturally curly hair usually opt for straight or reverse perm, as they are able to sport the straight perm they had always wanted.
An interesting feature of straight perms is that they are great for making the hair look longer. Since curls can be straightened, the hair looks to have added more length both vertically and horizontally.
Multi-textured perm is recommended only for those with long, at most, medium-size hair. Because this perm is focused entirely on making curls, you will need a significant amount of hair to work with, or else the end result will not produce bouncy and tight curls.
Stack perms are recommended for specific instances: those who do not have existing cut layers, and those who do not want to cut their curls any further.
Despite these specific needs, stack perms can still be used in a versatile manner, in almost any length of hair.
Since curls are best done on larger amounts of hair, stack perms will look best on medium to longer lengths.
Taking care of perms
The main reason why you might want a perm is to achieve natural-looking locks. So, it is obvious to treat your permed hair as if it was naturally curly.
After the perm has been done, be extra careful to not shower or shampoo immediately. Since the harsh chemicals have effectively broken down the bonds of your hair, give it some time for the chemical to wear off.
It is also recommended to not color your hair for at least a week after the perm has been completed.
The best way to take regular care of your perm is conditioning. Moroccan oil in especially great for this role.
Some specific haircare products for perms include Garnier Fructis Curl Nourish, L’Oreal Paris EverCurl and TRESemmé Flawless Curls. All these come as both shampoo and conditioner that are tailor-made to be compatible with curly hair, whether natural or permed.
When combing, it is best to use comb with bigger teeth and wider handles, as the locks will appreciate not having the comb stuck to the sides. You can also use your fingers to keep your locks clean.
Regardless of the variety of perms, they are all used to make your hair look more appealing.
Do keep in mind that perms are a part of you, so they require proper maintenance and care to last a long time.
Always be prepared with the right conditioners and equipment so you never have a bad hair day. Take care of your perm, and it will take care of you.
Nonetheless, regardless of the attention required for perms, they are a great way to stay fashionable and accessorize your own personal look.
Perms are excellent in making your hair look better than before.
So, whether for adding volume or making gorgeous curls, getting a perm might be your next best decision.