Types of Perms: The Comprehensive Guide to All Things Perm

Types of Perms: The Comprehensive Guide to All Things Perm

When you think of a perm, what comes to mind? Is it the 80s or bright, neon colors? For us, perms have taken on a whole different meaning in this decade. Even though your mom or aunt probably had a perm back in the day, they haven’t gone out of style. 

Perms are back and better than ever! Hairstylists have developed new techniques that are a bit more modern to create all different types of perming styles. So let’s talk about perms and all the nitty-gritty details. 

What Is A Perm?

The process of perming your hair involves chemicals that change the structure of your hair’s texture. This means it could change your hair from straight to curly, or vice versa. Besides just curling and straightening, perms can bring volume and bounce into your hair, too. Perms can bring life to limp hair to bring you a completely new do. 

The name itself is the shortened version of “permanent hairstyle.” The chemicals work to alter the hair and break the bonds that determine your natural hair’s texture and look. Usually, this process takes about two or three hours and should be done by a professional. 

Perms have been around since the 1800s, but they’ve come a long way since then. New types of perms are continually being created. But to really understand perms, let’s go back to the beginning. 

A Brief History Of Perms

Let’s just say that you should be happy you weren’t born when perms first came on the scene. The methods that were used centuries ago involved copious amounts of heat and harmful chemicals. Marcel Grateau was the French hairstylist who coined the term, but in 1906, Karl Nessler invented an even longer-lasting perm process that involved even more heat and chemicals. 

During the 1950s, stylists would use toothpicks to roll the hair and create tight curls. This style was extremely popular during this time period because of icons like Shirley Temple. 

In the 1970s, acid perms became well known in the hair community. This was a method that was gentler and more efficient, and it really caught on. Most trends make a comeback every 20-30 years, and the perm is no exception. 

In the 2000s, natural beauty has taken over. People are now comfortable wearing their beautiful curly hair (as they should be) wherever they go. Along with this, big, iconic curls came back into style, and people everywhere rushed to salons for a perm. 

Should You Get A Perm?

This is a pertinent question, and you might be thinking, “why wouldn’t I get a perm?” Well, how much damage does your hair already have? Yes, a perm is theoretically possible on nearly every type of hair, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically go for it. 

For example, people with color-treated hair might want to avoid perms. It is likely that the chemicals in the perm will not react well with the chemicals already in your hair and could even result in hair loss if you aren’t careful. If your hair is already dry and tired from bleach, don’t subject it to another possibly harmful chemical. 

If you like to curl your hair often, you might want to consider getting a perm instead. Putting your hair through daily damage from heat is a lot worse than one styling treatment on your locks. It will likely only last for about eight months, so despite the name, it’s not exactly a permanent decision. 

One other factor to think about when considering a perm is how often you get it wet. If you’re a surfer or swimmer, your hair is subjected to salt and chlorine frequently. Unless you wear a swim cap, perms and water don’t really mix. Of course, this is a lifestyle choice you could easily change, depending on how dedicated you are to getting a perm!

How Damaging Is A Perm?

One of the biggest concerns you may have is whether or not a perm will ruin your hair—we get it. Thankfully, perms are not what they used to be. The new formulas that have been created since the 80s are a lot safer on hair. There are still a few things to be careful of when perming your hair.

Unlike bleach, perms don’t strip your hair. They change the composition of the cuticle, which means you have to be careful where and how you get your perm. If the chemicals are applied incorrectly, it could cause a lot of damage to the hair. 

The more often you get a perm, the more damage it will cause. Perms on top of perms will produce breakage in your hair, which is harmful to hair growth. The best way to minimize damage is to go to the professionals—trust us; you don’t want to try DIYing your perm. We understand that you might want to save a couple of bucks, but it’s not worth it!

How Long Does A Perm Last?

This will vary depending on how fast your hair grows, as well as its length. People with short hair usually enjoy their perms for up to four months, but long-haired people’s perms can last up to 8 months. When your natural texture grows at the roots, it causes the perm to get pushed downward.

Depending on your natural hair, an outgrown perm might look awkward or uneven. This is why many people like to get touch-ups or hair extensions to blend their perm. 

Hot Perms Vs. Cold Perms

There are a lot of different perm styles out there, but there are two main methods to create them. 

A hot perm uses a formula that is more on the acidic side (between 4.5 and 7 pH) to produce the curls. It uses heat to create the style and is also sometimes called a digital or acid perm. This method is best for thin hair and tends to be slightly easier to maintain. 

A cold perm uses an alkaline formula instead. This has a pH between 8.2 and 9.6 to break the bonds within the hair. It uses ammonium thioglycolate and then brings the pH down to its normal range. This method creates a lot of volume and has a more defined curl look. 

Perm Styles

Now it’s time to talk about perm styles. There are plenty to choose from and different kinds for your specific hair texture and thickness. Let’s go over some of them. 

Body wave- This is a looser style perm that looks more natural than others. It’s great for creating waves in straight hair and uses larger rollers. 

Spiral perm- This style uses the cold method and produces bouncy spiral-shaped curls. These are usually pretty uniform and go right up to the root. This is a great option for women who already have curly hair and works best on hair that’s at least eight inches. 

Partial perm- This perm style focuses on a certain area of the hair rather than the whole head. This is ideal for people who are trying to manage curls that won’t cooperate or spots where their hair is thinning. 

Root perm- This style only covers the first two to four inches of hair from the root. It’s done using the cold method and is perfect for touchups. 

Multi-textured perm- This style uses a combination of large and small rollers to create different-sized curls. This creates a more natural-looking perm since people with curly hair usually have variations in their texture. 

Volumizing perm- This technique removes the curling rods before applying the neutralizer. This increases the volume of the hair. The downside is that these types of perms don’t last very long.

Straight perm- This method uses potassium hydroxide to remove the curliness of your hair. Sometimes this technique is called a reverse perm. 

Perm Style Supplies

Now that you have a new hair texture, you’ll need some new hair supplies. This likely means you’ll need to exchange the shampoo and conditioner you have for something formulated for curly hair. We recommend our Essential HairCare Moisture Hydrate Set. The certified organic extracts give your hair shine and a protective moisture barrier. 

Another thing you’ll have to worry about is frizz, especially if you go for a lot of curls. That’s why something like the Anti-Frizz Smoothing Cream from us at Voce Haircare will be your best friend. Keeping curls hydrated is your main goal now, and using this cream is the perfect way to style them without adding extra weight. 

Let your hair air-dry for the most part, but use a diffuser attachment on your blow-dryer for the best results if you need to dry it more quickly. This will help maintain the texture without drying out your locks. Make sure to use a heat protectant beforehand, though!

The Bottom Line

That’s it! You’re now an expert on perms, congrats! So now that you can confidently say you understand how perms work and the different styles, you’re ready to decide if perms are for you. Remember, if you do go for it, don’t let your curls get thirsty!



How Long Does a Perm Last? And 12 Other FAQs on Type, Care, More | Healthline

How to Give Yourself a Straight Perm You got this. | Byrdie

How to repair damaged hair: Methods and how they work | Medical News Today 

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