Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.
The process of perming your hair can be overwhelming. Maybe you want to take the leap for that first-time perm but your not exactly sure which type of perm is right for you. There is a science to obtaining those perfect locks because perms are designed to break the disulfide bonds of your hair by changing the hair follicle's keratin protein structure.
All perms are defined by the ph scale which is a range of 0-14 (7 being neutral). A hot perm uses an acidic solution (0-7 ph) and applied heat while a cold perm (7-14 ph) uses an alkaline solution with a neutralizer. Which type of perm to use depends largely on what type of hair you have (thick, thin, long, short, colored) and what you want your finished look to be. All perms are unisex so that shouldn't be a factor in your decision.
Let's look at the 10 most common types of perms that you are likely to encounter at your local salon.
This is a cold perm and normally lasts 4-6 months. Spiral Perms are easy to recognize because they are normally a riot of springy, ringlet curls located around the entire head. The roller size can vary from the diameter of a pencil to a person's thumb. The roller can be wound all the way to the hair root. It is a higher maintenance type of perm because of a greater chance of frizzing.
You can expect this hot perm to last between 3-5 months, depending on your hair type. Medium to larger sized rollers are used around the entire head to create volume around the root section and cascading loose waves down the length. It is a medium maintenance type of perm. The longevity of the perm largely depends on the type of hair you have.
This perm normally lasts between 4-6 months and can be either hot or cold. It made its first notable appearance in the late 1980s. A Spot Perm is done by perming one specific section of hair to even out your natural curl or wave, making it much neater and uniform in appearance. It is a popular choice for people who have faded shorter sides and longer top strands.
This type of perm typically lasts 4-6 months and is considered a hot perm. This type of perm is normally used by someone who wants to mimic a natural curl or wave in their hair. It is normally a blend of tighter and loose curls which is achieved by using different sized rollers throughout the entire head.
Pin Curl Perm
This cold perm can last up to 6 months, depending on the technique used to give the perm. Reminiscent of Old Hollywood starlet styles, this type of perm creates a very distinctive wave pattern on short to medium length hair and normally in the front sections. It is popular to incorporate pinning back the sides of your hair or styling in a classic up-do. It is a higher maintenance type of perm being that it takes a certain amount of effort to ensure that the wave pattern holds its shape.
A Partial Perm can last 6 or more months and is offered in both hot and cold variations, depending on the manufacturer. Normally a Partial Perm is used to create bouncy curls or waves only around the face or on ends of your hair. The entire head and root sections are left natural. It is designed to give the appearance of large bouncing curls only on the ends of your hair (or the bottom third section). It is also versatile in that it can be used on only the top portion of hair while retaining faded or shaved sides. It is a lower maintenance type of perm.
A Stack Perm can last beyond 6 months. It is a hot perm. In a Stack Perm, the top root section is left natural. Only perming middle and lower length sections of hair will create volume and give the appearance of layers. This type of perm is widely used to create face-framing softness. It is a middle maintenance type of perm.
A Straight Perm can last 6 months or more. It is otherwise known as a Reverse Perm. This is a hot perm. A Straight Perm works in reverse by breaking down the keratin protein in your hair and removing natural curls and waves from hair follicles. This is done differently than any other type of perm because the perm solution is repeatedly combed through the hair, pulling it taught each time and is normally followed by using a high heat flat iron to ensure curl or waves are removed. A Brazilian Blowout, which became widely popular in the early 2000s, is a popular type of straight perm. The result is a lower maintenance style with super glossy results.
A Volumizing Perm normally lasts up to 6 weeks but will occasionally last longer. A Volumizing Perm is a gentler option for people with thinner hair but looks equally fantastic on those thick beautiful locks. It creates very loose waves and a moderate amount of volume at the hair root. This is a higher maintenance type of perm because it is not formulated to last as long as some of the other perm choices. For some people though, the time frame is welcomed because they can schedule regular trims during the same hair appointment.
Digital Perm (Korean Perm)
A Digital Perm can last 6 months or more. It is considered a hot perm. A Digital Perm (or Korean Perm) is a perm like no other. Its design and application are unique. It is one of the top choices in delivering beachy waves by restructuring the hair through the use of a tailored perming solution. The solution itself is different than any other because it contains proteins that recondition and repair the hair during the whole perming process. Once the solution is applied, hair sections are then wrapped around individual temperature-controlled rollers (resembling corded electric hot rollers) instead of the standard individual plastic rollers. This is a low maintenance option for a touseled loose curled style with incredible movement and shine.
How long do women's perms last?
There are several factors that go into determining how long a perm will last regardless of whether you are a woman or a man. Certain types of perms are designed to only last a few months. The exception to that rule is a Volumizing Perm is which only lasts roughly around 6 weeks. Other types of perms have an expectation of lasting 6 or more months. The type of hair that is being permed is a huge factor. Thick hair will perm much differently than thin hair. The individual technique that your hairdresser uses to perm your hair can have an impact. Maintenance and hair care are also major factors. How often you wash your hair, how often you will use a hairdryer (if at all), types of hair products you will use, the humidity of your local climate - these all play a huge part in the longevity of your perm. Are you a swimmer? The chemicals from pool water will definitely wreak havoc with your permed hair and can dramatically cut the time that your perm will last.
How long do men's perms last?
You can expect a man's perm to last as long as a woman's perm. Perm's are widely considered unisex because of the science behind a perm. They are designed to change the hair structure to accept wave or curl with the exception of a Straightening Perm which removes wave or curl. A person's chromosomes are not a factor in determining the longevity of a perm. The type of perm, the type of hair, your climate or environment, and how you care for your permed hair will determine how long your perm will last.
Do perms ruin your hair?
When you perm your hair, you are either using an acidic solution or an alkaline solution to change the structure of your hair follicle by breaking the Keratin molecules in each hair shaft. Yes, there is always the chance of damaging your hair but the professionals at Evergreen Beauty College say that the chance of that happening is minimized by using a qualified stylist. It does not matter if it is a first-time perm or if you have been perming your hair for years, each hairdressing session and perm should be considered individually. Even the technique of your individual hairdresser and the perming solution manufacturer have a play in how a perm affects your hair. There are post-steps that you can take and fantastic products out on the market that you can use to help keep your hair as healthy as possible. Here are a few products that have high customer reviews.
Can I wet my permed hair every day?
The Hair Professionals Career College recommends waiting at least two days before washing your newly permed hair. After those first 48 critical hours have passed, then you should be fine to wet and style as you like but being gentle with your styling might be helpful in ensuring your perms longevity. The first 48 hours are considered the golden hours. If you get your hair wet during that time, there is a large risk of undoing the perm. This includes shampooing your freshly permed locks. When shampooing and conditioning after the recommended wait time, choose products that are paraben and sulfate-free. A leave-in conditioner designed for permed or color-treated hair is also something to consider.
Can thinned hair be permed?
Thin hair can be permed. Although, you might want to stay away from strong perming solutions being applied directly to the root area. Not to say that it is impossible but it would be best to discuss perming options with a licensed cosmetologist. Perm solution choices are different for different thicknesses of hair. What might work great on thicker hair might not be appropriate on thinner hair. The thinner the hair, the greater the risk of damaging your hair or your scalp with a solution that is too strong. The type of perm you would like and more gentle perming solution options are topics that should be discussed with your licensed cosmetologist.
What is the best perm for thick hair?
The best type of perm for any type of hair largely depends on the hair that is being permed. Thicker hair does have a wide range of perming options. It tends to hold curls and waves very well but length, layers, lifestyle, and the shape of your face should also have a part in your decisions. It is widely accepted that acidic perms work better on thicker hair versus thinner hair simply because thinner hair will burn easier than thicker hair. The strength of the solution is something that should be discussed with your hairdresser so that you have a greater chance of reaching your perfect hairstyle goal.
Regardless of whether you want to help tame your out of control natural hair or update your style with a new look, a perm is certainly a viable option. It might be wise to pay attention to your face shape because certain perm styles are more flattering than others. A licensed cosmetologist can help with suggestions that may work best for you. If your hair is colored, this is something that you should also keep in mind as it will have an effect on your desired results. Also, remember that the type of perm that your friend has may not be what works best for you. A person's hair is an individual thing.
For a look at the best type of hairbrushes and other handy styling tricks, check out the post: 16 Types of Hair Brushes You Should Know
For a deeper look at conditioning your roots, check out the post: Is it Bad To Condition Your Roots?