The return of the perm…

If you are anything like me, then when you hear the word perm you immediately think…. eek, poodle curls. I also think about that scene in Legally Blonde where Elle convicts the daughter of murder due to the fact she claimed to be in the shower after having a perm where she says:

“Isn’t it the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you are forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate?”


Anyway, so I have been hearing that ‘the perm’ is back in fashion…. no, not the corkscrew curl one but more the Hollywood curls or the Sienna-Miller-esque loose waves. I am really interested to hear from anyone who has had a perm, either now or in the past as to what your experience was like (good or bad)… especially anyone who has had the Schwarzkopf Professional Natural Styling Hydrowave that apparently can create all sorts of waves/curls/root volume without making hair crispy or frizzy.

I am basically asking because I would LOVE to have the sort of natural ‘boho’ type of wave in my very straight, very blah, hair and have been musing as to whether this might be an option (salt sprays and curling tongs just don’t really do it for me). Obviously this sort of treatment will cause damage, but as someone who already highlights my hair then I am no stranger to this… I just want to know, is it worth it?

So what are the views? Have your or a friend ever had a perm – horror stories or happy endings all welcome! Please comment below!

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20 Comments

  1. March 16, 2010 / 6:28 pm

    I didn’t realise people had perms in order to get lose curls! I just (naively) assumed they were all natural and people had perfect hair! I’m so stupid sometimes.
    I’ve never had a perm but my friend had one 4 or 5 years ago and it is honestly the one massive hair disaster I think I will always remember. It was so.. big and so curly, which was the intention but it just looked so ridiculous. Not long after her perm the same friend decided to dye her hair red but it went orange. Oh damn!

    Lucy (http://sleepingwithseclusion.blogspot.com)

  2. March 16, 2010 / 6:29 pm

    Loose curls, not lose curls!

  3. March 16, 2010 / 10:19 pm

    I permed my hair (umm..normal perm i guess? lol) many years ago at my neighbourhood salon with the intention of getting loose curls. I opted for the biggest rollers the salon had. Apparently they weren’t big enough. I almost wanted to go back and get it undone. But I worked around the hair with accessories and after a couple of washes it started to loosen up anyway. Basically a happy ending.

    I think I also purposely washed my hair earlier – less than 24 hours after the perm (GASP) in an attempt to loosen the curls.

  4. Sakara
    March 16, 2010 / 10:23 pm

    ive been seeing these new perms mentioned around the place and id love to have it on my hair – which is stick straight and thick….im soo bored of it like that!

  5. March 16, 2010 / 11:26 pm

    I’m interested in this too – my hair naturally has a wave to it but it’s a frizzy, dry, huge wave rather than nice!

  6. Ashwini
    March 17, 2010 / 8:15 pm

    I got a perm in 6th grade, and before that I had pin straight hair. I’ts been 20 years since, and my hair is no longer poodle curls, but its no longer pin straight. if i don’t blowdry my hair straight, its quite wavy in an unflattering way. so be warned of that–the perm may never fall out, your hair may grow wavy afterwards.

  7. Kittie Kat
    April 18, 2010 / 11:21 pm

    pravana just came out with a ‘beach wave’ system that does a loose curl perm using foam blocks as rollers. its supposed to be damage free as well. we will see.

  8. Angela
    May 3, 2010 / 3:25 pm

    I got the Pravana Beach wave this past weekend and it was a distaster. Do not do it!

  9. May 12, 2010 / 10:12 pm

    I HAD IT DONE TODAY AND IT SUCKS! AND THE SO CALLED “CUSTOMER SERVICE ” GUY, IN CHARGE OF THE PRAVANA PLACE…is a jerk. He told me there was NO chemicals, yet there is a low amount of ammonia. The 2 stylist that did it, have been doing perms for years, …and followed all instructions to a “T”…..there is very LITTLE wave, ..and hair is TOTALLY dried out, ..Not colored either! I have, or had very healthy hair.
    It is NOT damage free, its TOTAL BULLSHIT.
    NOT worth the money and is no different from other perms other than perhaps some ingredients, STRONG smell when you put it on, JUST like a regular perm. The box, VERY DECEIVING as well, the picture is of a woman with blond hair curls, ABSOLUTELY done with curling iron to perfection. Not a “beach wave”.

  10. Anonymous
    September 13, 2010 / 1:35 pm

    I’ve been doing my own self perm for the past year months or so, i’ve done it a few times, and my ridicolously straight hair was turned into awesome cute curls that you can do anything with and since then i have totally ditched my GHD’s and opted for the no effort look. It has made such a differnce to my hair routine seriously! I would totally recommend it to anybody, it’s not that hard to do yourself and the boots self perm kits are excellent and only cost £3.50 or something! I know salon perms are really expensive so it will save you loads of money. I’ve done it on two of my friends and they have loved it. Of course self perm kits are susceptible to loads of poor reviews because half the time people have no idea what they are doing when perming their hair. Things like the hair being too long, not rolling the hair right and uneven distribution of product can all make a self perm turn into a disaster. People say perms dry your hair out..i wouldnt say mine has dried out at all really, maybe a little bit at first, but i was drying it out anyway using GHD’s to add volume and curls to my hair so overall it’s way more healthy to just do a perm every 6 months or whatever.

    I would just say go for it, it was totally worth it with me, and the more you do to your hair the better you will become at doing it! I’ve been cutting and colouring my hair for the past 5 years or so and all my friends compliment me. Just get some practice and you’ll be fine!

  11. Tashy Tash
    March 20, 2011 / 3:19 pm

    Hi!!
    I’ve been having perms for aprox 2/3 years now. My 1st perm was done by an old friend in his afro caribbean salon in South London. Once it was finished my hair was practically STRIGHT!! I was sooooo upset! lol Think it was aprox £70. I went back the next day to have it re-done & he confessed he FORGOT to put the perm solution in! Wat a crazy man!!!! NEVA went back! I then went to a different salon in South London and found the curls didnt hold. Had it done again almost a year later and found the curls were not very close to the root. Im now dying to get it done again as the curls are growing out from the top but cant find a salon!!! =(
    From a very desperate South London girl

  12. Natalie
    March 26, 2011 / 2:26 pm

    i have had some bad experience’s with perms.. my mom gave me my 1st perm when i was 3 or 4. I got one my senior year in high school wanting a soft loose curl, but the hair dresser did not listen to me and i ended up with a big puffy mess. Recently I thought I would give it one more try. I went to the local hair school where I live talked to them about exactly what I wanted. I was scared. They used the large orange rollers and had rolled them a certain way and not tight to my head. It turned out exactly what I wanted. It looks like I was born with beautiful beach hair. I love it and so do some of the woman I have encountered. They all asked me where I got it done. If you see the small rollers run, but I had a good experience finally.

  13. Anonymous
    March 27, 2011 / 6:33 pm

    Natalie, sounds great! Where did you get it done?

  14. April 8, 2011 / 10:38 am

    Aw girls, it’s terrible that you have had bad experiences with perms. Mine is actually good! I get it done at Michael Barnes in central London (£60 for short to medium hair). I have really fine, straight hair that is boring and impossible to style as it’s baby soft. Yuk.

    I get it done every 6 months and in the mean time I do spend a lot of time caring about it because, ladies, perms DO dry your hair out. Get used to sleep with rich treatments (coconut oil in Superdrugs is really good), wash with shampoos for curly hair (unfortunately it becomes a bit frizzy after 2 months but I wouldn’t dare having more than 2 perms a year).

    I also use a kerastase leave in conditioner after every wash and I do colour my hair but only every 8 weeks and with non permanent dyes like Casting (no amonia). Forget about highlights and permanent dyes; it would be way too much and you can end up with your hair in your hands. For me, I can sacrifice highlights and stuff in order to have waves, curls and volume. No doubt! Hope this helped 🙂

  15. Anonymous
    July 14, 2012 / 6:53 pm

    I’ve always wanted to get a straight perm. Hmm. xx

  16. Anonymous
    July 30, 2012 / 5:46 am

    Stay away from the perms. They only damage your hair. I had beautiful straight hair until I was a pre teen. Then in the 80s when perms became popular I kept having them done. I regret that. I am now having to deep condition my hair and bad hair days are a problem for me. STAY AWAY FROM PERMS THEY ONLY DAMAGE YOUR HAIR

  17. April 24, 2013 / 9:21 pm

    What a disaster! My hair had never been so dry, brittle, and breakable as it was after my bad perm!! In desperation, my stylist recommended the Shielo products, specifically the Shielo Smoothing Collection. My hair is finally getting healthy again, and I am grateful !!! Noticing a BIG difference with the Shielo shampoo & conditioner, since it has amazon oil built into the product.

    It has noticeably returned my hair to a soft, healthy-looking state once again.

  18. Claire Larsen
    August 23, 2013 / 3:02 am

    I actually have a perm right now and my hair is healthier than when I didn’t have the perm. Since getting the perm I never use any heat products (curling iron, straightener) unless it’a a special occasion. If you want one, make sure you have thought it through. Just take good care of your hair (use conditioner, curly hair shampoo, and try to avoid heat based tools ok). Perms really can look amazing you just have to go to the right people and get it done well.

    • Val
      April 25, 2015 / 6:15 am

      Hello Clair

      Where did you have your perm done please? I have been looking for a saloon to have it done for ages but I don’t really trust anyone without a review…

  19. Gloria
    May 6, 2016 / 1:20 pm

    I am in the usa. I work at Panico in Ridgewood nj. We do perms. I do many. Consultation is key. Must give the stylist a 2 yr history of what has been done to your hair. Important. Medicines you are on. Take pictures to see curl requested. Best of all ask the stylist to use olaplex during the processi because it is a game changer. Olaplex is a strengthen. It repairs the bonds that are broken during the perm. I don’t want to do perms anymore unless I can use olaplex. But even with olaplex the stylist has to know what they are doing. Find the right stylist and go for it. Curls are going to rule

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