Ask Belle: To Perm, or Not to Perm
Jul 23, 2013
I started reading your blog a few months ago. Love it.
My question is about hair. Ever since I read this NYT article, I’ve been contemplating the once-unthinkable perm. A friend of mine got a digital perm, and she ended up with gorgeous loose waves. My hair is fine, but there’s a lot of it, and it barely holds a curl. Like you, I prefer big, voluminous hair. I’m tempted to take the perm plunge. Do you have any experience with or opinions about the new generation of perms?
This may shock some of you, but I used to perm my hair. I found that light wave really pumped up the volume when I straightened it, and I could leave it curly and get a nicer undo. I only stopped perming it because after my last hairdresser retired, I couldn’t find anyone in D.C. who knew how to perm my hair without a) frying it or b) making me look like I was wearing a clown wig.
I’m not sure that there is anything particularly “new” about these perms. But I’m not averse to adding a bit of chemically created wave to my hair, provided you heed some ground rules.
Size Matters. If you’re going in for a perm, make sure that your stylist uses a rod that will give you medium-size or larger curls. The size of the rod depends on the hair length. I also recommend using two sizes to get a more natural looking waves.
Care for Your Hair. If you color your hair (and who doesn’t these days), especially if you lighten your hair, you need to have a long chat with your stylist about which type of perm to use to prevent ruining your color and damaging your hair. Some damage is unavoidable, but lower ammonia perms and other formulas are available that will minimize the issue.
For some women, a perm isn’t a good option because their hair is too fine, too processed or too damaged. Only your stylist can tell you for sure if a perm is right for you and your hair type.
Curly Hair Takes Work. The biggest misconception about permed hair is that it’s so easy to care for and style. It’s certainly easier than blow-drying, straightening and curling our hair every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s maintenance free.
Then, you need to find styling products that will enhance and hold your curls. Creams are a bad idea because they will weigh down the hair, and gels will give you a crunchy 80s perm that will have zero movement.
I recommend a volumizing and curl defining mousse like L’Oreal Everstyle or Pantene Curl Mousse. I also use a curl enhancing spray like Frizz Ease Dream Curl or Bumble & Bumble Surf Spray for looser, beachier waves.
Lastly, you need to dry it. For that, you need a decent blow dryer and a diffuser. A number of curly-haired friends have purchased the special DevaCurl hairdryer and diffuser set, but since my curls are temporary, I just buy a Conair diffuser cuff for $8.
Conditioned. When my hair is curly, I like to do a deep condition every week or every couple of weeks. This is especially important if you are straightening your waved hair on a regular basis. Aussie 3-Minute Miracle is inexpensive and works well enough.
Like I said, if you put a lot of work into your straight hair and you’re looking for a break from straightening it every day, try a perm. But be sure to find a stylist who gives perms regularly, this is not a time for a newbie. If you don’t like it, you can always straighten it.
So have you permed your hair in modern times? Know if a DC-area stylist who does a good job? Or do any curly girls have tips on products to use?