Envious of that natural, artfully mussed, beach wave hair that you see on every red carpet and that hair stylists re-create every season backstage? You can get that undone, I-just-woke-up-with-wavy-hair-this-perfect ‘do, with minimal effort… with a perm.
We already know the adjectives and images popping into your head: poufy, fried, ’80s, chia pet, Flashdance fuzzbomb. Those descriptors belong to the perms of yesteryear. It’s better this time. It’s so different this time around that salons were advocating a name change–”body wave”–when the New York Times wrote about the return of the perm two years ago–but it’s still just called a perm.
The perms of today are smooth, effortless, volumizing, require almost no blow drying and can give you beautiful, wavy hair for up to a year. Pros of the procedure? It’s really easy to style and maintain. Cons? It may take about a month before it looks how you want it to and the chemical can make your hair smell funny for a few weeks.
Anyone worth their repeated viewings of Legally Blonde knows that ammonium thioglycolate is the active ingredient in a perm that breaks down hair bonds, and that’s still the case. Neutralizer applied after the ammonium thioglycolate locks in the curl. The secret to getting that elusive modern wave via a perm lies largely with the technique of the stylist and the condition of the hair.
In the old days, they threw rollers in the hair and applied solution, without a lot of thought put into it. Today, stylists take many things into consideration. Like: What kind of look is the customer going for? Does the customer bleach their hair? Color? Texture? Does the client swim, is there chlorine in the hair? Is the hair very fine? What is the length and shape of the haircut? Your chances of smooth, natural results are instantly better depending upon your answer to these questions.
How do you up your chances of making sure you’re getting a good perm? First, make sure the hair is cleansed properly—styling products build up on your hair and close the cuticle. If you apply perm solution over that, you get that crunchy feel. Here are some other tips:
• The number one rule for any major hair change: Have a consultation. Bring in pictures to make sure you and the stylist are on the same page.
• Take care of your hair. Having good quality hair is like priming your skin before applying makeup, the base is just as important.
• Get a haircut with layers. If you have all the same length, you’re going to have a pyramid on your head.
• Perform proper post-perm maintenance. You can make even the nicest perm look like a big fuzz bomb with a blow dryer. Wash it with moisturizing shampoo and air-dry it, or use a good diffuser on your blow dryer.