Perming, or permanent waving, is the option for you if your hair's straight and you want some curls that'll last longer than using a hot roller set. It's not as scary as it sounds either... . We'll explain what perming is (so you know what you're getting into), what you should consider (in terms of preventing possible damage), and some maintenance tips.

What is Perming?

Perming is a process that involves using chemicals to alter the natural structure of your hair, and by doing this it makes your hair curly. It's kind of like what you can do with water and heat (water and heat- say using hot rollers- works by breaking the hair's bonds, which then go back to normal when dry), except chemicals "set" the break so that the effect lasts longer.

So what happens is this: your hair is washed and wrapped around a perm rod (like a roller), lotions are applied to break the hair's bonds, and then after rinsing, a neutralizer is applied to set the new curl pattern. While the effect of hot rollers will probably result in curls that'll last about a day, perming should (depending on your hair's type and texture and length) result in curls that last 6-8 weeks.

Still Want a Perm? Consider...

There are a few things you should consider if you're gonna take the plunge and get a perm- but before you do anything you should really have a consultation with a professional. After you've had a good chat at your salon:

  • Bear in mind that perming can lighten your natural hair color (due to the use of hydrogen peroxide in perm neutralizers). This means also that it's a good idea to perm your hair before coloring it, and that you need to discuss with your stylist how long to wait before applying the color.
  • Assess the health of your hair before perming; I mean, have you had other chemical processes done to it already? To find out, ask your stylist to do a "strand test" because healthy hair is an essential ingredient for a good perm.
  • Make sure your hair doesn't have any silicone build up, because this could interfere with the perming process. Using a clarifying shampoo will get rid of any build up and leave your hair squeaky clean.


Got a Perm? Some Maintenance Tips...

So you've left the salon and your straight hair's been transformed into the sexy curls you dreamed about. But hold the phone Shirley Temple because there are a few things you should do in order to maintain your hair's health and prolong the life of those bouncy curls:

  • After perming, you don't necessarily need to wait 24 hours (or some say 2 days) before washing your hair. If the perm worked it shouldn't matter if you get your hair wet... but the rule of thumb really is to ask your stylist's advice about your particular hair type.
  • Blot your hair dry by wrapping it loosely in a towel. Never rub your hair dry, but opt for a gentle patting motion instead.
  • Air drying is the best, easiest and most effortless way to dry your hair, but you can also use a diffuser if you're short on time.
  • Your hair should always be combed with a wide-toothed comb (never use a brush).
  • All styling products should be applied in sections, and make sure you use the right ones. As a general rule, anti-frizz serum is good for getting rid of fly-aways; control your hair's volume with scrunching spray; gels and products with a high hold factor will give you tight curls and light products like lotions and mousses will give you looser curls.
  • Clipping away your hair away while you sleep will help avoid tangles.

Perms certainly aren't for everyone, but they're the kind of thing most people just want to try- out of curiosity- or have a secret desire to see what they'd look like. Why? Maybe because a perm's quite a big, noticeable change. So, if you're one of those people, give a perm a go, but heed our advice and tips first! (If you're not sure if curly hair will suit you, check out our hair consultation, and if you're keen for a perm but just plain scared, there are more tips inside "Get Over Your Hairstyle Makeover," our free e-book.)