For some women, the thought of a perm brings back frightening images of too-tight curls and crispy textures. For an entire generation of younger women, mention a perm and the response might be, “What’s that?” Perms were once the best way to achieve body and curl in a hair style, but with the advent of blow dryers, styling irons and hair styling products, perms have fallen by the wayside in recent decades. But thanks to some major new technology, including a formula that completely erases the unpleasant odor associated with the service, perms are resurging.
What Perms Do
According to Donna Mann, Biolage Director of Education Development, a permanent wave formula will permanently alter the chemical properties and structure of your natural hair. Modern formulas do so with minimal damage, providing your hair is in good condition to begin with. Your hair structure can be reshaped into curls or waves, depending upon the size of perm rod your stylist uses to set your hair. Once complete, you may opt to air dry your new curls or waves or use the permed texture as a foundation to provide more body and fullness when you blow dry and style your hair.
How Does A Perm Work
Perms require two steps in the salon. Step one involves setting the hair on the desired rod or roller size and shape and then applying the perm solution, which alters the shape of the hair and allows it to reconfigure into the form of the rods or rollers. Once the solution processes, a neutralizing formula is applied that stops the action of the perm solution and restores the chemical balance of the hair. There are perm formulas for every hair type—fine hair, medium, coarse—as well as for colored hair.
A New Way To Remove Perm Odor
One of the biggest complaints about perms is the smell—a strong ammonia odor that emanates from the alkaline perm solution formula. The odor often lingers in the salon and in your hair. But according to Mann, there’s now a fix for that. Applying an acidic product called Biolage R.A.W. Acidic Milk Rinse after a perm service actually masks the harsh smell of the alkaline perm formula. The Milk Rinse is applied after the neutralizer is rinsed from the hair. Not only does it eliminate the odor, it leaves your hair stronger and shinier. So now one of the biggest complaints about perms—the smell--is no longer an issue. Simply request a Biolage Acidic Milk Rinse after your perm service!
How To Care For Your Perm
To prolong the life of your perm, try to wait at least three days before washing hair. (That’s easier if your stylist used the Biolage Acidic Milk Rinse—there will be no odor and your hair will feel fresher longer!) When you do shampoo, choose moisturizing, curl-enhancing shampoos and conditioners. Skip the hairbrush—instead, apply a detangling spray and detangle your hair with your fingers or a wide-tooth comb. Thermal tools like blow dryers or curling irons will stretch out your perm, so if you love your new curly texture, simply scrunch a curl-defining gel into your damp hair and allow it to air dry.
Hair Perm Types
Today there are so many more options, going well beyond the standard curly perm. Here are some examples.
The Body Wave Perm
If your blowouts or curls tend to fall flat after a few hours, a body wave perm will help maintain your hair style. It will give your hair the firmness and support it needs to keep from going limp and lifeless. One popular body wave technique involves rolling every other section of hair into a rod, so the resulting curl is more natural. A body wave perm will last for about 3-6 months.
The Beach Wave Perm
If you love the soft, effortless look of casual beach waves, but your arms are tired from using a curling iron or curling rod to create the look, consider a beach wave perm. Your stylist will place large rods on the mid-lengths and ends of your hair to create gentle texture and movement. A soft perm like this will last for about 2-3 months as it gradually relaxes.
The Smoothing Perm
Not all permanent texture services involve curl. According to Biolage Artistic Director Robert Santana, if you want to manage or control a too-tight curl, or prevent puffiness or frizz in thick, coarse hair, your stylist may suggest a formaldehyde-free, thio-based smoother. A cold smoothing option will maintain your curl, while a heat straightening option will smooth your hair. With cold smoothing, the smoother will gradually just go away; with heat smoothing, you will need to see your stylist regularly to touch up the new growth. You can also transition more gradually by having your stylist do a cold process retouch on your heat straightened hair.