Curly Hairstyle

I decided to write a post about perms because I hear this question more often than you think, and from people who should not even be considering a perm!

I expect it from my “baby boomer” generation clients because they grew up with perms, as did their children.

Then there are those with very fine or thinner hair that would like a perm for body, great idea if your hair can handle it.

Everyone else that asks me about a perm is probably going through a hair crisis and it’s just another idea or way to change things up. I can always tell because that means you’ve tried everything else and you just throw your hands up and say, “Maybe I should get a perm.”. Trust me, it’s not always the best way to go!

I’m going to start out by giving you my basics! These are things that I make sure clients are aware of or that I look for during a consultation. If you’re still not sure if it’s right for you or not then keep reading for Perm Tidbits & Alternatives to Perms!


1) Do not get a perm if you get your hair colored regularly with permanent hair color or box color.

Semi or Demi Permanents can be okay depending on your hair color history. In any situation with coloring your hair make sure you go through a proper consultation with your stylist before taking the plunge! It all depends on what type of chemicals your stylist has available to use on your hair and if it’s right for you. There are lots of less damaging options out now compared to the 80’s so it can be done with care!

Hopefully everyone already knows this, but PLEASE don’t attempt to perm your hair at home especially if it’s already colored! I know that people still perm at home so be careful because there’s no turning back :).

2) Do not get a perm if your hair is already damaged!

Perms are made possible with very strong chemicals (the smell should be a clue). Although they’ve come a long way in 25 years they are still not the most gentle option for your hair! If you’re not sure if you’ve got too much damage take this quizlet: How Damaged Is My Hair?. It will help you figure out if it’s time to lay off the chemicals and start deep conditioning!

As an alternative to getting a perm you can use velcro rollers or any other type that doesn’t require heat before use. Of course, you will need some extra time for getting ready but it sure beats creating more damage! When your hair is fried the most important things are to prevent damage and regain strength….curls are not top priority.

3) If you MUST perm your hair…make sure you have a thorough consultation with your stylist!

It’s our job to ask the right questions, but it’s also your job to recognize whether or not you feel that your stylist is being thorough! We are all different and come from a variety of training backgrounds. You may get someone that isn’t familiar with perms and hopefully you can sense that. I know the basics and I can roll a darn good perm but I’m not the fastest and I still do a double check to make sure we’re using the right solution. If you get someone that’s been doing it for 20+ years you’ll know and you’ll feel comfortable with them.

For example: If I have a client that I’m unsure about I will let them know that I want a second opinion and grab a more experienced stylist with perms for the consultation. Remember, you can always ask for a second opinion yourself if you feel uncomfortable about the service!

4) Do not get a perm the same day as your color service!

Even though I still see this happening in some salons, I just don’t agree with it. It may have been done for years, and guess what?

Everyone’s hair looked fried, dyed, and laid to the side!

If you get a perm you want it to look beautiful and healthy, not dry and frizzy! There’s no doubt that if you get two chemical services in one day it will not turn out like you’d hoped.

Here’s a quick story…
I’ve been doing my grandma’s hair for a few years now and when I started her hair was a tangled mess! She’s not your average cotton ball head grandma, she’s hip, young, and wants to keep looking that way. Her previous salon was coloring & perming her hair on the same day every 3 months(insane!), and still coloring each month as well. The first time I combed it I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing because it was impossible to round-brush and curl! Then I realized that she’s addicted to perms & hair color, and the salon just went ahead and did it to make those dollars.

It has taken me a long time to convince her that it’s not okay and the difference in her hair is amazing! We now do a gentle perm on her once before the summer….and MAYBE once in the winter(1-2 weeks after her color).  Her hair looks great, feels great, and is much more manageable!

So please remember, just because your stylist says, “Yea, let’s do it.”, doesn’t mean that it’s okay for your hair! They either don’t know what they are doing or thinking….cha-ching, double process=double dollars!


Perm Tidbits:

  • If a perm doesn’t take ALWAYS wait at least 1-2 weeks before attempting to get another perm! Have your stylist evaluate your hair first because it could be even longer! If you’re stylists insists on trying it again within a few days….just wait, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
  • If you perm & color in the same day it will turn out at least a shade lighter than you thought you were getting! Not to mention the damage….
  • Make sure to be COMPLETELY honest during your perm consultation! This means speaking up about home dye jobs, current medications, and even if you’re on your cycle! All of these are indicators of how much your hair will suffer or if the perm will even take!
  • The best hair types for perms with minimal damage risk are: Gray Hair, Coarse Hair, & Natural Hair!


Alternatives to Perms:

  • Use hot rollers for extra body like these from Babyliss Pro.
  • Use a curling or flat iron to create volume at the base.
  • Find another style that works with your hair texture! Just because you don’t like your hair texture with your current style doesn’t mean you won’t with a different cut! I talk about this more in Finding Your Perfect Style!



 If you’re really looking for beachy waves….click here!

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102 Responses to Should I Get A Perm?

  1. Shea says:

    I’m so glad I found this page and I’m hoping I can get some advice: I’m 19 and I really want to get a perm. I have pretty thick, coarse hair. I have colored it once in the past year, about 6 months ago. I never blow dry it and I straighten or curl it maybe once a week. My hair has somewhat of a wavy/ straight thing going on, but I love the way it looks best when it’s super curly and slightly unruly– it suits me! My hair goes almost to the middle of my back. Would getting a perm be a good idea for me?

    • Erika says:

      I think that you would be happiest with just using the curling iron. I have a hair texture like yours and once you learn how to curl it, you will be happy! You can curl it to a messier look and you won’t be damaging it!

      I used a large barrel curling iron. The secret is to section your hair (3 should be fine…bottom, middle, top), and each section should be curling towards a different direction. My hair is just past my shoulders now, but I will try to work in a tutorial this week and post it for you!

      Here’s the curling iron I use for your length hair:

  2. […] may want to read – Should I Get A Perm? and Should I Get A Perm If I’m Coloring My […]

  3. Danielle says:

    Bleached and color my hair using splat .. perm is needed asap to tame soon or any recommendations …can’t be looking llike this

    • Erika says:

      Can you fill me in on “splat”? Where did you get it and what else can you tell me about it?

      Also, why do you feel that a perm would tame your hair? Are you referring to a curly perm or a straight/relaxer perm?

      If your hair was bleached then it is likely that neither of those is a good option. Is your hair unruly because of damage? How does it compare to before you bleached/colored it?

      • Lana says:

        Been to my usual hairdressing salon today for my fortnightly shampooed and conditioning treatment my regular stylist was sick so another girl did my hair and kept on saying that I should have my hair permed that it would suit me an offered to perm my hair for free and take the perm straight out if I did not like it I am interested in trying something new but a perm not sure but am really tempted now to have perm can you let me know should I have my hair permed? And is it safe to take the perm straight out the same day if don’t like it look forward to a apply thanks

        • Erika says:

          I think that sounds a little odd. As an experienced stylist, I would never try to convince someone that they need a service by telling them that I can easily reverse it if they don’t like it.

          ALSO….I don’t know anyone that feels so strongly that a client should get a perm that they are willing to do it for free. That whole situation is just unusual!

          If I suggest something new, it’s usually color or a cut that will be easier to style or more flattering. I really don’t know anyone that suggests perms so strongly! It’s that thing that no one wants to do…..

  4. Ashley says:

    This Wednesday my stylist was supposed to spiral perm my hair, I explained to her that I wanted the curls but I wanted the big curls not the really short ones which is why i grew my hair out longer still i wanted a change in my hair style to not have to curl my hair with a curling iron any more, so i wanted the big spiral curl.. In which I have not died my hair in over three years, or done anything to it. I have virgin hair as i was told it was called. My hair stylist didn’t explain to me till after she did my perm that their is more then one type of perm, matter of fact she only told me the spiral perm would be perfect for me because it wouldn’t be that tight curl. Well it took her maybe 30 minutes to roll my hair up in medium sized curls, then another ten to squirt this chemical on it in which got in my left eye.. she forgot to mention that i should cover my face with the towel she place in my lap.. that i didn’t even know was there. On top of that the whole process took about an hour and 40 minutes. When she was done and pulled the rollers off, she squished my hair with her hands and added mouse and made it sound better then it actually was. She said she loved it because it looked natural. I said well i kinda expected it to be more curly then it looked. She proceed to tell me that when styling it that i should put curl mouse on one side and then flip and put it on the other side.. and the if i wanted more of a curl to take a curling iron to it.. wth.. Why would i get a perm on my hair if i still have to take a curling iron to it.. any ways all this was done from 12 to 1:40 ish i was walking out of the salon by 2 and by 4:30 my hair was as flat as it was when i had gone in the salon that day. The back of my neck had burns from the chemicals and the top of my head burned fo the next two days.. I complained the next day that i felt it had gone flat by evening, and that i didnt think it really stuck. she told me to wait three days and see what it does. I feel like i paid a 100 dollars just to put chemicals in my hair and damage it. pretty much. She wont refund for even part of the perm.. she offered to redo it but i felt i had such a bad experience the first time that who do it a second time and damage my hair more… she said that it wont damage it to redo it a second time. So i asked if there was another option like high lights or some thin. Nope. She told me to wait a week and see what my hair does. She wont refund me because it wouldn’t be fair to her since she has to pay the salon for a booth rental,… She said she cant offer me some thing other then a perm because she will get in trouble. wth.. its her own business with her own customer basically .. this is frustrating and i am one very upset customer.

    • Erika says:

      Oh geeez….you should definitely get a refund! Bad customer service on her part…

      Did she protect your skin with a balm, lotion, or jelly? Something like that should be applied all the way around your hairline…forehead, ears, behind the ears, your neck, etc. Then, after the rolling is done, your stylist should use coiled cotton to wrap completely around your hairline before applying the perm solution. I usually wrap it 2-3 times to make sure that a good barrier is created. The first wrap is generally tucked up under the rollers that are along your hairline so it will catch anything that drips. I also use my hand to shield as I’m applying the solution and the only clients that need a towel for their face are the ones that are sensitive to the smell.

      Then, a plastic cap is placed over all of the rollers and I usually try to get most of the cotton in it (or at least the cotton layers that will soak up most of the “run-off”).

      Next, your hair should be rinsed for AT LEAST 5 minutes at the shampoo bowl with the rollers in place (lukewarm water). After that, your hair should be blotted very well with towels to soak up the extra water (still in rollers).

      Then, a neutralizing solution is applied and left on for 5 minutes. The neutralizer is what makes the curls retain their shape as long as the perm was done properly. That should also be rinsed for 5 minutes and after the rods have been removed your hair should only be towel-dried before applying product. Sitting under the dryer is okay as well.

      Spiral perms are rolled differently than regular perms. The rollers should be somewhat vertically placed, unlike traditional perms where the rollers are horizontal on the head. Also, at the nape of your neck, 1-2 rows of hair should be rolled horizontally so there is no discomfort when trying to rinse.

      Each section of hair that is rolled should be no wider than the roller itself. Too much hair will not product the desired look and is a sloppy way to give a perm (don’t know if that happened to you as well).

      Yes, there are several different types of perms. It is not up to the client to know which one is best. It’s the stylists responsibility to give you your options and explain the differences.

      • Erika says:

        Telling you to wait a day or two….then to wait a week….was total b.s. just to get you out the door. That’s ridiculous!

        She knows she messed up and it’s improper to tell someone that their business expenses are the reason why they can’t give you a refund. Sounds like a personal problem to me.

        I’m upset for you….

        Also, she’s not going to “get in trouble” if she’s a booth renter. Even if she wasn’t renting a booth…making mistakes is part of the learning process and unless she does crap like this everyday, then she shouldn’t have to worry about getting in trouble. Any salon owner would help that stylist learn from their mistakes and make it right to keep the client happy and ensure that they are a repeat customer.

  5. Macey says:

    Hi I have thin colored hair, i colored my hair 5 months ago. but when i went to a salon they say that i should not have a perm. And i want to try new style for my hair thats why i want to have a perm and also that it may look thicker. What can you recommend about my hair’s situation?

    • Erika says:

      I hear a lot of people say that they want a change, so a perm is the way to go. For some people perms are just what they needed, but it all depends on your hair, your hair cut, the type of wrap they do, the perm solution, etc.

      So…For starters I would need to know a little more about your hair…

      1) What’s your haircut like? Length? Style?
      2) How do you normally style your hair and do you like to pull it back?
      3) Do you care for your hair properly? Are you using good products, or are your products drying out your hair?
      4) Do you like your stylist? What does he/she suggest?

      Perms don’t necessarily “amp up” thin hair. They may for fine hair. Some people feel that their hair is thin, but it’s really just fine with medium thickness (for example). If you’re happy with your haircuts and you’ve styled it every which way (and your hair is healthy) then you may want to consider a perm. On the other hand, I think you were going to a great stylist if they discouraged you from getting a perm (for the right reasons).

      When someone cares and wants you to love your hair they will tell you the truth. Some stylists will tell you everything is a good idea so they will make more money. Some stylists simply DO NOT like giving perms (typically stylists under 35). It’s up to you to judge your salon experience and their advice.

  6. Jenny says:

    I haven’t had my hair dyed in a year and really would like to get a perm. The last time I had it dyed was to match it to my natural color so I could stop having to get it dyed. A good portion of my hair is virgin growth, but due to the fact she did a great job matching the color, I can’t tell how much of it is old growth that had been dyed. My hair is in good shape and I only use a blow dryer/curling iron 2 or 3 times a week.

    • Erika says:

      There is a chance that the perm could take differently between the new and chemically treated hair. This isn’t common, but if your hair is shoulder-length and half “old”, half “new”….then it could happen. Depending on how damaged the colored hair was (how much you colored and to what extent), this may or may not be a problem.

      Have you ever had a perm before? Some people just get an “itch” to try these things, and never do it again for various reasons. Consider whether you are just bored with your hair, or if you really want a perm.

      Here are some reasons why you might want a perm:
      1) Easy maintenance
      2) Quick & Effortless Styling
      3) Body, Curl, & Texture

      You also want to think about whether or not you WILL want to color your hair after the perm. Try to stick with one or the other….if not your hair will lose its integrity fast!

  7. Vanessa says:

    I got my hair dyed six weeks ago and cut. Now my hair has grown and wanted to get a perm. Can you recommend a mild perm? I don’t want to cut my hair anymore and would like to grogrow it back nice and healthy.

    • Erika says:

      What type of color service did you get? Permanent, Semi, or Demi. Did you get highlights or have you had them in the last 6 months? If you’re not sure what type of color service you got, I can help you figure it out ❤

      • Vanessa says:

        I believe it’s permanent. My hair is tapper on the sides and the top she bleached than
        dyed red and purple at the top but when I wash some purple residues still wash out.

        • Erika says:

          I would suggest that you not get a perm, and use another method at home to style your hair. There are tones of fun new curling irons that will give you pretty waves, and sometimes I use rollers on top just for volume.

          The bleaching concerns me with the perm…that never turns out well!

          • I colored my hair about 2 – 3 weeks ago with the reden color fusion permanent series and have fine hair and falls just below my shoulder blades. My hair is a little wavy but I would like to get a perm. What do you recommend and what brand?

            • Erika says:

              The Redken Series? Was that a professional color line at a beauty supply store, or did you go to a salon to get your hair colored?

              A perm will drastically lighten your new color, sometimes 2-3 shades lighter. It all depends on your natural and the color that was used.

              Generally, I do not suggest a perm if you get permanent color unless you have very short hair and get frequent haircuts because damage is not as noticeable. Still, your hair would not feel the same.

              Why do you want a perm? I find that most clients want a perm for the wrong reasons, and they just need a better solution as far as cut/style. I think you might fit into that category!

  8. Nancy says:

    I have gray hair, it is fine and short in length. I had a perm for gray hair about the first of July and would like to no how soon should I re perm and what type of perm should I use so I don’t damage my hair. I want to grow it longer so I don’t want to cut it to much.

    • Erika says:

      Generally, you would get a perm every 3 months. It depends on the person…so if your hair grows fast or the perm falls out within 3 months…then it’s time to get another one. But, if you’re still satisfied with how it looks…wait another month or so. I have clients that get two perms a year so that it’s easier on their hair (spring and fall).

      You’re okay with the stronger perm for gray if your hair is more resistant to chemicals, coarse, very thick, etc. Without color on your hair you don’t have to worry about damage as much, but if your hair is hard to comb when wet or overly frizzy then you may want to ask for a more mild solution next time. ❤

  9. Cindalee Anton says:

    I am 64 and color my hair, it is fine and short I cannot use a curling iron because of arthritis in my shoulders I cannot reach up. plain curlers do not stay in. will a perm damage my hair and if not what one should I get ? I have people telling me it would be ok but I am cautious thank you

    • Erika says:

      There are perms that are “safe” for color-treated hair. But….I can’t guarantee that your hair will not feel damaged afterwards. It depends on your stylist and the products that are used. If your hair is colored with permanent haircolor and a mild perm is used, you will probably end up with hair that is hard to comb when wet and feels more straw-like.

  10. Tash says:

    Thanks for the informative post. I have black hair that has been colored to cover white hairs growing in. My hair is frizzy and coarse. In the past, my hair has taken very well to perms and I loved it because as it grew out, I still had the texture and wave for almost a year. Now, I want wave, not a tight curl.What are your thoughts on a body wave?

    • Erika says:

      Body waves vary depending on where you go. The name is somewhat misleading, because it’s still a perm. With color on your hair, your biggest concern should be that they use a very mild formula. Also, perms never really give you that wavy look you want. It may be too curly for you at first, or not the type of curl you’re hoping for.

      If you do it, make sure you go to someone that you trust because a lot of people ask for a body wave and end up with a regular perm look. Your other option is to style it that way when you do your hair. There are lots of easy ways to do this and you don’t have to curl your entire head with a curling iron! I’d be happy to give you some tips if you decide against the perm!

  11. Colleen says:

    Hi Erika…just found your post when I Googled about perms. Great advice and wondered what your thoughts are for me.

    I’m “mature” (68) and haven’t had a perm for over 20+ years. I had great stylists that gave me cuts that were very flattering and I didn’t need a perm. I’ve haven’t colored my hair in 3 years and I have a salt-and-pepper look now with most of my silver at the crown. I have fine (not thin) hair with a lot of cowlicks. I also have wavy hair ONLY on the top of my head. The rest of my hair is straight. Weird, huh?

    We have retired and moved to a different climate (dry) and I can’t seem to find a stylist that can cut my hair like I use to wear it. My hair is very healthy and strong.

    I’ve been letting it get some length because if I do get a perm I didn’t want to look like your typical “old lady”. Do you have any suggestions for me getting a perm?

    • Erika says:


      Depending on how long you’ve been “going gray”, your hair may be slowly phasing out of a certain hair texture (such as more wavy to straight). I experienced a huge texture change in my teens, so I figure this can happen any time our hormones fluctuate.

      Whether or not you should get a perm depends on a few things…

      1)How do you like to wear your hair?
      2)Do you prefer less styling time in the morning?
      3)Is your hair healthy? (Seems like it probably is).
      4)Are you okay with getting a perm every 4-6 months (depending on preference)?.

      • Colleen says:

        Since I’m retired I prefer a casual style…the less fuss, the better. Right now, if I’m just going to be around the house all day, I may just let it air dry. If I’m going shopping or to church or whatever, I use a round brush on the straight sides and back and let the waves on the crown air dry. I’ve never fussed with my hair and I don’t like products in my hair as a rule. I have a lot of body even though it’s fine.

        My hair is very healthy and I don’t foresee a problem with a perm. I’m just concerned about chemicals on my silvers.

        What questions should I ask my hairdresser?

        • Erika says:

          Your hair will be fine with a perm, it’s more of a concern for people with colored hair. Is your gray soft or more coarse? If it’s coarse….the perm will help to soften it up a bit. Just make sure that you go to a reputable stylist!

          If you want a perm that isn’t as damaging or won’t be as tight, ask for the perm that is used for color-treated hair. There are different products and the one that most stylists use for gray hair is much stronger.

          • Colleen says:

            Thanks Erika. My hair is soft and use to take a perm easily, but that was back when I had it colored. It would soak it up like a sponge and had to be watched closely. Many years ago, the gal at the salon left it on too long and it burned all my hair off!!!! It had to be all cut off and it was about 1″ long all over. I was devastated!

  12. […] este proceso el cabello puede que poco a poco pierda el efecto enrizado. El procedimiento dura aproximadamente dos horas y […]

  13. Laura Merrell says:

    I permed my hair back in april with a redkon high perm but it really didnt take.. now i want to get my high lights redone because i have 4 inches of new growth and im not into the ombre’ look… i was wondering if its safe to highlight my hair with bleach to touch up my highlights with it being 4 months after my perm??

    • Erika Brown says:

      It depends on if you plan to do it yourself or see your stylist. Also, how does your hair feel? Even if a perm does not take…it was still chemically treated and could have caused some damage. Damage comes in all forms…sometimes we notice it and sometimes we don’t, but what makes it worse is using multiple chemicals. If you’re just getting a RE-TOUCH and not coloring all of your hair, then you will be fine. When asking yourself if you should go for it or not always trust your gut and consider if your hair is in a healthy state before you go for it!

  14. Kylie says:

    So I have naturally curly hair, but I’ve wanted a like spiral perm for awhile. I’m 19 and my mom used to get them, but she said not to, and won’t tell me why. I have thick hair and I want tight and defined curls. But using any kind of mousse or gels don’t help. What do you suggest?

    • Erika Brown says:

      I wouldn’t get the perm. It will ruin your natural curl! We all want something that we can’t have, so in this case just embrace what you have and curl your hair with an iron when you have an event to attend. Your hair probably looks best with texture sprays and/or a light mousse and is a look that so many people wish they could achieve! You would be unhappy with the spiral perm…I’m certain of it :)

  15. Ash says:

    Ok. I have read all the comments, searched every blog, and I still cannot find an answer to my question. So, I figured maybe you could help me. I’m 15 years old, and I’ve had straight, boring hair all my life. And I want to change it up a bit. I’ve already changed up the color, and I absolutely fell in love with the change. Now I need something more than color. I want a loose, wavy perm. But…. I really like to dye my hair red. I usually dye it every two months when I have red in my hair. But that was before I bought this red shampoo that makes my hair brighter every time I use it. Red fades fast, and thats why I had to dye it so often, but now that I have the shampoo, I only have to dye it every 3 months or so. So, do you think it would be safe to get a perm? Please tell me yes!

  16. Rachel says:

    Hi, so glad I found this page! I’m thinking about getting a perm. My hair is very fine and stick-straight. No amount of product and scrunching will even make it wavy. And no matter what I do to style it, long before the day is over it has fallen flat and just looks gross. I want a perm for more body, and I love the way my hair looks with curls. (I don’t want corkscrews though.) I never color my hair, and it’s currently cut to about my shoulders with short layers. Would I be a good candidate for a perm, or do you have any other suggestions? I’m hating my hair these days, but need something fairly quick to do since I have a 6 month old. Thanks!

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