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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!




I'm a Master Colorist in Williamsburg, VA. My career is my passion and I hope to share some advice and tips on keeping your hair and skin looking amazing!

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18 Responses to Should I Get A Perm?

  1. devny says:

    I am wanting to get a body wave perm. I want beachy waves. I got an ombre about 11 months ago. My hair is really healthy except for the ends. It is fine, but really thick (my ombre took 4 hrs, she has to rinse the first part before she finished putting the foils in). It is past my bra in the back and bottom of breast in the front. I really want BEACHY WAVES, not kinky curls.

    Do you think I should get a perm? If I do, what is the best way to communicate what I want with the Stylist? I have consultation with 2 different stylists tomorrow…

    • Erika Brown says:

      1) What did she have to rinse before she finished putting your foils in??? That part worries me about her formulations when coloring your hair.

      2) Are the ends just dry? Or are they really damaged/frayed and hard to achieve a smooth look? I can’t promise you that a body wave will give you the look you desire. A stylists at your consultation (depending on how honest he/she is) might say- “yea, let’s do it…it’ll look great!”…because that’s a $100 service in most decent salons. Probably about $120-$150 with the length of your hair.

      3) I have a hunch that your hair was over-processed when you got the ombre. There are other ways to achieve the “wavy” look without getting a perm. Let me know what happens at your consultations!

      • devny says:

        She had to rinse the top (the part she did first) before she finished. It isn’t really over processed and frayed and raggedy, just dry. The very ends (bottom half inch) may be a little bit worse. I wish I could send you a picture…

        The consultations went well. I went to an Aveda salon (i would hope they know what they’re doing). I went to two different salons. Both agreed that it would be okay, but would be dryer because that’s what perms do. I liked one better because she seems to get the look that I was going for and the other lady was wanting to do more of a poodle perm (YIKES!!).

        The stylist I chose said that the ends probably wouldn’t take as good as the middle, and the top would be less curly because my hair is so thick (sounds like what I want bc I want the beach look.

        Sooooo I guess we’ll see in a couple of weeks?

  2. Heidi says:

    I am trying to decide whether to get a perm…I color my hair regularly about every 1 1/2 months. I have not had highlights in over 2 years. I have very fine, thin hair straight hair and would like body and a wave, I would like a easy hair style, Currently I shower, blow dry, and brush. What is your suggestion?

    • Erika Brown says:

      Is your hair in spectacular shape right now?

      Not having highlights is a plus, because they make your hair 10x more sensitive to the perm solution. No matter what, you will notice a difference in the texture and porosity of your hair if you get a perm and regularly color your hair!

      You will probably have some trouble getting a brush through it if you get a perm…..

  3. Angela says:

    I just got my hair permed 3 days ago. We used orange and purple rods. I did not give me curls at all so they want me to come in tomorrow to get it re done. Isn’t is too soon for them to put more chemicals in my hair. I do have thin fine hair. It was my very first perm. I had a consultation before the perm they said my hair was very healthy. I havnt dyed my hair for over 6 months. Im not sure what to do, get it re done tomorrow or wait.

    • Erika Brown says:

      How does your hair feel and look? If it’s really dry with frayed ends….I would definitely wait. Also, how long is your hair and how do you style it? What is your desired look with a perm?

      Did you shampoo or brush it in the last few days? Are you taking any medications (you don’t have to answer in the comment section), or are you on your period or possibly ovulating? Did you recently change your birth control method if you take the pill?

      There are lots of things that can interfere with the chemical reaction of a perm and whether or not it takes….mainly hormones and meds, lol (oh, how they greatly affect our lives!).

      Another thing that can cause a perm to “not take” is how it is cared for in the few days following the service.

      Here’s a personal story:
      I got a “rag” perm in the 7th grade…I wanted a spiral perm, but they said my hair wasn’t long enough (it was about an inch past my shoulders).

      Just for the record….don’t get a “rag” perm! Now that I know what I know….I wonder if it was a real thing….or if they made it up and decided to try it on me! A “rag” perm does not require rods….they used strips of towels that they cut themselves. they rolled my hair with the towel strip as if it were a roller and tied it(yes, a knot with a towel strip)at the scalp.

      In case you hadn’t realized this already….when they apply the perm solution the towels soak up some of it, so it gets a little heavy. That wasn’t so bad….until they had to rinse my hair to prepare it for the neutralizer application(generally stays on at least 5 minutes). OMG….after they rinsed the perm solution out I was about to die! The towels were probably holding about a gallon of water and the only relief I got was when the stylist(s) held my towel-rolled hair up. They said this was normal….yea….whatever!

      The neutralization process is important. The reason why your hair stays in the rods is to ensure that it is neutralized while it’s in its tightest curl form. That way, when the hair is unrolled and relaxes it will keep the curl. If the neutralization were done after removing the rods…..the curl would fall out faster.

      So, the weight of all of that liquid in the towel strips pulled the curl right out of the hair closest to my scalp (a few inches were basically “yanked straight”). To top it all off, my mom said that the stylist was crazy for saying that I could not brush my hair. I begged…and pleaded with her….insisted that I could only use a comb. She won that battle and brushed it out.

      So, I don’t know if my perm fell out because of the brushing or the bad technique, but you get the idea!

      • Angela says:

        I dont have frayed hair at the bottom just frizzy on the top. I didnt brush nor shower after the perm for 2 days. I have just started yesterday some new meds. Propranolol and fludrocortisone. Before yesterday i was on no meds. All i do with my hair normally is brush it and leave it. its very straight and just lays in place. i really want to get this perm but i dont want my hair to fall out.

        • Erika Brown says:

          Was the top frizzy before the perm?

          I know the feeling of wanting to change my hair so badly that judgement gets blurred! Just about every woman has had that undying itch to get a cut, color, perm, etc. despite the reasons why it’s not a good idea, or why they should wait.

          Some perms are less harsh than others….do you know what brand they used?

  4. Mckenzie says:

    I’ve been wondering if I should get a perm, I have a lot of hair but it’s super fine, and flat on my face. I have colored my hair once in my life which was a few months ago. Would a perm work on my type of hair? Thanks

    • Erika Brown says:

      It depends on the current condition of your hair, length, how you style it, etc.

      It sounds like you just need a change. That could be with the perfect haircut for your face, or maybe it’s a perm. E-mail me with more details and I’ll help steer you in the right direction :) .

      *It’s important for EVERYONE to remember that a perm is never like a natural curl. Most of us have tried it once….in our minds, the perm is going to look exactly like our vision of perfect, naturally wavy curls. It rarely turns out that way. At first it might be too curly, then when you finally start to like it….it will soon start to fall out and you’ll be back at the salon looking for answers.

      Perms are great for certain hair types and styles. For some people, the right perm adds body or gives them the curl they desire. The part that stylists have trouble explaining is the reason why you cannot always get what you want. Large rollers need a lot of length to form a curl that will hold, but rollers that are too small may give you undesirable results (I am not talking about my cute little cotton ball ladies right now…for you the perm is perfect :) ).

      If you’re unsure, schedule a consultation first. A god stylists will tell you it’s right for you, or that you probably just need a great cut. There are also many different types of perms! Make sure you ask questions about the product being used and be completely honest about your hairs chemical history!

  5. Tina Adame says:

    I colored my hair a few months ago. It’s time to do a touch up. I want to get a perm. Do I get the perm first or color touch up first? Which and when? Can you let me know? I’ve heard you had to wait a few months in between either the color or the perm before doing the other.

    • Erika Brown says:

      It depends on a few things…

      Do you have gray hair?

      Is your hair colored lighter or darker?

      Do you get highlights or just a single application color?

      Have you had highlights in the last few years if you don’t get them now?

      If you have had highlights(even if they appear to be gone)…how long is your hair?

      Is your hair colored with permanent color or semi-permanent? (I can help with that if you’re not sure.)

    • Erika Brown says:

      After you answer the questions below….

      If I think you can get a perm:

      1)I usually do them a week apart, but it is not required (all stylists have different opinions). Color, then perm.

      2)I have seen someone do a color and perm back-to-back in one appointment on someone with gray hair. The color needs to be formulated darker than your norm because it will turn out much lighter after the perm.

      3)In my experiences with clients that get monthly color and insist on a perm twice a year or so…their hair is definitely harder to comb and style for a month or two after the perm. Deep conditioning a few times cannot reverse this.

      4)Your hair texture will most likely be unpleasant. If you MUST get the perm and want it more than your healthier hair, then it’s a personal decision.

      *My grandma insists that I perm her hair before summer and I do it hesitantly. Her hair is short, so it’s not as bad because we trim and color it every month. Also, she curls it and brushes out for styling…then gives it a few good layers of White Rain Hairspray to hold it in place.

      She’s stuck in her ways and has made a huge change in her “hair routine” all because I kept insisting that I did not want to damage her hair. Her previous stylist was old school and would color it every month, but every 3 months she got a perm the same day.

      Her hair looks so much better since I’ve been doing it….that’s because I care more about her than making the money. Keep that in mind when you go in for your appointment :)

      • Anna says:

        Curious, I had red dye on my hair on top only then wait one week then did perm now my hair on top look brown to orange I want red back I see website say can’t do same day return red hair on top , im so press want red dye on my hair so what should I do ??

        • Erika Brown says:

          Red is known for fading faster than any other color as it is. Perms can cause your color to fade several shades depending on the variables. I would need to see some photos of your hair and some of what you want to make some suggestions. You can e-mail me here: info< @>

  6. […] coming back!  One sure sign is the HUGE amount of e-mails I’ve been getting about perms.  Should I get a perm with thin hair?  Should I get a perm with short hair?  What’s the difference in a spiral perm and a regular […]

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