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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!



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

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78 Responses to Should I Get A Perm?

  1. 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. ❤

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

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  6. 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!

  7. 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 :)

  8. 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!

  9. 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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