Alex Kingston – Doctor Who

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 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!
  • Click here for more Perm Alternatives!



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

138 Responses to Should I Get A Perm?

  1. Fender says:

    First of all: THANK YOU for opening this forum. I’ve spent the last 45 minutes poring over everyone’s questions/your answers, and feel a lot more educated about the subject!

    I have very fine, medium-thick, totally straight hair that was last colored (demi-perm) about eight months ago. It falls below my shoulder blades, but the ends are really damaged from brushing out a few crazy/super teased hairstyles I wore for special occasions. (I’m planing to get 2-3 inches trimmed no matter what.) I rarely use any kind of heat, instead I apply a texturizer (Kevin Mitchell) to damp hair and let it dry in an updo to get some lift at the roots. Regardless of what I do (velcro curlers, sponge curlers, pin curls, curling iron, etc.), my hair typically falls super flat within hours unless I use a quart of hairspray. I have no grays.

    I’m considering a body wave to give my hair volume, texture and a little waviness. I’m okay with gambling a little on this, since I don’t mind wearing updos for a few months if disaster strikes. But I don’t want to 1) utterly fry my hair/lose it or 2) end up with an insane amount of frizz.

    I’ve got two questions:

    – Do you think I’m a decent candidate for a body wave?

    – I really, really want to dye my hair red again (I know it fades the fastest. I typically go over-the-top copper and it fades to a more normal shade in a few weeks). If I do the dye-wait two weeks-perm route, what’s the worst that can happen?

    (One last note: I got a perm in the late 90s — when I was in middle school — and it fell out almost immediately. It was done at my mom’s friend’s house, but she was a stylist. I have no idea if I cared for it properly! I was about 11 😉

    Thanks again!

    • Erika says:

      If you color your hair before you perm it….The perm will cause the color to fade quite a bit. Do not use permanent color! Demi-permanent is okay…it won’t cause the amount of damage that permanent color would.

      Your ends are probably really dry. Texturizing sprays tend to contain alcohol. I always use a leave-in conditioner when I style my hair that way (my favorite is It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In Conditioner).

      On the perm you got when you were little-the same thing happened to me! I was around the same age and my perm “fell” out after a few days. I waited to wash it and did not brush it just like I was told. It was probably hormonal…that’s one of the most common reasons that a perm will not take. Sometimes it’s human error…your stylist must follow the steps exactly to ensure that the perm will hold.

      Best of luck to you!

What do you think? *All comments are held for moderation.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.
© 2016 Confessions of a Cosmetologist