Perms have come a long way since the 70s and 80s: Big and fuzzy was the name of the game in those days. These days, perms can be fine-tuned to give you exactly the kind of wave you want. You can get perms that just add body to fine, limp hair; you can get loose, sexy waves; or you can go for the cork screw curls that many straight-haired girls covet (and some curly-all-their-lives girls are sick of); or if you have an area of hair that simply needs redirection – a problem area that needs correcting.

But who’s the best candidate for perms? How long do they last and, most importantly, how do you avoid getting the perm you DON’T want?

Are You a Good Candidate for a Perm?

Perms work best on hair that has NOT been highlighted. The chemicals are too harsh for doubleprocessed or heavily highlighted hair. There’s simply no way around that. Shorter hair can tolerate highlights and a perm together, however. If you have dry hair or tons of short layers, you aren’t the best candidate for a perm. Perms will dry hair out even more and a perm on short, layered hair will just look  like a bad, fuzzy poodle.

Not sure if your hair is a good candidate for a perm? Ask your stylist. You’ll want to tell him or her every chemical process your hair has been through in the last couple years. One way you can find out if your hair is damaged and can’t withstand more chemical processing is to do the old float trick. Take a few strands of hair and put them in a glass of water. If they sink, this means your hair is damaged and is soaking up moisture. If the strands float, this means your hair is healthy. You may want to keep it that way and avoid the perm. Black hair and Asian hair can also be difficult, but not impossible, to perm. You’ll want someone who specializes in your type of hair texture.

How Long Does a Perm Take?

Perms take two hours, depending on how long your hair is, the technique used for what result of wave, and how fast your stylist is. Your stylist will apply a single chemical solution to break the structural bonds in your hair – that’s the wave lotion – and another called a “neutralizer.”

How Long Does a Perm Last?

Most perms generally last from 2-6 months.

Prep Your Hair for the Perm

To prepare your hair for a perm, you’ll want to use a moisturizing conditioner after you shampoo. Avoid deep-conditioning your hair for at least 24 hours before the perm, otherwise the perm may not take. Make sure that you are gentle with brushing so you don’t create abrasions of any sort to the scalp.

The Size of the Rod Matters

The tightness of the curl depends on the size of the rod and the length of time the solution stays in. If you’re worried you’ll end up with too-tight curls, ask your stylist to show you the types of rods she is using.

How To Find a Great Stylist

Not all stylists these days do perms and you don’t want one who doesn’t do them on a semi-regular basis. I suggest calling salons and asking if they have someone who specializes in perms. You may have to call around a bit to find a specialist. Even in New York City, most salons I’ve consulted don’t have a perm specialist.

As For Me

I am a perm specialist and thoroughly enjoy changing the texture of hair. I am a specialist in making sure the integrity of hair remains, that you receive the wave/curl that you desire, making sure that you know what you can expect before the service, and properly informing you of the after-care.

What to Bring to Your Appointment

Pictures are essential, and vital for you to get the look that you want. Simply telling your stylist what kind of curl you want leaves you in jeopardy of getting the look you don’t want. Remember, this is not a haircut or color; it’s going to be with you awhile. Stylists can control the amount of wave they give you, as well as the part of the hair they want to perm. Your specialist will know what size perm rod to use, the care of the hair – before and after – and will know how to properly wrap the perm for the look you want.

Book a Consultation

This should be complimentary. This will both tell you if the stylist “gets” you and understands the look that you desire, and if their experience level makes you feel comfortable.

Maintain Your New Perm

After care is crucial. Usually, you must wait 48 hours before shampooing. Your stylist will send you home with the proper shampoo, conditioners, and styling products to maintain “the look” that you want. Shampoos with sulphates or sodium chloride are a no-no.

For any other questions that you may have, please feel free to call or email me at