Spiral Perm Vs. Regular Perm: The Main Differences

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

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Perms can be a great choice in hairstyle for anyone looking to change up their look. They are especially fun for anyone who has straight hair because they will change the natural behavior of your hair to have a permanent curl. Even people with curly hair may choose to get a perm to change the type of curl their hair has or to make their curls more consistent, but what are the differences between a normal and spiral perm?

Spiral and regular perms change the permanent nature of hair, making it appear naturally curly. Regular perms make tight, uniform, spiral curls in hair by wrapping it in perm rods and with chemicals. Spiral perms also add curl, but the curls vary in size and shape, creating a looser look.

After deciding that you want to get a perm, or as a part of the decision process, it is important to know which kind of perm you would like. The results can both be very stunning, but spiral and regular perms each have their own unique styles to offer. To learn more about regular and spiral perms, keep reading.

What is a Regular Perm?

The term “perm” is actually used as a shorter way of referring to a “permanent” hairstyle using chemicals and special heating rods. This type of perm has consistency in the size and shape of each curl, making a uniform look throughout the hair. Generally, the hair stylist will wrap evenly sized pieces of hair around perm rods, apply perm lotion to the hair, allow the chemicals to sit, rinse the hair, and dry it right afterward.

Most hair stylists agree that hair must be at least 2 to 2 1/2 inches long to properly perm. This is because, during the perming process, the hair must be wrapped around the perm rod. There are various levels of thickness for these perm rods, but regular perms will be done with the choice of a single rod size to maintain uniformity in the hair. Longer hair will clearly result in long curls. Remember that the overall length reach of your hair will shorten after receiving a perm, as the hair will lose length in the distance it covers in the twisting motion forming each curl.

Regular perms are the type of perm that is generally associated with hairstyles back in the 1980s. This was the most common type of hairstyle back then, and there were large, voluminous, curly perms being shown off on nearly every corner. Fortunately, however, more modern chemicals used to do perms today are far less harmful to hair in the long run than they were back then.

What is a Spiral Perm?

Like a regular perm, spiral perms are done to perform a permanent or semi-permanent change to hair by adding more, or a different kind of, curl to it. Unlike regular perms, however, spiral perms do not result in a uniform curl shape or size throughout all of the hair. In fact, spiral perms offer a large amount of freedom in the size and shape of the curl in the hair. This type of perm results in a “looser” type of curl and look than a regular perm offers with its tight and uniform curls all throughout the head.

Spiral perms are done using chemicals and perm rods on the hair, with the rods held vertically while the chemicals set in. There is a much more modern type of look that accompanies a spiral perm, and it generally works better on longer hair.

Spiral Perm vs. Regular Perm Differences

While both of these options are types of perms and add curl to the hair, they have different effects and create very different styles. Many of the differences between these two types of perms are explained below in more detail.

Size and Type of Curl

As aforementioned, the type of curl resulting from the hair styling process will vary largely based on the type of perm you request. A regular perm will result in uniformly shaped curls throughout all the hair on the head. Each of these curls will be rather tightly formed and is not meant to vary from one another in the slightest. In contrast, spiral perms will result in looser curls that are not of the same size or shape.

Minimum Hair Length

Because these two types of perms aim to result in different sizes of curl, it makes sense that the length of hair required to perform a spiral or regular perm is not the same. In most cases, hair that is from 2 to 2 1/5 inches is an acceptable length for a regular perm to be properly done to the hair because the curls will all be the same and will also be tightly knit.

In spiral perms, the hair length requirement is much longer. Hair stylists generally agree that hair must be at least 8 inches in length from the top of the head measured down to the ends in order to perform an effective spiral perm on the hair. This is because the looser curls of the hair mean that the curling doesn’t often begin to show as strongly until further down the strand of hair, as opposed to a regular perm where the curls begin almost at the scalp.

Styling Process

Both spiral and regular perms include the use of perm rods and chemicals used to set the hair in position. However, they are done in different ways to produce their uniquely styled results. Spiral perms will often use different sizes of perm rods to keep the looser curls from forming too tightly or in the same size and way. The rods are held vertically against the head in a spiral perm.

Regular perms will be done using the same size of perm rod for every section of hair around the head. These rods will be held horizontally against the head to create a uniform shape in each curl.

Time Period Association

Stated in simple terms, regular perms are known to have been popular in the 1980s. It was a very common and trendy hairstyle at the time, and many people continue to associate this type of perm with the 80s. Spiral perms are a lot more similar to the loose type of curls that are common today. This may or may not impact your selection of the type of perm you like, but you should be sure to choose the kind that you prefer for your hair!

Related article: Different Types of Perms

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