Last Updated on May 3, 2021
If all of your ideas about perms come from movies made 30 to 40 years ago, you may be surprised to learn about all of the things this wonderful hair styling option can do today.
Now, you can choose from all different styles of perms, from tightly wound curls to loose, beachy waves that will give your hair the volume you crave.
However, because there are just so many different perm options offered today, it is vital that you understand what each term means to choose the best look for you.
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Types of Perms
1. Spiral Perm
The spiral perm is probably the best known type for creating very tight curls. This style is usually best for individuals with very healthy hair because a strong chemical solution will be used to create the curls.
Each curl extends from the root to the tip of each hair follicle. However, you might choose to mix up the look of the curls by asking your hair stylist to vary the size of the perm rods she uses in your hair.
Because the hair curls up so tightly with a spiral perm, you should have at least eight inches of hair before getting this perm. However, with proper hair maintenance, your perm should last up to six months.
You will notice the curls relaxing over the months and will need to invest in high-quality haircare products to keep your curls shiny and frizz-free during this time.
2. Body Wave Perm
The body wave perm is one of the most popular options these days as it gives individuals the wavy, volumized hair that they want without producing tight curls. Your hair stylist will use much larger rods than those that are used for the spiral perm.
This perm creates a very natural look and does not require nearly as much maintenance as the spiral perm does. It is a great choice if you have naturally straight hair that has a tough time holding a curl. If your blowouts tend to go flat after a few hours, this type of perm will help prevent that.
However, you will want to stay away from curling irons or straighteners as these will ruin your new curls. Your body wave perm should last from three to five months.
Related: Curly vs Straight Hair (Pros/Cons)
3. Spot Perm
Spot perms and partial perms focus the waves or curls on only one part of your hair rather than over your entire head of hair.
While this may initially sound odd to you, it is actually a great way to add a bit of volume in the mid-hair region or to create more volume if one section of your hair is thinning. You might also choose the spot perm if your hair naturally curls only on one side of your head.
Your hair stylist will work diligently to ensure that this perm looks perfectly natural. Usually, larger rods are used.
Because of the great variations in how spot perms are done, you may need to come back in for a curl touch-up more frequently than you would for the body wave perm.
4. Root Perm
A root perm is similar to a spot perm in that only one section of your hair is permed. However, this perm focuses only on the roots of the hair rather than the mid-shaft region or the ends of the hair.
This is the best way to add natural-looking volume. It can also be used to give a bit more curl if your current perm is growing out. While it is easy to care for your hair after a root perm, the results will only last approximately a month.
5. Digital Perm
The digital perm is an exciting new option for those who are looking for loose, natural waves without the harsh chemicals of traditional perms. Instead, they use more balanced chemicals along with infrared heat to create your ideal curls.
The digital perm is perfect for individuals with very straight or thin hair and don’t expect your local SmartStyle to offer this type of perm. Before you lock yourself into a digital perm, you should know that it is an investment on several levels.
First, it takes quite some time in your stylist’s chair. Be sure to block out an entire morning or afternoon to get your digital perm done as it takes several hours.
Second, this is one of the longest-lasting perms, often giving you curls for up to a year. Be sure that you want permanent curls for that long before booking your appointment.
6. Volumizing Perm
As you can tell by its name, the volumizing perm creates more volume rather than tight curls.
While the same rods and chemicals are used in the volumizing perm as are used in a spiral perm, the neutralizing chemical is applied after the perm rods are removed rather than while they are still in the hair. This lets the curls relax slightly before they are set.
This perm is equally suited to those with shorter hair as it is to those with longer hair. However, because it only lasts about six weeks, you will need to plan on regular appointments with your hair stylist if you choose to keep up this look long-term.
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7. Multi-Textured Perm
The multi-textured perm produces one of the most realistic, tightly curled looks. It does this by using a variety of perm rod sizes to create even more curl shapes than you would get with a body wave perm.
This perm should only be chosen by those with medium to long hair as it creates tight curls. Your hair will look bouncy and highly textured. The look should last several months, however, with proper haircare and styling products.
8. Stack Perm
The stack perm is another highly natural-looking option that keeps the roots of your hair a bit straighter and the ends of your hair more curled. It should only be used by those who do not already have layers cut in their hair because the perm itself will create the look of layers with no need for cutting.
The reason this type of perm looks so natural is that most people with curly hair do not have curls that extend all the way to their roots. Instead, most curls naturally start halfway down the strands of hair.
By using a variety of perm rod sizes, the curls will look very natural. Plan on this look lasting for up to five months with little more than regular deep conditioning treatments.
9. Straight Perm
Unlike all the other perms used to create new curls, the straight perm is designed to take any natural curl out of your hair.
Your hair stylist will use a strongly alkaline solution to break down the bonds in the hair before applying heat, washing the hair and straightening it with a hot iron. Finally, the neutralizing chemical is applied to ensure the hair stays straight.
Once your hair is straightened, it will look much longer than it did.
The straight perm was originally created in Japan and differs from other types of relaxers in the types of chemicals it uses. It can create results that last up to four to six months as long as you refrain from styling your hair with heat during that time.
If you are still unsure which perm is best for you, check with your local salon. Your hair stylist can discuss options based on what you are looking for and can give you tips for caring for your hair post-perm.