What is a Hair Perm?

Sheri Cyprus

A hair perm is a chemical process that changes the hair shape to create a new look. Those with naturally straight hair can transform their hair into waves or curls and those with curly hair can tame their curls by adding body. Some of the different types of perms include spiral, stack, spot and volumizing.

A hair perm may help add body to naturally curly hair.
A hair perm may help add body to naturally curly hair.

The volumizing hair perm adds volume to the hair for a thicker look. This type of perm doesn't add waves or curls and doesn't cost as much as an all-over hair perm. The volumizing perm can work for heavy or long hair to add body to flat hair. The spot hair perm is done only on one section of the hair. Spot perms can be used on curly hair to tone down frizzy curls on the top of the head, but they may also be used to add curl or body to any hair type.

A straight hair perm can smooth naturally curly hair.
A straight hair perm can smooth naturally curly hair.

The stack perm gets its name from the way different sized perm rods are stacked from the top of the head to the neck or shoulders. This type of perm gives a different shape to the ends of the hair and creates a wedge sort of look. The stack perm can add body, wave or curl to hair. The spiral perm gives a twisted look to hair strands and is usually done on longer hair.

Color-treated hair should not be permed, as too many harsh chemicals can damage hair.
Color-treated hair should not be permed, as too many harsh chemicals can damage hair.

Perm is short for permanent wave. When the process was first done in Germany in the early 1900s, the average hair perm took about twelve hours. Today, most perms are done in about two hours. Since the perm adds chemicals to the hair, care must be taken to keep damage from occurring to hair strands such as by not blow drying the hair too much. Color-treated hair can't be permed since chemicals are also used for the coloring process and too many chemicals can easily damage hair.

A perm changes hair shape to create a new look.
A perm changes hair shape to create a new look.

The process of doing a hair perm begins with wrapping freshly-washed hair around perm rods. The smaller the rods, the smaller the curls will be and larger perm rods create waves rather than curls. Once the hair is secured on the rods, the perm chemical is applied to the set hair. The perm chemical creates flexibility in the hair's structure that allows the hair to form in the shape and size of the perm rods. After the hair is removed from the rods, a neutralizer is added to the hair that sets the hair in its new permed shape.

Hair should be freshly washed when beginning a perm.
Hair should be freshly washed when beginning a perm.

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Discussion Comments

anon327786

How do perms and hairstyling relate to art?

waders13

How long does a perm stay in your hair and how long before I can color it?

anon266540

How old exactly do you have be to get a perm?

anon135561

how long does a perm last?

anon76318

Is it just curling your hair or can you get it straightened?

anon75014

How long does your hair have to be to get a perm? Are there different styles besides curls? it sounds like just curling your hair to me.

anon68630

I want to know what a junior could do to assist the stylist while doing a perm. Please help!

anon55410

What exactly is a perm? You were just saying how to get one.

anon49236

How long does a perm take?

anon38743

how much does hair perming cost?

anon32240

How much is the permanent hair perming? What is its maximum cost and minimum cost?

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