What is a Stack Perm?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A stack perm is a type of permanent wave which is designed for women with hair which has been cut to a single length. With the use of rollers of varying sizes, curls are added to the middle and bottom sections of the hair to create a textured, curly look which is softened by leaving the hair on top flat. When done well, a stack perm can look very natural, with soft curls forming at the ends of the client's hair exactly as they would on someone with a natural soft curl.

A stack perm is designed from women with hair which has been cut to a single length.
A stack perm is designed from women with hair which has been cut to a single length.

To perform a stack perm, a hairstylist applies perm lotion to the hair to relax it and then winds locks of hair around specialized rollers. It can take some finessing to determine the best roller size, as most stylists want to create a soft, natural look which is suited to the client's hair length. When the rollers are well chosen, a layered look with lots of texture and volume is created. After a set amount of time, a neutralizer is applied and the hair is removed from the rollers.

The texture and volume of a perm is largely determined by the rollers used by a hairstylist.
The texture and volume of a perm is largely determined by the rollers used by a hairstylist.

Perms are very hard on hair, because they require the use of harsh chemicals. As a result, it is important to use conditioning lotions and other tools to help your hair recover from a perm; hairstylists usually have specific production recommendations for their clients depending on their hair type and the style of perm which is applied. It is especially important to remember that perms are very vulnerable to damage in the first 24 hours, and clients should carefully follow instructions to ensure that their perms hold.

When a stack perm is well applied, it will hold for around six months. Depending on how much of the hair was permed, the hair may have a soft wave at the base, or a more defined curl. The main goal is to create a textured, layered look. Generally, stack perms are suitable for women with long to medium length hair, and they can be styled to suit a wide range of occasions.

As the name implies, a permanent hairstyle is something which should be considered carefully, because the effects are long-lasting. A well performed stack perm will last around six months, which can be a real drag if it didn't achieve the look the client wanted. The best way to ensure good results with a permanent wave is to bring a photograph of the look you want, and to talk over the perm and aftercare process carefully with a stylist. It can also help to see a portfolio of a stylist's previous work.

It is important to use conditioners when washing a perm.
It is important to use conditioners when washing a perm.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@julies - I remember those days when there wasn't much money and I really wanted a perm. Instead of saving my money and having someone else do it, I would give myself a perm.

I don't really recommend this to anyone. After a couple of times doing this myself, I gave up. It never really looked right and wasn't worth the trouble.

I think it would be very hard to give yourself a stack perm. Making sure you were using the right size rollers and getting everything even all around your head would be tough.

Working with longer hair can be hard too because there is so much of it, and it can take a very long time for the whole process.

Now I let the professionals perm my hair and I don't have to worry about what it is going to look like when they are done.


When I was in college and money was really tight, I would save any money I had just to get a perm every 6 months.

I loved how a perm made my hair feel and it was so much easier to manage and style. The only thing, besides the price, that I didn't like about getting a perm was what my hair looked liked after about 5 months.

It was too early to get another perm, and the curl and wave that was left just looked kind of limp.

When I had longer hair, I would often get a spiral perm to add texture and curl to my hair. I think a stack perm looks just as nice, it is just what is more in style today.

One nice thing about getting a perm, is you can enjoy wearing your hair either way. If you get tired of the curls, you can always use a flat iron and straighten it once in awhile.


I also have short hair, but mine is very straight and doesn't have much body. I have always kind of envied those who have naturally curly hair. It seems like we often want what we don't have.

I doubt I will ever have longer hair again either. If I do, and the stack perm is still in style, I would like to try one of these on my hair.

I have had many perms through the years, and they can really take a toll on your hair after awhile. I decided to take a break from getting them and am learning to enjoy my short, straight hair.

I know some women who have curly hair would love to have my naturally straight hair.


I really love the soft, layered look of a stack perm. Unfortunately my hair is too short and has too many layers for this type of perm to work on my current hairstyle.

It has been a long time since I had my hair longer and all one length. If a stack perm is done right, the curls can look very natural.

Since I have naturally curly hair, I also don't really need a perm to get curls or waves. I just put some gel on it and use a diffuser, and the natural curl that I have really comes out.

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