What is a Straight Perm?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2019
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For many people, the term "perm" implies curls, waves, large hairstyles, and the aesthetic trends of the 1980s. While perms can be used to add curls and texture to the hair, there are also perms that can be used to straighten the hair. A straight perm makes the treated hair fall straight, despite its natural texture. With a straight perm, even someone with very curly or coarse hair can have hair that is straight and smooth.

The straight perm started to become popular towards the end of the 1990s when straight hairstyles started to become very popular. A straight perm is basically a chemical treatment that, when applied to the hair makes the follicles lie flat. While even curly hair can be styled the lie flat, a straight perm makes the hair permanently straight. In fact, the term "perm" is an abbreviation of the word "permanent". This means that the hair, with no styling at all, will fall flat.


The only drawback to this kind of treatment is that it can be quite harsh on the hair. It is not recommended for people with thin, brittle, or damaged hair. It is best for this kind of perm to be applied to hair that has not been colored. Depending on the type of hair color that has been applied and whether it stripped color from the hair, some kinds of colored hair can be permed. Consulting a stylist first is a good way to determine whether one's hair can withstand this kind of perm.

For example, if a brunette who colors her hair just to cover some gray strands wanted to get a straight perm, that would probably be possible and it is likely that there would be no serious adverse effects to the hair. A natural brunette who has her hair colored light blond, however, is not a good candidate for this type of perm because lightening the hair strips it of color and can cause it to become brittle. Following this kind of coloring procedure with a perm to straighten the hair could cause the hair to break and even fall out.

The straight perm is sometimes referred to as the "Japanese perm". This is because the process of permanently straightening the hair was first developed in Japan. Some salons that offer this kind of hair service hire staff that has been trained in Japan in the techniques and methods required to make hair permanently straight.


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