What is a Perm? A Hairstylist’s Guide


Interested in becoming a hairstylist? Knowledge of different hairstyles and hair treatments is important. One such hair treatment is a perm– a hairstyle that has endured popularity through the years. What is a perm?

What is a Perm?

A perm (short for the word ‘permanent’) is the hairstyling process used to change the texture of hair to a curlier or wavier texture. In other words, it can be used to transform straight hair into bouncy, fun curls or relaxed stylish waves.

How Does a Perm Work?

There are a couple different ways to get the curl you want. Your choice between the two will depend on both your long and short-term goals for your hair. Innovations are always being made and new processes, products and devices are developed to style hair. But for now, let’s take a look at the two main ways you can achieve the kind of curl you are interested in.

Thermal Perm

Also referred to as a ‘hot perm’, this method uses heat to restructure the texture of your client’s hair by wrapping small sections of hair around special rods. These are not your average hot rollers, however. The temperatures of these rods are strategically regulated by a machine that monitors the temperature variations to create structural changes without completely frying every strand of hair. There is a solution that is applied to the hair during the process, but it isn’t the same kind of solution used for the chemical option. The solution used in the thermal method helps to conduct and infuse heat into the hair, not structurally change it. In this method, the heat is what is used to manipulate hair texture. This option creates a softer, looser texture of curl.

Chemical Perm

Also known sometimes as a ‘cold perm’, the chemical option for altering the texture of your client’s hair does not require heat. This is the most common method of perming hair. For this method hair will still be wrapped around rods of different sizes (depending on the size of curl and kind of texture the client is aiming for), but the rods are not heated. Instead it uses a thermal induction to change hair structure, a solution of chemicals is used to breakdown and reshape hair into a new look. Once your client’s hair is wrapped in rods and the perm lotion has been carefully and meticulously applied, they wait for their perm to set. The time it takes to set varies depending on the client’s desired result and once set, you rinse out the chemical solution, dry their hair, and put a stop to the chemical perming process by using a neutralizer.

Will a Perm Cause Hair Damage?

It certainly can. It’s typically not as drastic or harsh as bleaching and coloring processes can be, but it is chemically and structurally changing the hair in a fundamental way. Any change to your client’s hair that is significant carries some risk of hair damage.

You won’t be able to escape the impact of a perm entirely, but what your client can do is maximize the perms they do decide to get. Changing your client’s hair products in favor of products that support perms and curly hair is a good way to make the most out of their new look. If your client isn’t sure what products would be right for their specific hair you can always talk to them and give some advice.

How Long Does a Perm Usually Last?

This depends as much on your skill level as the method you choose. However, a good estimate is that a perm will last approximately six months before it begins to grow out and the curls begin to relax into wavier formations. This is about the time your client is going to want to schedule another perm appointment at your salon with their trusted hairstylist. This will keep their curls and kinks looking fresh instead of frazzled and faded.

It is also important for you to know that the texture of your client’s hair will not return to its original state and can’t be chemically reversed, either (hence the name ‘permanent’). In order to return your client’s hair completely to its original state it will have to grow out. That being said, it is clearly important that your client trusts you to be mindful and attentive throughout the whole entire process, whether it be chemical or thermal.

Who are Perms For?

The obvious answer to that question is that it is for anyone who wants curlier or differently textured hair. Unfortunately, it is a little bit more complicated than that. There certain types of hair that are more receptive to perms than others.

If your client is someone who has medium to long hair that is fairly straight and reasonably healthy, then they are probably a good candidate for a perm. They need a decent amount of length because once their hair curls up it will be much shorter. So, your client’s hair is going to need somewhere to go. The thicker the follicle the more effort it takes to change the structure of it. Likewise, if your client has heavy hair it can pull the curl out of their permed hair more quickly. Softer, finer hair is usually more receptive to structural change.

Put Your Perm Plans on Pause

If your client has hair that is significantly damaged, they are going to want to take a timeout before diving right into a perm, particularly if their hair has suffered recent chemical damage such as bleaching or dying. Chemical damage on top of chemical damage is going to leave your client’s hair a fired, frizzy mess that is fragile and hard to work with. It is worth taking the time to properly care for and restore one’s hair before moving on to the next hair style. Your client might even want to talk to you about deep conditioning treatments that might help prepare their hair. Depending on the look they want, they may also want to wait and let their hair grow out. If they are someone who has a short or extremely layered hairstyle, a perm can be difficult to achieve. Your words of advice can keep them from damaging their hair irreversibly or making a permanent style mistake.

People who already have curly, wavy or otherwise naturally textured hair are not going to be good candidates for perms. Exchanging once permanent curl for another, unfortunately, isn’t what perms were designed for. They also probably aren’t right for a perm if they have already had one or have had their hair relaxed. Untreated hair is the best for permanent solutions because your client can only breakdown and reshape their hair so many times. They will always want to talk over all of their options with you because you would be able to give them the best advice and all of their options. However, keep in mind that perms aren’t for everyone and they may just not be the right style option for your client’s hair.

Perm Preparation

Preparing for a perm is crucial for its success. If your client’s hair is strong and healthy before they chemically change it, it will likely sustain less damage during the harsh chemical process. Healthy hair also has a better chance of holding and maintaining a new style for a longer period of time. Here are a few ways to keep your client’s hair health in check so they are ready to get a perm.

Balance Hair’s Moisture

Balancing the moisture of your client’s hair can have a huge effect on the outcome of their perm. If your client’s hair isn’t dry, then the chemicals and heat can easily burn it. Burned hair breaks and splits far easier than moisture rich hair. You also don’t want their hair to be too oily. Overly oily hair can interfere with perms, too. If your client’s hair has an excessive amount of oils, it can be difficult for the styling chemicals absorb properly and can have an effect on how heat is absorbed during the restructuring process. Learning how to properly balance the moisture of your client’s hair before they get a perm can have a significant impact.

Manage Hair Damage

There are many ways that we damage our hair, even aside from the chemical damage of dyeing and bleaching. Our everyday styling habits often have a tremendous impact on the integrity of our hair. When brushing, curling and styling your client’s hair with certain products you risk damaging their hair. This is why you need to take a moment and make sure their hair is actually healthy enough to take the leap into re-textured hair. Do they have split ends? Does your client’s hair break off easily? Are you worried it is growing too slowly? These are all concerns you need to consider before a permanent change to your client’s hair.

Know Your Stuff

You might be someone who likes to style their hair impulsively. However, a permanent hair change might not be the best place to throw caution to the wind. Do your 乐乐棋牌work and take your time if your client wants a perm. Look up different styles and references and be sure to talk things over thoroughly with your client to make sure you have covered all your bases. This little bit of extra effort can make all the difference.

Did learning about permanent hairstyles interest you? Ready to earn your diploma in Cosmetology? Meridian College offers a Cosmetology training program in Florida that prepares you to deliver high–quality beauty and hair services to both men and women. Their hands–on Cosmetology training program gives you the skills you need to start an exciting career and become a leader in the beauty industry.

Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist.