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You Can Get A Great Look With a Perm

Posted May 13 2009 10:47pm

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I have always wanted straight hair. I've always wondered how great it would be to walk out the door without first having to tame random waves, kinks and curls in my bathroom mirror. I now know that without an act of God, I will not wake up one morning with straight hair. It's just not going to happen.
So to tame my random hair, I work with what I've been given, and I either opt for a short cut or I perm my hair. Yes, I know people are anti-perm these days, but please, hear me out and I promise you'll see perms in a whole new light.

Th_volumeperm-1-1 I absolutely love perms. I can go months with perfectly laid out curls that don't require hair magic to work out the kinks. I figure, if you can't tame the curls, may as well add more of them.

Of course, you're probably thinking that all perms look like grandma perms (which is a perfectly alright look if you are my grandma's age). I think my grandma looks super cute right after a new perm, but the grandma perm isn't exactly the look I have in mind when I head to the salon for a new perm.

In the 21st Century, you can get a perm to match pretty much any look you have in mind. Perms are so versatile. But perming is definitely an art form, and it's good to be equipped with as much knowledge as possible about how you will achieve the look you want, before you enter the salon.

Perming styles are all about the rods, the amount of hair wrapped around the rod and the kind of chemical solution that is used. If you've read this column long enough, you know that I am anti-chemicals in my makeup and personal care products. But as you may have guessed, this is one area where I don't exactly adhere to my "no chemicals" policy. I know, I know, you are probably greatly disappointed, but I can't help it, I succumb to the perm every time my unruly hair starts to get a little longer and just cannot be tamed.

Different sized rods will create different degrees of tightness to the curl, from loose and very flowy waves to very tiny and compact curls. The amount of hair placed around each rod will also determine whether the curl is loose or tight. Not as much solution will come into contact with the hair if a large amount is placed around each rod, so you'll get a looser perm. You can also change the degree of tightness of the curl by the amount of time the solution is left on the hair. Because adjusting the timing of the solution can also mess with the length of time the perm will last, I recommend adjusting the curl with the methods mentioned above rather than by shortening the time the solution has to set.

Before I get into the different types of perms you have at your disposal to attain the look you want, first, here are some ground rules for perming.

Perms are for use on non-damaged hair ONLY. Perms should not be used on hair that is colored or severely processed. You can tell if your hair is damaged by putting a strand of water in a bowl of water. If the hair sinks it means your hair is damaged, but if the hair floats it means your strands are healthy.

Perms are not for all hair types. The general rule is that the thicker the hair the better the perm will be, and avoid deep-conditioning your hair for at least 24 hours before the perm, or the solution may not take. For African or Asian-American women, it is especially important that you find someone who specializes in perming your type of hair as well.

If your hair already is semi-curly, ask for an acid wave, which produces looser curls. Standard perm solution is alkaline.

Also, you'll want to make sure that the type of curl you end up with matches your personality. I always get spiral perms with medium tightness because it fits my personality. My sister tried getting a similar perm one time, and let's just say it was not the right look for her. She looks best with a looser body wave or straight hair.

Find a good stylist. For awhile there, the use of perms was greatly abused by everyone from corporate executives to rock stars, which is why I think they have such a bum rap now. Now that perms aren't the most sought after hair style out there, not all stylists know how to give a good perm. If your regular stylist hasn't done a perm since the early '90s, ask him or her who it is in the salon that is the perm specialist. You want to go with someone who knows the laws of perming, and make sure you come armed with a picture. That will help your stylist tremendously. 

Here are just a few of the different types of perming techniques.


Body Wave perms: These are loose perms that produce a slight wave. They give volume and movement. Naturally wavy hair will look curlier and straight hair will result in large curls.

Root perms: You guessed it, this perm adds lift to the roots of the hair and is perfect for flat or short hair.

Stack perms: Literally, the rods are stacked one on top of the other and I recommend this type of perm ony for women who have long, one length hair. These perms create the illusion of layers and add volume.

Spot Perms: This technique curls only one section of the hair and can be done with either tight or loose curls. This type of perm could add a curl just to the ends.

Multitexturedhair-2-1 Multi-textured perms: This perm gives a real natural effect. Large and small roads are used to create this look.

Gentle wave perms: These perms create a wavy look and add body. The curls will be long and loose.

Th_bodywave-1 Volumizing Perms: During the perming process the curls are allowed to relax, giving volume and texture without going over the top curly.

Spiral perms
: The end result should be a bunch of cascading curls that spring out in various directions. You can achieve large or small spiral curls depending upon the rods you choose.

Kate Sig

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