I got a perm. Why I don’t like perms & tips for looking after a perm if it’s too late

Occasionally I do things and don’t really think it through. Wait a minute. Exchange ‘occasionally’ for ‘frequently’. Anyway…

I got a perm.

Some girls I know have perms. It looks good on them. But this is about me – my hair, my life, my hair-mare.

This is not a negative post by the way. More of a lament.

This is also an of a overview of the process of getting a perm, living with a perm and how easy (or not) it is to adjust from being a straighty to a curly whirly.


Mention perms and most people scrunch up their noses and say ‘Oh yeah, my mum had one of them back IN THE EIGHTIES!!!’.

Uh-huh. My hair is very processed, but what the hey, I went ahead anyway for the 4 hour treatment.

The Process:

Took ages. Basically putting in rollers and applying perming solution, then rinsing it out for ages, and drying it carefully. Imagine the above process but spread out over 4-5 hours.

The Aftermath:

It wasn’t so much the perm but that fact that I had no idea looking after curly hair was so….complicated.

With straight hair it’s easy. Wash and go. I never even usually use any products or heated tools if I can help it.

With curly hair I struggled to control the frizz and get bouncy curls without it looking too curly. I also struggled to find good products that worked without being sticky!

What it looked like:


People found it really hard to grasp that I actually had a perm.

The amount of people (my mum, my aunts, my cousins, the CEO at work, colleagues, the girl that works in Nero, the cat) that said, “Oh your hair is STILL curly!” as if I was telling a lie when I said I’d had a perm!

Further comments included:

“It reminds me of something. Actually, nevermind” [The teenager]

“Is that a demi-wave? What’s a demi-wave?” [Office Stuart Baggs]

“Are you a permanent curly now?” [The CEO]

“My perm lasted for years. And years. And years.” [Scrunchie, my work colleague]

Having said that my mother loved it and Mr C reckoned he loves it too but I think he is blinded sometimes and loves everything (apart from Red lipstick and fringes).

So there it is. It’s coming up to 2 months and my hair is starting to drop out a bit – I prefer it more now that it’s loose. But it’s still a struggle! Clearly I love the idea of curly hair but maintaining is hard work!

Things you need to know (for straight haired girls):

1. Curly hair takes work

With straight hair it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t do anything at all. With curly hair you need to use something otherwise you look like a CRAZY LADY.

2. Curly hair takes a lot of product

Once again I use very little product normally. With curly hair I have now acquired a load of serums, oils, creams, gels, sprays, scrunching products. And my hair seems to just suck it up.

3. You don’t brush curly hair

Try it just once. For fun.

4. Permed hair is very dry

Very very dry especially if you have coloured hair too. Use lots of oils and intensive conditioners. I really like Pantene Colour Seal and Morrocan oil is working well for me at the moment.

Another thing is that I have quite a sensitive scalp and whilst I didn’t have any allergy to the product on my head I noticed a small rash at the base of my neck. Therefore I think you should have a patch test first if you are worried.


Now enough of my improvised tips here are some professional recommendations for looking after a perm, from Essential Looks Ambassador Charlie Taylor:

Caring for permed hair is very simple. There are specific shampoos and conditioners on the market which will sufficiently moisturise permed hair such as Schwarzkopf Professional’s BC Bonacure Moisture Kick range. If the hair is permed then it has been chemically treated and inevitably the hair may be a little dry.

I would recommend that the hair is also treated with a hair masque from BC Bonacure’s Curl Bounce range at least once a week to give the hair a boost. The more moisturised the hair is the better the curl will look and the less chance of frizz.

Once the hair is shampooed and conditioned then it is advisable to scrunch some curl mousse into to the hair. This really helps to form and crisp up the curl. The hair should then be gently dried with a warm diffused air to keep the curl in place and eliminate frizz. My secret wonder product is OSiS Magic and is perfect for solving frizzy problems!

How about if we want to straighten permed hair?

Straightening curly hair can be done in many different ways. Permanent straightening products are like the opposite of perming. The process is structurally the same however the hair is not curled but stretched flat. This can be very successful on even the curliest frizziest textures of hair.

Keratin straightening products are very effective at smoothing hair texture and loosening curls and de frizzing, They leave the hair looking shinier and healthier and can dramatically cut back the drying time of the hair. Keratin straightening products have specific shampoos and conditioners which must be used continuously to maintain the keratin deposits in the hair.

Ceramic straightening irons are effective at non – permanent day to day smoothing of the hair and is probably the most common form of straightening hair. A combination of all three will guarantee straight smooth hair!

So there you go – that was me perming experience. Expect lots of reviews on curly hair products as I wait this one out!

Have you ever had a perm? How did it work out for you?

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  1. says

    Though it’s probably little consolation given all the time and effort you now have to put into it, I think it looks amazing IRL.

  2. Giselle says

    Sounds like a pain in the butt, but your hair looks gorgeous! I had a straight perm and i still had to straighten it almost everyday..but then again nobody told me to use those special shampoos :\

  3. Lexi says

    Your hair looks amazing!!! I have natural curly hair and I understand that it’s a pain in the ass to maintain! Esps as mine are really frizzy and spirally ><" I'm going to have keratin done tomorrow so hopefully I won't have to worry about it!

  4. says

    You look very nice!

    I got a digital perm in Japan. Unfortunately, I didn’t see much of it. I don’t know if you know about digital perms, but they’re heat-activated and you have to curl your hair around your fingers while blow-drying. Yes. Needless to say, I was too lazy. If I wanted curls like that, I’d just use a curling iron. Plus, my hair is already kind of naturally wavy, so the effect was about zero. ^^;;;

  5. HARPREET says

    i want to get a perm. i had one when i was 15 and it looked amazing! im just growing out my hair right now, but i dont know what salon to go get it done!

  6. Jen says

    Your perm looks great, I love how it just looks more wavey curly rather than tight ringlets! The word “perm” always brings up images of the infamous poodle perms from back in the day! I had a perm in Japan (not a digital one tho), was sat in the hairdressers for hours, and after all that the perm didn’t even hold properly so it looked rubbish :/ I’d really love you to post a pic of it after you’ve brushed it out 😀

  7. Pam says

    I also got a perm about 2 months ago and I have been enjoying it. Once I found products that I liked, it’s actually more wash and go for me than my straight hair ever was. I did spend some serious bucks on trying some products at first, but I have settled into a very low maintenance routine now (I only air dry) and it gives me much more style options than my straight hair. My hair was stick straight and had a mind of its own. After my 2 pregnancies, I felt like I was going bald (I never had much hair, but had very thick hair shafts), blasted hormones. Volume had always been impossible to achieve and maintain (like mascara and our short lashes!). Now, it looks like I have a ton of hair and I have much more styling options. My stylist used the largest rollers so that it would be more like a wave than spiral curls, and I think that’s the key. The Japanese also seemed to have it figured out. I only know of the type of perm you mentioned above, but they seem to have so many different options. The way the rollers are placed also seem to make a huge difference. For your length of hair, I saw a feature about the “L” perm, where the perm results was that the girl got these fantastic “L” like waves/large curls only on the bottom 1/2 of her long hair, kind of like the look you get when you do curling iron curls really, really fantastically.

    Anyway, I think your hair looks really good.


    P.S. I noticed that the perm really highlighted my highlights, so much so that a month after I got my perm, I went and got a one color process to darken everything because I couldn’t stand it, even though pre-perm, I loved the highlights.

  8. Janet Shepherd says

    I hope you’re getting the hang of curly hair now, it definitely takes time – took me years to come to terms with my waves/curls! I think a lot of it is about patience, trial and error with products, and being able to accept the fact that some days you just have to put it up or wear a hat lol.

  9. Gina Decaire says

    I love your perm, it looks awesome!
    Can you tell what kind of rollers they used?
    I’m thinking of getting one done…

    • Row says

      Hi Gina…all I can say they were bendy ones! A mixture of 3 sizes (different thickness) some were red, some were blue!