Ultimate guide to different types of perms

Perms have come a long way since their heyday in the 80s, with cultural icons such as Emma Stone and Julianne Hough leading to a resurgence in the hairstyle’s popularity.

Modern hairstyling practices and tools have put us long past the days where your hair type determined if you could get a perm or not. In fact, there are a lot more options and different types of perms than there ever have been before such as the: spiral perm, beach wave perm, body wave perm and so many more.

To help you catch up with this hot trend, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about perms including info on what a perm is, how do perms work, and how long does a perm last among other common questions. Plus, we’ve included the most popular types of perm to help you determine if you should get a perm and what hairstyle is right for you.

What is a perm?

A perm (short for “permanent hairstyle”) is a process in which a stylist uses chemicals to change the texture of your hair to a permanent wave or curl. Perms work by altering the structure of your hair, essentially using chemicals to break the bonds that determine your natural hair texture such as straight or wavy. The process itself takes about two to three hours, so schedule an appointment before heading to the salon.

Although perms have been around since 1872, it seems like a new type of perm pops-up every couple of years and modern iterations of the once dated style have made it trendy again.

How long does a perm last?

Most perms last between three to six months, but this can vary based on several factors such as the type of perm you get and the length of your hair. Long hair can be more difficult to perm and curls will lose definition with hair growth, so consider getting regular haircuts every couple months to help maintain the look. 

Additionally, how you care for your hair also plays a role — so make sure you’re using products designed specifically for your hair type. Our Curl Collection is a great choice, as these products are formulated to cleanse, nourish, defrizz and define waves, curls, and coils of all kinds.

explore the curl collection

explore the curl collection

formulated to hydrate,
protect and define waves,
curls and coils

Can you perm colored hair or dye it after?

You can perm colored hair or perm it after, but it’s not recommended to do these processes in succession because they both tend to dry out strands. Instead, consider doing one process and then waiting a month or so for your hair to recover before starting the next. 

If you dye first, make sure your hair gets enough moisture by using our Hydrate Shampoo and Hydrate Conditioner before perming. On the other hand, if you perm first — use our Curl Shampoo and Curl Conditioner or our Curl Leave-In Conditioner to give your curls, waves and coils exactly what it needs before dyeing.

hydrate collection

explore the
hydrate collection

designed to moisturize,
repair and protect for
hydrated, healthy hair

Different types of perms

There are a seemingly endless number of perms to choose from, but here are some of the most popular and trending types:

Spiral perm

A spiral perm is a popular choice for hair that’s shoulder-length or longer. The process involves rolling the hair onto a perm vertically to establish a spiral shape. Results will vary based on the type of rod and chemicals used during the process, but spiral curls are generally very tight, twisted and bouncy. This can be a great way to add volume to your hair and you can expect a spiral perm to last about six months before the curls start to loosen.

Body wave perm

Body wave perms are a popular choice for people who want to add volume and a natural wave to their hair. Essentially, the body wave perm creates a relaxed look with larger, looser waves using large rollers. This is a great option for people with straight hair that doesn’t typically curl, and a body wave curl usually lasts between three to five months.

Beach wave perm

A beach wave perm is exactly what it sounds like — it creates waves that resemble the “just came back from the beach” look without the hassle of saltwater and sand. A lot of people go for this look because the loose waves are the perfect embodiment of minimal and slightly messy in a good way hair. To do this, your stylist will use soft, spongey rollers instead of traditional perm rods. When it comes to how long it lasts, a beach wave perm will typically last about four months.

Digital perm

The digital perm is Japan’s hottest hair trend and its popularity has gone international. The “digital” comes the use of infrared heat through temperature-controlled rods to create loose waves and natural volume on top of tight hair ringlets. In addition to the tech used in this treatment, gentle chemicals are used to recondition and repair the hair molecules in places where heat is applied.

Pin curl perm

The pin curl perm is a great curly perm for shorter hair lengths. It uses a combination of pins and curlers to create tight, bouncy curls that add movement to your hair. The looseness or tightness of the curls you create will vary based on the size of the curlers you use. Additionally, this type of perm doesn’t use harsh chemicals — although this also reduces the style’s life which is usually around three to six months.

Spot or partial perm

A spot perm may also be known as a partial perm because it involves perming a specific section of hair rather than the entire head. Spot perms can be used to add volume in a specific area, cover thin spots, or create a uniform look if you have a curl on only one side of your head. Chemicals are used to relax the hair, which is then wrapped around a perm rod that varies based on the desired result. A stylist will help you determine which areas to perm and which to leave alone so that the result seamlessly blends into your natural hair. The lifespan of a spot perm will vary significantly, so ask your stylist when you need to come back for a touch-up.

Root perm

Root perms are a type of spot perm that is done specifically at the roots, usually within the two to four inches from the scalp. Perming hair at the roots helps add lift and volume, plus doing so at the base avoids damaging the rest of your hair if you’ve already permed it. Root perms are very low maintenance, but they also only last about a month meaning you’ll have to head back to the salon for regular touch-ups.

Stack perm

Yet another variation of a partial perm, the stack perm leaves the roots alone and instead focuses on the middle and lower sections of hair. It’s ideal for adding volume and creating the illusion of layers. This is accomplished by using rods of various sizes on the middle and lower sections of hair to seamlessly blend your natural hair with the new curls and waves. Similar to the other types of partial perms, this requires very little maintenance, although it typically lasts between four to five months.

Multi-textured perm

The multi-textured perm is a great way to create natural-looking curls that vary in texture. To achieve this, your stylist will use different-sized rods and rolls to create a combination of tight and loose curls. This results in a layered look that closely resembles natural curls which vary in tightness. This style is best-suited for hair that’s medium-length or longer, and it should last for a few months depending on the variations you choose.

After perm care tips

First and foremost, stay away from the shower in the first 24 hours following a perm. Washing your hair too early may cause the tightness of the curls to change which can have a major effect on your look. In fact, this is so important that Elle Woods from Legally Blonde won her first court case by pointing out the witness must have been lying after she claimed to have taken a shower directly after getting a perm. Needless to say, hold off on a shower after getting a perm.

Hydration is key because the perm process removes moisture, so consider using a deep-conditioning treatment such as our Hydrating Mask following a treatment. For long-term use, we recommend our Curl Shampoo and Curl Conditioner which are formulated to preserve moisture, minimize frizz, and help define curls. For added memory, consider using our Curl Cream to add light hold to your curls, waves, or coils.

hydrating mask

hydrating mask

restorative deep conditioning
treatment designed to
nourish all hair types

Have more questions about after perm care? DM us on Instagram @verbproducts and we’ll answer all your hair care concerns.

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