Ultimate guide to different types of perms

Posted by Ana Eliza Montilla on

Types of perms

Modern hairstyling practices and tools have put us long past the days when 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, like the spiral perm, beach wave perm, body wave perm and so many more.

We’ve compiled everything you need to know about perms including what a perm is, how they work, how long a perm lasts and other common questions.


Find what you’re looking for:

What is a perm?

A perm (short for “permanent hairstyle”) is a process that uses chemicals to change the texture of your hair to a permanent wave or curl. Perms alter the structure of your hair by using heat and chemicals to break the bonds that determine your natural hair texture (like straight or wavy).

Although perms have been around for over a century, it seems like new types of perms pop up every couple of years — and modern iterations of the once-dated style have made it trendy again. In fact, stylists have improved older styles with new techniques that give people several options to choose from depending on the desired shape and definition of the curls and waves.

How long does a perm last?

Most perms last between three to six months, but this can vary based on several factors like 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 as your hair grows, so consider getting regular haircuts every couple of months to help maintain the look.

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 because they’re formulated to cleanse, nourish, defrizz and define waves, curls, and coils of all kinds!

How do perms work?

The specific steps of a perm process will depend on the type of perm you choose. For example, a spiral perm will use small rods and heat to create tight curls, while a beach wave perm will use large, spongey rollers to create looser waves. The chemical solutions also vary by perm style and some perms require heat to achieve the desired look.

How long does a perm take?

While the length of your salon appointment will also depend on the type of perm you’re getting, you should expect to be there for at least two hours. Certain perm types like a straight perm can take almost an entire day!

Hot vs. cold perms

Before we discuss specific perm styles, it’s important to distinguish between hot perms and cold perms.

The cold perm is the traditional process used for most hair types, which applies an alkaline solution to dry hair wrapped around plastic rods to make it curl. On the other hand, a hot perm uses a similar process, but with an acidic solution and the addition of heat. The end result is that a cold perm results in tight, defined curls while a hot perm results in looser, softer curls.

Almost all perms use the cold process, but a few notable hot perm types include digital and straight perms.

Different types of perms

When you say perm, most people immediately jump to the classic 70s and 80s-era perms that were thick and voluminous. Times have changed, and there are now many types of perms to choose from. Regardless of whether you have long, short, curly or straight hair, there’s a perm style for your hair type.

Hair type / length

Types of perms

Long hair

  • Spiral perm
  • Beach wave perm
  • Body wave perm
  • Multi-textured perm

Short hair

  • Pin curl perm
  • Root perm
  • Spiral perm
  • Digital perm

Curly hair

  • Straight perm
  • Partial perm 
  • Spiral perm

Straight / wavy hair

  • Beach wave perm
  • Multi-textured perm
  • Pin curl perm
  • Stack perm

Straight / fine hair

  • Root perm
  • Digital perm
  • Body wave perm


Spiral perm

spiral perm

Source: Pinterest

A spiral perm is a popular choice for hair that’s shoulder-length or longer and involves rolling the hair onto a perm vertically to establish a spiral shape. Results will depend on the type of rod and chemicals used during the process, but spiral curls are generally very tight, twisted and bouncy. This can also be a great way to add volume to your hair.

Spiral perms typically last about 6 months.

Body wave perm

body wave perm

Source: Pinterest

Body wave perms are a popular choice for people who want to add volume and a natural wave to their hair. 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.

Body wave perms typically last about 3-5 months.

Beach wave perm

beach wave perm

Source: Pilorum Salon and Spa

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. This look is popular because the loose waves are the perfect embodiment of minimal and slightly messy (in a good way) hair. To do this, your stylist can use soft, spongey rollers instead of traditional perm rods.

Beach wave perms typically last about 4 months.

Digital perm

digital perm

Source: Pinterest

The digital perm is one of Asia’s hottest hair trends and it’s reached international cultures like here in the U.S. The “digital” comes from 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.

Digital perms typically last about 4-6 months.

Pin curl perm

pin curl perm

Source: Pinterest

The pin curl perm is a great curly style 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 created will vary based on the size of the curlers. This type of perm doesn’t use harsh chemicals — but this also reduces how long the style lasts.

Pin curl perms typically last about 3-6 months.

Partial perm (or spot perm)

partial perm

Source: Pinterest

A partial perm is sometimes known as a spot perm because it targets a specific section of hair rather than the entire head. Partial perms can be used to add volume in a specific area, cover thin spots, or create a uniform look if you have curls on only one side of your head. Chemicals are used to relax the hair, which is then wrapped around a perm rod. 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.

How long partial perms last can have a wide range that depends on the area, size, and style of what you’re looking for.

Root perm

root perm

Source: Pinterest

Root perms are a type of partial perm that is done specifically near the roots, usually within two to four inches from the scalp. Perming hair at the roots helps add lift and volume and it avoids damaging the rest of your hair if you’ve already permed it. Root perms are very low maintenance, but they also don’t last very long, meaning you’ll have to head back to the salon for regular touch-ups.

Root perms typically last about 1 month.

Stack perm

stack perm

Source: Pinterest

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 a layered look. This uses different rod 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 doesn’t require much maintenance.

Stack perms typically last about 4-5 months.

Multi-textured perm

multi-textured perm

Source: Pinterest

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

Multi-textured perms typically last about 3-4 months.

Straight perm

straight perm

Source: Pinterest

This last style is for those who already have curly hair naturally or through a perm and want to reverse the process. The straight perm (or reverse perm) is a Japanese type of hot perm that applies heat (usually with a flat iron) and chemicals to straighten hair. The results are long-lasting, which is why some people choose this option instead of other hair straightening techniques. Straight perms are low maintenance on a day-to-day basis but the treatment itself usually takes between six to eight hours — so plan accordingly. This treatment can also damage your hair, so make sure to properly care for your hair after getting it (like with our Bonding Collection).

Straight perms typically last about 6-7 months.

What type of perm should you get?

When choosing a perm, it’s important to consider your hair length and texture. Some perms are best suited for long hair, while others are intended for short hair. Your hair’s natural texture also comes into play and you may want to choose a style that accentuates it or changes it completely (like using a volumizing perm on fine or flat hair). Looking at pictures and talking with a stylist can also help come to a final decision.

How much does a perm cost?

On average, the cost of a perm usually ranges from $80 up to $250, but it will vary depending on where you get the service done and the type of perm you choose.

Some perms involve more complex and time-consuming processes to achieve the look, which raises the price. You’ll also want to consider the cost of maintaining the look and how often it will need touch-ups.

What to do before a perm

Before your perm appointment, keep it straightforward. Arrive with clean, unconditioned hair — no heavy products. If you've colored recently, wait a couple of weeks and share any chemical treatment history with your stylist. Whether it's loose waves or tight curls, having a visual reference or discussing your preferences with your stylist ensures you both are on the same page.

What to do after getting a perm

Stay away from the shower in the first 24 hours after getting a perm. Washing your hair too early may cause the tightness of the curls to change and can have a major effect on your look. This is so important that Elle Woods from Legally Blonde won her first court case by pointing out that the witness must have been lying after she claimed to have taken a shower directly after getting a perm.

Hydration is also key because the perm process removes moisture — so consider using a deep-conditioning treatment like our Hydrating Mask after your treatment. For long-term use, we recommend our Curl Shampoo and Curl Conditioner, which are formulated to provide moisture, minimize frizz, and help define curls. For added curl retention, consider using our Curl Cream to add light hold to your curls, waves, or coils and try our Ghost™ Exfoliating Scalp Nectar to prevent buildup over time.

Can you perm colored hair or dye it after?

You can perm colored hair, but it’s not recommended to do these processes in one after another 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! You can use our Hydrate Shampoo and Hydrate Conditioner before perming to gently cleanse and detangle hair. On the other hand, if you perm first, you can use our Curl Shampoo and Curl Conditioner or our Curl Leave-In Conditioner to give your curls, waves and coils exactly what they need before dyeing.

Take care of your hair

In the journey to embrace your unique hair texture, whether permed, curly, or any other type, it's crucial to provide personalized care. Our products are crafted with the formulas and benefits to cater to all hair types and textures. Remember that beautiful hair is diverse, and our commitment is to help you celebrate and care for every strand. With products designed for all hair, your journey to vibrant, healthy hair is as unique as you are.

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

If you want more product recs for your unique hair type, texture, concerns, and goals — check out our hair quiz for personalized recommendations.


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explore the curl collection

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