Types Of Perms: 11 Perm Styles for Inspiration!

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When you hear the word “perm”, for most of us, it conjures up nightmarish visions of the 70s mom perm and Little Orphan Annie. And then there were the 80s, when everyone from Bon Jovi to Madonna and Whitney Houston sported perms. The 80s were all about big hair. Teased and crimped and sprayed into towering formations.

It was just horrendous.

Now it’s understandable that the word “perm” may bring on PTSD for some (if you grew up in or lived through the 80s) and anxiety or even a panic attack if you’ve seen the photos, but perms have come a long way.

Perms are back, baby! But this time around, there are a lot less grotesque and there are more options of perms available. And believe it or not, one of these types of perms might be just perfect for your hair!


Types of Perms

Here’s a list of the most common types of perms. You’ll get a good sense of what’s available, and how you can make a perm ultra stylish!

1. Body Wave Perm

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Body wave perms are great if you want to add volume and a natural wave to your 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 hold a curl. A body wave perm typically lasts three to five months.

2. Beach Wave Perm

Credit: Instagram / caycaysalon

A beach wave perm is a loose wave that will give you that tousled, slightly messy look that’s all the rage at the moment. The beach wave perm uses soft, spongey rollers instead of traditional perm rods.

A beach wave perm will usually last about four months.

3. Volumizing Perm

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A volumizing perm uses a combination of loose curls and waves to create volume and dimension in hair. This type of perm is great for all hair lengths and textures, and is especially good for those with fine, flat, lifeless hair.

The volumizing perm uses several sizes of rods to create different size curls and waves. This perm will last around six weeks, so you’ll need touch-ups regularly.

4. Spiral Perm

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A spiral perm is a popular choice for hair that’s shoulder-length or longer. Rather than rolling the hair horizontally onto the rods, the hair is wrapped around vertically placed rods.

Spiral perms result in curls that are tight, coiled, and bouncy with more of a ringlet or corkscrew shape. A spiral perm will last about six months before the curls start to loosen.

5. Digital Perm

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One of the hottest hair trends in Japan is the digital perm, and it’s made its way to salons everywhere around the world.

The “digital” comes from the use of infrared heat through temperature-controlled rods to create loose waves and natural volume. A digital perm can create barely-there waves to soft curls, depending on the size and width of digital perm rods used.

The acidic chemical used in most digital perms is a milder option than the alkaline ammonium thioglycolate used in cold perms.

Gentle chemicals are used to recondition and repair the hair molecules in places where heat is applied.

6. Multi-Textured Perm

Photo by behnam dehaghi, Pexels

The multi-textured perm is a great way to create natural-looking curls that vary in texture.

It’s similar to the Volumizing perm in that it uses different size rods and rollers to achieve a combination of different-sized curls. The difference between the volumizing and multi-textured perms is the looseness of the curl.

The volumizing perm tends to be a much looser, more wavy perm, whereas the multi-textured perm has a variety of tighter curls. 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. See Curly Vs Wavy Hair for more.

7. Pin Curl Perm

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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 that are created will vary depending on the size of the curlers that are used.

A pin curl perm doesn’t use harsh chemicals and lasts around three to six months.

8. Spot or Partial Perm

A partial, or spot perm, involves perming specific sections of hair rather than the entire head. Spot perms can be used to add volume in a specific area and cover thin spots. A partial perm is ideal if you have areas of hair that are less curly or wavy than the rest and will give you a more natural, uniform look.

A spot perm also limits how much damage you’re doing to your hair in the process.

A partial perm is ideal if you have areas of hair that are less curly or wavy than the rest and will give you a more natural, uniform look.

If you think this is what you need, talk to your stylist before he/she starts perming. Your stylist will help you determine which areas to perm and which to leave alone so that you end up with a seamless result that 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.

9. Root perm

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Root perms are a type of spot perm that is done specifically at the roots, usually within two to four inches from the scalp. Perming hair at the roots helps add lift and volume, and is perfect if you had a perm before and it’s starting to grow out at the roots.

A root perm will avoid putting harsh chemicals on the rest of your hair. A root perm only lasts about a month.

10. Stack perm

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The stack perm is kind of the opposite of the root perm. With a stack perm, only the middle and lower sections of your hair are permed. The roots remain untouched.

It’s ideal for adding volume and creating the illusion of layers without as much root volume. Different perm rod sizes are used to seamlessly blend your natural hair with the new curls and waves.

A stack perm typically lasts between four to five months.

11. Straight Perm

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Usually, you associate loads of curls when thinking about perms, but a straight perm is the total opposite!

For those of you with curly, kinky, or just plain frizzy hair wanting straight, smooth, shiny, sleek hair – a straight perm is what you’ve been looking for. 

This perming process is a bit different in that no rods or curlers are used.

Some salons may do it a bit differently, but typically, a chemical solution is applied to the hair in small sections, combed flat onto foils, which are then folded over the hair section. This is repeated until all of the hair is done. After the wait time, the solution is washed off.

The hair is then blow dried and flat ironed.

It’s one of the few perming processes that uses heat to set. The entire process may only have to be done once, but depending on how curly or frizzy your hair is, it may have to be done up to three times in one sitting.

Once the final flat iron is done, you will look fabulous. But you cannot get your hair wet for 3 days after you’ve had it done. It’s a small price to pay for the smoothest, straightest, shiniest hair you’ve ever had. A straight perm lasts about 6-9 months.

Who Should Not Get A Perm?

Anyone can get a perm… as long as your hair is healthy!

If you frequently color your hair or have had it bleached, you want to be careful. A perm tends to turn out best on untreated, healthy hair. Bleach and perms don’t mix well.

You should wait at least 2 weeks after you’ve colored your hair to get a perm, and at least 2 weeks to color it after getting a perm.

If your hair is dry or damaged, you might want to postpone your perm plans for a month or two to let your locks recover.

If you are unsure if your hair is healthy enough to get a perm, book a consultation with a stylist to discuss whether or not a perm is right for your hair now, or if you need to wait.

How Does A Perm Curl Your Hair?

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A perm (a.k.a. permanent hairstyle) is a process whereby chemicals are used to create curls or waves in your hair. Perms use chemicals and sometimes heat to break the bonds that determine your hair’s natural texture and shape, to create those waves or curls.

Believe it or not, perms have been around since the late 1800s. A lot has changed in the world of perms, even in the last few years. Improved techniques, less harsh chemicals and the availability of different styles of perms to choose from to create your desired shape and curl definition is what’s brought the perm back into favour.

What is the Process of Getting A Perm?

The 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 loose waves. The chemical solutions will vary by perm style and some perms require heat to achieve.

The curling process is stopped with a neutralizer chemical that brings your hair’s pH back to normal. The neutralizer step is what locks and sets the new texture and shape of your hair.

You’ll want to make an appointment with your salon, rather than just walk in. Getting any perm will take a couple of hours, so plan your time accordingly.

What’s the Difference Between Hot Perms & Cold Perms

Photo by Tim Mossholder

Before we get into the different types of perms, let’s talk about the difference between hot and cold perms.

The terms “hot” and “cold” refer to whether or not heat is applied as part of the perming process to achieve the curl.

Nowadays, cold perms are used a lot more. Most perms use the cold process, but a few current hot perm trends include the digital and straight perms, which we’ll get into a bit further down.

For a cold perm, an alkaline solution is applied to dry hair which breaks down the bonds of the hair. The hair is then wrapped around plastic rods. A cold perm results in tight, defined curls.

A hot perm, on the other hand, uses a similar process, but with an acidic solution and the addition of heat to create the curls or waves. A hot perm results in looser, softer curls.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).