How to Get a Perm You Won't Hate

Avoid Perm Remorse with These Tips

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If you've decided that you want to get a perm and you've already read through the red flags to consider, the next step is to actually get one that won't leave you feeling serious regret. Perm remorse isn't pretty, so doing your homework is important.

Take Your Time

Getting a perm is serious business. In a nutshell, when you retexture your hair with a typical perm solution, the perm chemicals break the structure of your hair down (more or less to mush), and then restore its strength as it reforms around the perm rods.

Given how potent these chemicals are and how long their effects last, taking your time to find a stylist and a perm that will work best for your hair is crucial.

Find a Good Stylist

The best way to get a perm that you won't hate is to go to a stylist who knows what she's doing. We're talking delicate science here. Sure, all hair pros learn how to do perms, but that doesn't mean that they're all good at them, enjoy giving them, and understand the complicated relationship among chemicals and hair types.

If you already have a stylist you trust, open the conversation at your next haircut appointment. Ask her to be honest with you. How much experience does she have with perms? Has she had good results? How comfortable is she with the process? If your hair stylist truly cares about the condition of your hair, she will tell you if perming your hair is a bad idea and will refer you to someone who is more experienced if she's not confident performing a perm service.

If you don't have a regular stylist, now's a good time to find one. If your hair is long, ask around for a stylist who specializes in long-hair perms.  Schedule a consultation to discuss your perm goals, your hair's condition, and the proper after-perm care for your hair.

Be Willing to Spend

Depending on the length of your hair, getting a perm probably won't be—and should not be—a cheap endeavor.

Good perms take a few hours. A qualified salon stylist will take the time to properly prep, process, and finish the service. Besides paying for your stylist's time, you're paying for his expertise, experience, and education. A perm is permanent, and the wrong one could very well leave your hair feeling gummy, brittle, dry, or worse. Bottom line: If you can't afford a good perm, don't get one—unless you're ready to explore the idea of a pixie cut if it goes wrong.

Take Care of Your Investment

When getting a perm, you should expect to completely change your hair products and routine. Curly hair takes a different maintenance regime than straight hair. Ask your stylist for product recommendations, and use them.

What to Discuss With Your Stylist Before Getting a Perm

Your hair's condition is key. Be completely honest and upfront with your stylist about any hair coloring, highlighting, or texture services you've done on your hair in the past. Even if you had you colored over those highlights you got eight months ago, your stylist should be aware. The proper perm solution depends on your honesty, and the final result will vary greatly if you're keeping hairy skeletons in your closet.

Be specific about how you want your hair to look.

Show your stylist photos and ask if the results are achievable with a perm. Don't assume that your stylist knows what you're talking about when you say "wavy", "curly," or "body." We all define these terms a bit differently. Also keep in mind that it's hard to tell if pictures online are the result of perms, natural waviness, extensions, or a curling iron (or a combination). Ask your stylist to help you understand the difference and whether some curling techniques might help you get the effect you want instead.

What to Do If You Hate Your Perm

You can never tell with 100 percent accuracy how a perm will turn out until it's finished. Even with all the proper planning, you may not be pleased with the results.

Perms can be reversed with permanent straightening, but this employs the same chemicals used in perming your hair.

If your perm damaged your hair, reversing it could cause still more damage. Before you run for a straightening service, ride the wave of your new perm (so to speak) and try to make the best of it. Get your hair on a good strength-building regimen to help repair the damage, and deep-condition your hair regularly.

The best way to calm a perm down if the results are too curly or frizzy is to try a semi-permanent smoothing treatment. But again, remember that any additional chemical service could cause more problems than it's worth and will cost you more money in terms of services and products.