Why perms are on trend again, but not like your Grandmother’s

Say hello to this season’s biggest hair trend: the perm. Kelsey Ferencak asks hairstylist Ali Holmes how to get the look – and why they’re not the same as they were in the ’80’s.

This season is all about the money piece, but also embracing your natural hair texture – and faking extra movement if you haven’t got any. We would say it’s no surprise the perm is back, but we’re still pretty surprised. There’s been a wave of women who usually have poker straight strands crop up the next day with coils and waves they could have been born with – not made with the curling wand.

To get the lowdown on how a perm actually works – and if it’s as scary (and smelly) as it was in the ‘80’s we quizzed KMS Lead Artist and co-owner of Sydney’s Wildlife Hair Sogo, Ali Holmes on it’s renaissance.

“More and more clients are requesting perms, it’s crazy!” She tells Body+Soul. “The demand has really picked up in the last five years to pretty much a daily occurrence in our salon in Surry Hills. We are seeing a mix of both men and women wanting perms and lots of younger clients want the ease of styling that a perm can bring,” she shares.

So what are clients requesting? “More of our younger clients are looking for big, wild curls, where the rest of our clientele want movement – it’s more of a wave. Texture is in high demand and everyone is after liveable, easy-to-wear styles,” says Holmes.

Keen? Us too. Read on below for everything you need to know about before and after perming your strands.

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What is a perm and how does it work?

A perm is a permanent wave or curl that is put into the hair. It works by changing the bonds in the hair to permanently make it curly. The size of the perm rod and the placement determines how curly the hair will be.

How does today’s perm differ to the perms of the ’80s or those that our grandmother’s had?

The science behind a perm hasn’t really changed, but the ingredients have and they are much gentler on the hair. Fashion and trends also determine the type of curl we’re after. At the moment people are going for a looser, more natural-looking curl.

The size of the perm rod we’re currently using is bigger than the perm rod from the 80’s. We also dress the curl after a perm differently to the 80’s perm. In the 80’s we brushed the curl out where as now we don’t put a brush anywhere near the curls.

Is it safe for our hair and how long does it last?

A perm takes about two to three hours depending on the length of the hair and how tight of a curl is wanted. As the name suggests a perm is permanent. Although the curl might drop or loosen, you’ll need to grow it out.

If your hair isn’t coloured, a perm at a reputable salon should have no damaging effect on your hair at all. Sometimes clients who bleach their hair often may see that the perm doesn’t hold as well in their hair.

Which hair types do perms suit best?

Perms can suit all lengths. Layers and perms are a perfect pairing, a layered cut with a perm gets a great result. Weak damaged hair can sometimes not work well with a perm. Although there are ways around this, such as using re-bonding products and treatments.

How do we look after our hair post-perm?

Curls love moisture and hate combs and brushes. While the hair is still wet after shampooing use a balm and rake it through gently with your fingers. To hold the curl twist or scrunch a foam or texturising spray through it.

What about at-home care to help keep it looking its best?

It’s surprising how low maintenance a perm can be, it’s no wonder they are popular again. Using moisture balancing products will keep the longevity of the curl going. Regular nourishing treatments will keep the curl full and stop it from dropping.