Gen Z may have you believe that the 90’s and 2000’s are back in style, but recently a trend from the 80’s has been making the rounds on TikTok: the perm. The perm hairstyle was mostly seen on women back then, but today you can find men of all ages fully embracing the curly hair lifestyle. But what actually is a perm, and how you do achieve those soft, semi-permanent waves?
Getting a perm is not the same as going in for a quick trim. It’s a complicated chemical process that requires an expert’s touch. Luckily, we tapped master hairstylists Anakin Chan and James Corbett to tell us everything a guy needs to know before getting a perm.
What Is a Perm?
Short for “permanent hairstyle,” a perm is a chemical treatment thats alter the structure of your hair follicle to transform straight hair into wavy or curly hair. A perm isn’t completely permanent—it typically only lasts six months. However, a perm is still a harsh chemical process that you shouldn’t take lightly. The chemical process will change you hair’s structure and texture until it grows out, which typically is a few months to a year for most guys.
This ’80’s hairstyle is back in a big way, and especially popular among men who want to try a new style and have some fun with their look.
“Perms for men are beneficial because they are low maintenance, but also because it gives men an opportunity to change their look without necessarily having to change their cut or color,” says Anakin Chan, master stylist at Bubbles Salon in Maryland.
Perms usually take an hour and a half to complete in a salon setting and can cost anywhere from $100-$200.
Read more: Best Curly Hairstyles for Men
How a Perm Works
A perm is a chemical treatment that should always be done by professionals. Attempting a DIY perm at home can seriously damage your hair if you don’t know what you’re doing, and potentially even result in chemical burns. If you’re interested in getting a perm and curious about what to expect, let master stylist James Corbett break it down step-by-step for you.
Grow Your Hair Out
Prepare for your perm by growing you hair out. According to Corbett, the hair should be long enough to wrap around a roller. Chan says the hair should be should be at least an inch and a half long, “but the longer the hair, the better.”
Perms make your hair appear shorter, since all the length is wrapped into coil-like tendrils. Depending on the curl you’re going for, you want to make sure you have the length to support it.
Cleanse with a Clarifying Shampoo
The first thing a hairstylist will do before starting your perm is shampoo your hair. You can’t shampoo your hair for at least 48 hours after getting a perm or your risk deactivating the chemicals, so this wash will be your last for a few days. Once you’re back in the chair, they’ll detangle and comb out the hair and section based upon your desired curl.
Read more: Best Shampoos for Men
Wrap Hair Around Perm Rods
Next, towel-dried hair is smoothed with perm paper and wrapped around perm rods. On towel dry hair. Hair is smoothed with perm paper and wrapped around perm rods. The size and amount of rods will be based on your hair length and desired amount of curl. “The smaller the roller, the tighter the curl,” says Corbett.
Apply Perm Solution
Once the rods are set, a perm solution is applied to the hair. This chemical treatment breaks and resets the hair bonds into waves or curls. Corbett stresses that it’s very important to male sure that every rod is throughly saturated to ensure an even wave or curl pattern.
Rinse, Neutralize, Process, and Repeat
After processing, the stylist will carefully rinse your hair while it’s still in the rods. The hair is carefully blotted to remove excess water and without disrupting the hair. Then, a pre-neutralizing agent is used to lock the new shape into place. This will take some time to process. Once that’s done, the hair is blotted again and neutralizing solution is applied using only half of the bottle of neutralizing solution, saving the remaining amount.
After processing the neutralizing agent, your stylist will carefully and gently unwrap the rods. They’ll apply the remaining amount of neutralizing solution in the hair and carefully work it through. After that is processed for a few minutes, a final rinse completes the perm process.
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Care for Your New Curls
Avoid washing your hair for 48 hours after getting a perm as the curls continue to set. Even after 48 hours, you’ll want to wash your hair sparingly. Shampooing or getting your hair wet too often will cause your perm to fade faster. The drier you keep your curls, the longer they’ll last.
To maintain your perm, it’s important to use the right hair care at home. Here are a few expert-recommended products to help care for your curls and extend the life of your perm.
Best Products For Maintaining Your Perm
To Perm or Not to Perm?
Perms are gaining popularity among men, thanks to stars like Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet embracing their natural wave. And of course, we can’t forget about the K-pop stars from bands like BTS and EXO who modernized this ’80’s trend. But is getting a perm the right move for you?
It depends on your hair length, texture, and desired look. Guys with naturally wavy hair might not even need a perm and instead could benefit from adding a few curly hair-friendly products to their hair care routine. If you’re ready to grow your straight hair out and give this trend a try, be ready to rock this look for at least six months. Getting a perm is a commitment, but it’s not as permanent as the name suggests. At the end of the day, it’s just hair. If you’re not a fan of how it looks, just wait a few months until it grows out. Experimenting with your hair is fun, temporary, and a great way to discover and express your personal style.
Read More: How to Bleach Your Hair Platinum Blonde
Cristina Montemayor is a freelance writer and journalist living in Austin, Texas, covering beauty, grooming, style, and culture.
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