“Isn't the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you're forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the immonium thygocolate?” This was the only thing I knew about perms before I got one, and that’s only because I’ve watched Legally Blonde approximately 800 times. Other than that, in my mind they were confined to the annals of bad 80s trends, along with puffy-sleeved wedding dresses and leg warmers over lycra leggings. If the top dogs in the biz are to be believed, perms are well and truly back – just not as we know them. Leading hair salon Hershesons has added two new permanent wave treatments to its menu (the Maxi for "full on, apologetically big and lively curls" and the looser Braid Perm which "reinvents all the perm rules"). Likewise, premium salon Karine Jackson has welcomed the return of the perm stating "it's definitely back", only this time "it's much softer and gentler". So, under the proviso that I wouldn’t come out of the salon looking like Kylie Minogue in Neighbours (and a lot of encouragement from Team Pool), I thought, why not? So I headed off to Karine Jackson to try it out.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO BEFOREHAND?
I went for an assessment in the salon first, where my hair was tested to check whether it would hold curls. I also had to decide what type of curl I wanted – whether to go loose and beachy or for tighter curls. Turns out, I didn’t know what I wanted so I went for one of the tightest curls I could – if I was going to get a perm, I figured I might as well go the whole hog. This was about two weeks before I actually got the perm, and I was given some shampoo, conditioner and a volumising treatment to use in the meantime to prep my hair for the treatment.
WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?
It’s quite a lengthy process, as the formula needs time to penetrate the hair and curl it. First, my stylist gave my hair a proper wash, using the same products I’d been given to use at home. After that, the Curlformers – the devices that wrap your hair into curls – are put in. This is the bit that takes a while, because each Curlformer only curls a tiny section of hair. When they’re all in, it’s back to the sink for the actual perming treatment, which then needs to stay on your hair for around 20 minutes, or for as long as it takes for your hair to hold the curl. While I waited, my stylist put some clingfilm over my hair to keep the heat in and encourage the curls to take. Once the treatment is washed off, it’s time to check whether the perm has taken (though if you’ve been for a proper consultation and had your hair tested, it’s unlikely to have failed). There’s no hairdryer involved, as the curly haired among you will know that any heat will dry out the hair.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
Ages. Well, about three to four hours, and it of course depends on how much hair you have. But I definitely recommend taking a book.
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST?
Again, this depends on how well your hair takes to the perm, but you can expect at least six to eight weeks of curly hair. And you won’t wake up with magically straight hair one day as it falls out naturally, so you never look in-between hairstyles. I’m currently on week eight and while my hair has lost its spiral curls, it’s kept a wave and the volume.
WHAT’S THE AFTERCARE?
As per Legally Blonde, you can’t wash your hair for the first couple of days, but after that it’s just the same as when preparing for the perm – use the specialist shampoo, conditioner and volumising treatment a couple of times a week. I also used Argan oil in the mornings and twisted my hair round my fingers to define the curls. A perm isn’t a low-maintenance hairdo, and if you don’t look after it properly you will face the dry consequences, so it’s really worth putting some time and effort into the aftercare.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
At Karine Jackson, where I had my perm done, it’s £130 for a senior stylist working on medium-length hair.
I honestly wasn’t sure about having a perm and, to be honest, I’m still not, but only because I miss the ease of having naturally straight hair. If you’ve always wanted to have curly hair though, I’d definitely recommend. The perm gave me much more volume – which my hair definitely needed – and it was great to have a different texture to play with. I was initially worried about the process causing irreparable damage, but, even as my curls have dropped out, my hair has stayed in relatively good condition – but, again, I can’t stress how important the aftercare is to maintain it. I can’t imagine I’ll go back for another perm, just because it’s rather expensive not only for the treatment, but for the products needed for the upkeep, too. Now, though, I know they’re nothing to be scared of