I have always been a sucker for tousled beach waves. Every summer, I stocked up on Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray all throughout middle school and high school to douse my hair in the sea salt spray before heading to the beach. But when summer would come to an end, my coveted beach waves would disappear. And as I got older and didn’t have the opportunity to experience the joys of summer break, achieving beach waves became harder and harder. I would still try to achieve the look from time to time, but with all the styling required, I couldn’t be bothered. Just when I thought all hope was lost, I was introduced to the beach wave perm.
In case you didn’t know, yes, perms are back and they’re better than ever. The controversial perm of the ‘80s and ‘90s has experienced a major glow-up not just in the U.S. but all around the world (K-pop stars are obsessed with Korea’s jelly perm). I would’ve never guessed that a perm would give me the beach waves of my dreams yet here I am writing this with a Cheshire cat grin on my face thanks to my experience with perm queen and leader of the perm resurgence, Janine Jarman and her stylists at Curl Cult.
About the Expert
Janine Jarman is the founder of Curl Cult and Hairroin Salon in Los Angeles, California.
What Is a Beach Wave Perm?
Shirley Temple ringlets are what come to my mind whenever I hear the word “perm,” which has deterred me from ever really getting one myself. But a beach wave perm is totally different from the classic perm many of us picture. Jarman shares that “the beach wave perm is giving that surfer chic vibe, perfectly imperfect waves that are not quite a curl. Think body and movement with air-dried texture perfection.”
What gives Curl Cult the ability to create a looser, softer, natural wave is their proprietary perm formula. Curl Cult’s protein perm solution is a gentle treatment that leaves hair feeling soft and natural, and it’s one Jarman spent five years in Italy perfecting. Because of this, their formula smells way better than other perm solutions (I can attest to this), requires fewer steps, is not as messy, and isn’t damaging. All of which weren’t previously updated until Jarman and Curl Cult came along.
What Is the Beach Wave Perm Process?
Getting a beach wave perm is a bit of a (very worth it) to-do—expect to spend about three hours at the salon. Before we got into the nitty-gritty of the perm itself, Jarman and I quickly consulted on what I was hoping to get out of this treatment. Ultimately, I wanted a fuss-free hairstyle where I could just apply product and air-dry. I mentioned how I’ve been leaning into my natural texture more but it feels so boring because it’s straight—and obviously my unwavering love for beach waves.
After we determined that I was in business to get a beach wave perm, we started with a quick rinse at the shampoo bowl using Curl Cult’s clarifying shampoo. Next, Jarman applied the brand’s Magic Spell Conditioning Leave-In and Enhance Moisturizing Curl Cream, then combed out my hair to prep it for the flexi rods. Jarman expertly twisted my strands around the rods in a way that would lend itself to the wave pattern I was hoping to achieve. Now that my entire head of hair was rolled up in the flexi rods (this took about 40 minutes), it was time to saturate my hair with Curl Cult’s Permanent Styling Lotion.
One of the biggest benefits of Curl Cult’s product is that this can all be done in the chair. “Our unique processing formula allows us to neutralize over top of the perm solution eliminating the roller rinse step of the traditional service,” notes Jarman. “This shaves off 20 to 30 minutes and makes it way more comfortable so you no longer have to lay back in the bowl with rollers. It also saves 15 gallons of water because it eliminates the ‘rinse for five minutes’ step.”
Just like Jarman described, my hair was doused in solution (processing for about 30 minutes first) before the Neutralizing Treatment was applied directly on top—which took an additional 15 minutes. Then, it was time to take the flexi rods out for a quick rinse. The fun part came when Jarman was applying the leave-in and curl cream to my wet hair and I saw the beach waves come to life. She noted that “this was the hair meant to have” and I couldn’t agree more. I was destined to have beach waves year-round.
What Does Aftercare Look Like for the Perm?
After getting the perm, the only real rule I had to follow was to not wash my hair for 48 hours. I also was told to not put my hair up in any tight hairstyles and to avoid doing anything that would cause me to sweat. When the 48 hours were up, I could wash my hair with Curl Cult’s Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner. To style, Jarman shared that I should lean “into the traditional curly styling methods of sulfate-free, paraben-free, and alcohol-free products. I recommend just wetting your hair to restyle each day.” She noted that all I had to do was “add all the Curl Cult products into wet hair, detangle when wet, and scrunch out moisture with a 100 percent cotton or microfiber towel then let air-dry or partially diffuse dry.” I’ve only washed my hair the one time since so it was a bit of an adjustment but totally worth the payoff.
A typical beach wave perm will last around six months, though the benefit of this type of perm is that it will grow out with your hair for a more seamless transition. Jarman notes that you should “plan on paying $250 to $600 for the service, depending on your hair length and density.” If you’re ready for a beach wave perm yourself, you can use Curl Cult’s Salon Locator to find a service provider near you.