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James Charles Revived the Classic Perm—His Stylist Dishes on the Daring ‘Do

Was a certain social media star eavesdropping on us? We were just talking about perms and their present-day relevance (or lack thereof). And whad’ya know? James Charles’ perm is suddenly the talk of the town (err… YouTube).

The beauty influencer just posted a 12-minute video, detailing his new, chemically curled ‘do. And we took things a step further by hitting up the celebrity hairstylist responsible for making waves—Rikke Gajda.

Mane Addicts: For those fortunate enough to bypass this once-tragic trend of the ’80s and ’90s, what is a perm?

Rikke Gajda: A perm is a great way to change up your style. It’s a way to permanently change the texture of your hair. To get technical, when you wrap the hair around a rod and put the perm solution on, it opens up the s-s bindings in the hair. The bonds can now be manipulated and formed into any shape and direction. This is why we have it wrapped around a rod, curled backwards, forward, on-base and off-base—depending on how you want it to fall. 

After the solution has done its work, it’s time to rinse it out throughly before putting the fixation solution that now locks the s-s bonds into its new shape around the rod. It’s pretty cool. 

MA: What inspired James Charles’ perm?

RG: James explained how he spends a lot of time blow-drying and curling certain pieces of his hair every day and that his own hair is very straight and not always too cooperative. After seeing the trend on TikTok with guys getting perms, James got the idea to do something similar. He didn’t want it very curly, he just wanted a slight wave and body to his hair, so we chose to use bigger rods to barely create some movement to his hair. 

MA: How did you and James come together for this video and hair process?

RG: James reached out to his followers on Instagram to see if anyone knew someone in L.A. who does perms, and my friend and hairstylist Jesus Guerrero put us in contact as he knows I do perms. 

MA: Given that perms have dramatically decreased in popularity over the years, did you find the process particularly challenging?

Not at all, I actually love doing perms! It’s one of my favorite things to do. Back in my salon days, I did on average 4-5 perms a week. A lot of people never learned or didn’t want to learn perms. I’ve always loved it so I was thrilled when James reached out. Curly hair is my favorite, especially on guys. I love that this is a growing trend. The hair can be made as curly or as loose as you want.

MA: How do perm services differ now from when they were at peak popularity decades ago?

RG: In a way I think they’re still very similar, but I think back in the day hairstylists were scared to think outside the box. Each perm had the same tight-curled, sometimes frizzy look, which scares a lot of people I think. Now there are so many more options when it comes different rods and sizes, different perm solutions to create a more customized look, and stylists are more open to venture out and try different placements.

It’s played a huge role in the hair world for years. Most people’s know it as a service old ladies get to create volume and add hold to their shorter hairstyles. It went out of fashion for a while, but it’s coming back with a bang, and I love it.

MA: How much would James’ exact service typically cost?

RG: It really depends on the salon and stylist you go to. Everyone bases their prices differently, but I would say from $300 and up.

MA: What else do you want readers to know about you, your experience working with James, or anything else for that matter?

RG: A perm can be damaging if you have previously colored or chemically treated hair, so it’s important for clients to be honest about hair history and for the stylist to do a test curl if you’re unsure of the quality of the hair. Guys have the advantage that they have short hair that’s normally healthy and untreated, and also it will grow out quick if damage does occur.

It’s also important to chose the right perm solution for the hair type and also the right size rods for desired end result. Perms on long hair is more tricky as it’s hard to get the solution to properly penetrate to get an even curl, and also the weight of the hair can sometimes make it too heavy for the curls to hold.

Also, do not—I repeat—do not buy at-home perm kits. I promise you your hair will break off. Spend the extra money and go to a stylist. 

Now that you’re well-informed about James Charles’ perm, HERE are five things you need to know if you plan on getting the service done yourself!

2 minutes

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