Whether you lived through the ’80s or early ’90s, or you’ve simply watched your fair share of music videos from those eras, there’s no doubt you’re familiar with the legendary perm hairstyle.
The chemical-based process was known to be pretty damaging to the hair, while inducing curls so big they could overtake a person’s whole head. While in retrospect, we don’t quite get the appeal, it seemingly made sense at the time.
That said, with so many hairstyles making a resurgence as of late, we just had to know if this trend is being revisited, too. We reached out to L.A.-based celebrity hairstylist Matilde Campos for intel on the current state of the perm hairstyle. Keep reading for what she had to say!
Mane Addicts: Do you have clients who request traditional perm services these days? If so, how frequently?
Matilde Campos: Any time I think of the word perm, I think of the 1980s, how smelly they were, and those big voluminous curls. I haven’t had many clients in the past few years ask about getting a perm, but I do, more than anything, have many clients ask if they’re still around.
MA: How does the trend differ now from when it was at peak popularity?
MC: Perms have slowly made their way back into the limelight, or maybe we could say into a blurred sort of light. They’re out there, many people are doing them, but not many tend to talk about them. Perms are no longer called “perms.” They now have fancy names and are usually known more along the lines of “body waves.” They have many different names, a completely new chemical structuring—they’re not as damaging as they used to be—and now you don’t have to meet a certain prerequisite to get one.
If you look at today’s trends, wavy is in, so there’s a type of perm that will give you that look, whereas in the ’80s, I feel like the goal was, how much volume can you attain in every direction? I do have to say, I love volume! But more of the 1960s and 1970s type of volume. And with that said, there’s also a perm for just this: A “root perm” can give you the volume you want. Whatever you’re looking to do, there’s probably a perm that can do it for you.
MA: Are perms still deeply damaging to the hair, or have formulas changed to make them less harsh?
MC: If we go back just a few decades, perms have continued to change. And now you have many to choose from, depending on what’s best for your hair and what you’re looking to achieve. A thorough consultation with your hairstylist will help find the right route to take, so don’t hold back. Be sure to tell them all your hair secrets. If you used box dye during quarantine, be sure to relay this to them—they need to know all of your secrets. A good hairstylist will be sure to keep your hair healthy and intact. Always check in with a professional, because perming your hair at home can be a recipe for disaster.
MA: Do you recommend any specific products to keep permed hair healthy and intact?
MC: Depending on your new curl pattern, finding products used for curly hair will be key. Using a good moisturizing mask after your perm will help reintroduce any moisture you may have lost. Some of the products I recommend are as follows:
I love the Un-Frizz Cream by Virtue Labs. As its namesake says, it fights frizz and also leaves hair soft and subtle.
If you’re one to love texture and that sea salt feeling of the ocean, but also love hold, the Maria Nila Ocean Spray will give you a matte, non-sticky finish you need.
Leonor Greyl has a great Curl Enhancing Styling Spray leave-in that restores shine and bounce. Just a few spritzes a day and it’ll keep your ends glossy and moisturized.
An amazing styling cream with a little bit of hold and UV protection is Maria Nila’s Salty Cream. It’s soft but adds texture, and is great for those who love a cream for styling instead of sprays.
I always love using an oil just to add shine and get rid of frizz. My favorite for many years has been Rusk Deepshine Protective Oil Treatment. It doesn’t weigh the hair down, and it gives you full control of your hair.
MA: If someone is toying with the idea of getting a perm, what’s your advice for them?
MC: Ask questions, do your research and, just like a new hair color, this will be the new you. Matching with the right hairstylist will be key. Know exactly what you want and find someone who specializes in it. Knowledge is power, and finding the right person to deconstruct and reconstruct your tresses will be the biggest key.
MA: How long do perms typically last these days, and to what hair type do they react best?
MC: Perms are not always permanent. They may loose their curl after a few months—it all depends on your hair, the type of perm you chose to have, and how quickly your hair grows. If you have heavy, straight, long hair, your perm may have a shorter lifespan than someone who has shorter, more wavy hair to begin with.
Depending on these factors, an average perm can last about 3 – 6 months. Remember to keep up with your haircare routine and keep your hair healthy. All these variations will retain your curls and give it a longer lifespan.