We all remember the 50's rolled fringe, the 60's afro and the 80's spiral perm, but today's permanent waving or 'perm' techniques have come a long way from Kylie's fuzzy, crimped corkscrews. New methods allow you to choose between tight curls, spirals or beachy waves and are less damaging than their drying predecessors, so why not put a spring in your step with a bouncy new 'do?
On a very basic level, the proteins in your hair are held in place by bonds known as 'disulphide bonds'. These links create the outer structure of your hair, therefore controlling whether it is wavy, curly or straight. During a perm, the first stage is to add a chemical to your tresses to release the disulphide bonds, thus freeing up the protein building blocks in the strand. This allows your stylist to change the hair's shape. Next the hair is either wrapped around rollers or combed out straight, depending on the desired effect of the perm, and left to 'set'. Finally hydrogen peroxide is added to 'quench' the hair and stop the previous reaction.
Like all permanent hair treatments a perm will grow out over time, so there's no lasting effect if you become bored of your new style. In the meantime be sure to use lots of nourishing conditioners and treatments to keep your chemically processed locks in tip top condition.
You won't be able to wash your hair for 24 hours after the treatment so make sure to use a good quality shampoo in the run-up to your perm. It's advisable not to condition immediately before your appointment as it may make your hair too slippery and affect the effectiveness of the treatment. If you do colour your hair, be sure to touch up your roots about two weeks before your perm to keep the colour looking fresh without over-processing.
Perms work best on hair that hasn't been overly processed, as the chemicals involved are too harsh for damaged or heavily highlighted hair. Your stylist will be able to assess the condition of your hair prior to treatment and tell you if you need to wait a while (and stock up on conditioning treatments) before you're a good candidate for curls.
If you want to be sure your hair is strong enough to stand a perm before you even book an appointment with your stylist, simply snip a few strands of your hair near the scalp and drop them into a glass of water. If the hairs sink then your hair's protective cuticle is damaged so it's probably best to skip any chemical processing for a while. If the strands float then your hair is in top condition and you're good to go!