Spring's Most-Requested Hair Treatment Is a Perm, But It's Not What You Think

When you think of the word "perm," visions of massive '80s curls probably immediately run through your head. At least that's the version of the perm that ran through mine a few weeks ago when I was getting my hair colored at Salon Kazumi in Beverly Hills and my hairdresser told me that perms are one of this year's most-requested treatments. But as hairdresser Yukari Yoshizawa quickly explained, the 2020 version of perms is not the tight '80s curls I was thinking of. The popular perm treatment of today is actually one of loose beach waves like the ones I create for myself using a curling iron every morning.

To me, this sounded too good to be true, so I immediately needed to know everything about the process and results. Yukari explained that this particular perm treatment is like nothing of the past in that it's relatively quick, minimally damaging, and can create beautiful beach waves that even your curling iron can't compete with. You can even request a vegan treatment if that complements your lifestyle.

If this sounds like a dream treatment, it's because it kind of is. The only downside to this treatment is that if your hair is bleached (or has been bleached in the past and hasn't fully grown out yet), you're not an ideal candidate for it, as the perm would be too damaging to your processed hair. That's sad news for myself, but if you're interested in learning more about the beach-wave perm, I had Yukari outline each step in the process below.

1. Shampoo

"I like to prep the client's hair with shampoo and conditioner to clarify the hair and open up the cuticles for the process," says Yukari. This sets your strands up perfectly for the treatment and ensures you go in with a clean slate. 

2. Rods

"With the hair still wet, I utilize different size rods to create the perm and texture that the client has in mind," explains Yukari. "Also, depending on the condition of the client's hair, I might apply PPT (a protein treatment) on the ends of the client's hair as added protection." This is one of the reasons the new perm is significantly less damaging on hair than in previous decades. 

3. Processing

"After wrapping the client's hair in rods, I offer a few a range of solutions depending on the desired end results as well as the condition of the client's hair. For instance, a milder solution is recommended when I am working with a client that has already had their hair permed from a few months back and is just looking for a touchup. I also offer vegan perms for my plant-based clients," says Yukari. "The entire process takes about 15–20 mins and no heat is required. I personally like to put a shower cap over the rods to prevent loss of moisture during the process."

4. Rinse Out

"After testing out a few strands of hair to see if additional time is required, if the desired effect is achieved, then we will proceed with a thorough rinse-out followed by an application of PPT (Protein Treatment), which will be left on for 5 minutes," Yukari explains. "A neutralizer will then be applied to the hair and left on for 8–10 mins to cease the perming process."

5. Finish

"We will then finish with the removal of the rods, a final rinse-out, and another application of conditioner or hair treatment, depending on the condition of the hair," Yukari says. "I personally recommend my customers to refrain from shampoos for approximately two days after the perm. Curling irons, flat Irons, ponytails as well as hairpins are also not recommended in the first two days after the perm."

So there you have it—an updated perm process to deliver dreamy loose waves with minimal damage to your hair so you can ditch your curling iron once and for all. The phrase "I woke up like this" just got much more attainable.

Shop At-Home Wave Products

If like me you bleach your hair or just aren't ready for a perm, this curling iron is my savior. It creates loose, tousled waves quickly and easily. 

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The perfect finisher for loose beach waves (no without the salty texture). 

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All of the beach texture with none of the sand or salt. 

You'll be hooked on this one for the smell alone. 

The unicorn of a hair tool, the Dyson Airwrap, allows you to straighten, wave, or curl without using extreme heat or damaging your hair. Talk about a dream tool. 

This product is great for adding a beachy texture without the crunch of a salt spray.