Earlier this summer, I came upon a short article about Kat Denning’s latest hair makeover and found myself drawn to her curls. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted curly hair and Kat’s new do only renewed my search for the perfect perm. It wasn’t long after that that I discovered the digital perm!
According to an article by Sali Hughes of the Guardian, digital perms originated from Japan and unlike the traditional cold perm that gives curls to wet hair, digital perms curl hair when it’s dry … in any size you want!
Thanks to a blog post (and referral) by Elizabeth Dehn, I was able to locate the ONE salon in the Twin Cities that offers digital perms – Shin Hair Salon in Minneapolis.
Now that I’ve gotten a digital perm, there is some important information I wish I had known before I permed my hair. Don’t get me wrong, I love my new perm but managing it is a lot more work that I ever expected. So if you’re thinking about getting a digital perm, here are 7 things you need to know before you call to schedule your appointment.
1. Digital perms are timely and expensive
The length and fullness of your hair will determine how long it will take to digitally perm your hair and how much it’s going to costs you to get one. In a nutshell, the longer and fuller your hair, the more time and money you’ll need to set aside for a digital perm.
Once you’re ready to schedule an appointment, know that you’ll need to set 2-4 hours aside to get your hair digitally permed. If you’re considering Shin Hair Salon for your digital perm, I advise that you schedule your appointment for 11 AM or noon. I scheduled my appointment for noon and didn’t finish until a little after 3 PM.
The starting price of a digital perm at Shin Hair Salon is $150. My hair at the time of my perm was medium length (a bit below my back) and considered thin by the stylist. Even so, my digital perm costs $200.
2. Make sure you’re ready to commit
Digital perms can last anywhere from a few months to a year and can’t be reversed without taking some major risks.
I was told that my digital perm would last about a year.
UPDATE: As you can see from the photos below, my hair was STILL curly a year after I permed my hair, even after I had 6 inches of it cut off earlier in the spring. About a month after the middle picture was taken, I had my stylist cut all the curls off.
3. There will be frizz
Digital perms were originally designed for Asian hair (probably because most of us have super straight hair) and the curls are only activated when heat is applied to the rollers. As healthy and shiny as your hair may be right now, I want you to know that if you’re considering a digital perm, you will have to deal with frizz. Once your hair is soaked in perm solution, rolled into curlers and plugged in, the heat will fry your hair.
Since my hair was thin and medium length, the stylist at Shin’s Hair Salon only allowed my hair to be “hot” for about an hour. Even though she constantly checked the level of heat of the rollers and took precautions to make sure my scalp didn’t get burned, the damage to my hair was done. The first week after my perm, no matter how much I conditioned my hair, my head was a ball of frizz.
4. Pinning pictures of digital perms on Pinterest isn’t real research
Before you get a digital perm, do the right kind of research because if you don’t, you’re going to end up investing a lot more than you planned on your new do. While blogs and online articles about digital perms will give you basic knowledge, I recommend that you spend some time researching how to care for curly hair too.
It wasn’t until after my perm, after the frizz started, that I realized that I had to be careful about what shampoo, conditioner and styling products I used. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent online researching products for curly hair after I got my perm and how much money I wasted on products that made my hair crunchy before I finally figured out how to manage my curly hair.
5. Be prepared to invest in hair care
Whether it’s a keratin treatment at the salon or a basket full of hair clips, be prepared to spend. While I initially purchased a few $5 products from Target to try on my new do, it was determined after the first use that these products weren’t for my curly hair. If I had done the proper research, I would have known this.
It’s been about a month since I got my perm and so far, I’ve gotten a haircut (to re-layer my hair to lessen the frizz), a keratin hair conditioning treatment (to soften my hair) and visited Sephora a handful of times to purchase expensive (but much needed!) hair products.
To help control frizz, I recommend Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious Calming Crème. This stuff won’t make your hair feel crunchy.
To review which ingredients in hair products are bad for curly hair, click here.
6. Getting ready in the morning will take just as long, if not longer than when you had straight hair
So I thought that getting a digital perm would make it possible for me to not only have curly hair every day but in less than the 15 minutes it normally took me to blow and style my straight hair. Well ladies, I am here to say that I was wrong! My curly hair now takes me twice as long to get ready for the day.
Once you get accustomed to the curly hair, you’ll need to give yourself extra time to gently blow dry and style … which brings me to the last thing you need to know about digital perms.
7. There will be lots of twirling
If you’re like me, you like to run your fingers through your hair or never really owned a hair brush. However, when your hair is curly, you’re going to need to refrain from running your fingers through your hair because that will cause frizz! Instead, you’re going to need to learn how to just twirl your hair. Yes, I said twirl.
To get the most curl for your buck, you’re going to need to twirl your hair in sections as you’re drying your curls with a diffuser blow dryer. Then, I recommend splitting your hair into two sections after blow drying and twirling them into Princess Leia like buns. Hit the buns with a little heat from the blow dryer and leave the buns in for a few minutes to get the most curl possible. Also, twirling your hair throughout the day will help sustain curls.
Update: December 2016
I made my peace with curly hair and am just happy that my hair has returned to its soft and silky self. My stylist still reminds me when I go in for a haircut that I promised her I wouldn’t perm my hair ever again.
Is there a digital perm alternative?
If you want wavy curls but don’t want to risk damaging your hair, I’d suggest learning how to curl your hair with a straight iron. It took me a couple of attempts before I got the wave curls down but I’m happy with the results – even if they’re just temporary.
I have hair slightly below my shoulders and use a 1 3/4 flat iron (If I use a 1″ flat iron, my curls end up too tight) to create my waves. To add some texture, I spray my wet hair with Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray (super cheap at Target). To add some body, I use Living Proof Flex Shaping Hairspray (love, love, love this hairspray). I spray both in my wet hair before I blow and curl my hair.