Would You Get a Perm Again? Modern Takes on the '80s Trend

The hairstyle that defined the '80s is back ... but don't expect coiled curls this time around. Today's modern version is all about a wavy texture that's totally versatile.

The Perm Is Back!

It seems as though all the fashion and beauty trends of the 1980s are experiencing a revival as of late. Blue eyeliner? Sure, we can get behind that. Shoulder pads? Totally. But ... perms? Believe it, they're back in a big way--but with a few major changes. Celeb Julianne Hough has gone under he rollers to achieve loose, undone waves. "Today's perm is about creating texture and loose waves, not super tight ringlets," explains Nunzio Saviano, New York City stylist and owner of an eponymous salon. Think of this as the countermovement to the stick-straight strands that have been so popular in recent years. "People are tired of frying their hair with flat irons and straightening treatments," says Joe Santy, vice president of success at Olaplex, LLC, and owner of Attitudes Hair Studio in Langhorne, Pennsylvania (he's also the man responsible for Julianne Hough's recent perm). "Straight hair is beautiful, but limiting," he says.

Considering a Perm?

Plan on spending anywhere from 90 minutes to three hours at the salon. The process involves applying a permanent solution, setting the hair, then neutralizing the solution. You'll also want to avoid shampooing and tight pontyails for a few days afterward, so that you don't stretch out the newly formed wave, Saviano cautions.

Also nice: A perm works on almost all hair types. It adds fullness and body to fine, straight hair, enhances a naturally wavy texture, and can even create more uniform curls in curly girls who find their hair to be uneven and unruly, Santy says (those with extremely kinky or ethnic strands should take a pass). Plus, thanks to new reparative treatments that can be incorporated into the perm process, even those with extremely highlighted or damaged hair can get in on the action.

Modern Perm Styling Secrets

A perm no longer locks you into just one (curly) look; it's completely versatile, depending on how you style your hair, Saviano says. Let it air-dry and you'll end up with a beachy, surfer-girl texture. Blow-dry for a look that's smooth but still has tons of body, or diffuse your hair to enhance and define the waves. "Perms used to be wash-and-wear," Santy says. "Now, they're simply the foundation for a good style." Otherwise, maintaining your new 'do--which can last for up to five months--mainly involves rethinking your product regimen: "Swap out your standard stylers for ones meant for curly or wavy hair to help enhance the tousled texture," Saviano says.

So go ahead, embrace the perm once again ... but maybe leave those leg-warmers in the closet.

Learn how to fight frizz in your curly hair.

Learn 10 simple ways to fix dry hair.

More Ways to Up Your Curl Game

Whether you want beachy waves, tight ringlets, or something in between, the secret to success is using the right curling iron. We show you exactly what to expect from different irons, along with when to use each.


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