Spiral Perm & Body Wave

Hair with spirals
Photo: Lukas Zb/Shutterstock
Q: I asked the salon for a body wave and I got a spiral perm. What is the difference? How can I style my hair to look more like a body wave? Also, can I get my hair wet the first 2 days after the perm? The stylist told me it was OK, just don't shampoo and condition it... but now I am hearing otherwise. Which is true?
A: Well, simply put, a body wave is a perm that uses very large tools to give the hair a small amount of curve as opposed to curl. Its purpose is to simply add some texture to the hair and make it easier to style and manage.
Body waves are usually wrapped in croquinole fashion - or in other words, wrapped so that the hair is overlapped with each successive turn of the tool. The spiral perm uses a different wrapping technique - one in which the hair is wrapped at an angle around a longer tool and only slightly overlaps with each pass.
And your stylist is correct in that you can get your hair wet within 2 days of a perm. In fact, when properly performed, permed hair is completely stable, and getting it wet will not alter the results.
Typically, the reason for the restriction is that the perming process does leave the hair more porous, usually, and therefore more susceptible to damage. Women and men were advised to avoid wetting their hair to make sure that they didn't do anything to strip away essential moisture while the hair was in such a fragile state.
Just remember to be gentle with your hair. It will take a few days for the hair to "normalize" (meaning that the cuticle layer flattens more to its normal state) and in the meantime should be treated carefully so as to avoid damaging it.
See also:
How soon following a perm can one get hair wet in a spa tub?
How long after getting a perm do I have to wait to swim in a pool?