Perms and Poofy Hair

Permed curls
Photo: Roman50/Shutterstock
Q: Hi, I’m 18 and have about 2 inches longer than shoulder-length natural blonde hair. Naturally it’s wavy, but not really a pretty wave. When I try to 'scrunch' it or just wear it natural, it doesn't look very good. I straighten my hair with an iron more than four times a week, and I use serums and products to protect my hair, but I still see the dead ends and tons of 'fly away' pieces around my part.
I would love to be able to shower and scrunch my hair and have it have more waves in it. Not spiral curls, but just tighter waves. I have been looking at perms, and the questions from your site, but I have no idea where to start, and if I could actually achieve what I want with a perm.
Does a perm make your hair all poofy and have the look of being permed? Like, with African-American permed curly hair you can tell it’s not real. Would that same look happen with thick blonde hair? And when people get perms, can you tell? Is it obvious that it isn't natural? And are perms just for older women? Could I get the same scrunched look with permed hair as people do with natural hair? And if I did get it permed, what do I tell the stylist, and should I get it cut before or after it?
Do you have any other ideas besides perms? I’m sorry about the very, very long question, but it would be awesome if you could help me out! Thanks!

A: Okay, perms are designed to add curl to the hair, and adding curl as a result will add volume. However, “poofy” is not generally a desired trait for hairstyles, and so you really need to speak to a stylist about the options that are best suited to your hair.
The stylist needs to be able to visually inspect your hair’s condition, length, density, texture, porosity, and current wave pattern in order to make an educated assessment of options available in getting you the results you desire.
Your job will be to be clear with the stylist about what you want. Don’t simply walk in and say I want my hair to be more wavy and easy to style. Search curly celebrity hairstyles, magazines, tabloids and newspapers for photos of the type of style you want for your hair and take as many different photos as you can find of similar styles. Your stylist, if he or she is any good at all, will be able to talk with you and use the photos to determine the best type of perm for you.
Of course, I realize that you are only 18 and you may not have the budget for a high-maintenance salon service. If all you want is more, uniform waviness to your hair, then you might try enlisting a friend’s help if needed and braid your hair. Start with damp hair and lightly spray the hair with leave-in conditioner. Then braid the hair using segments of hair that are about 2 inches wide by ½ deep, and braid them in a standard three-strand braid. Secure the ends of the braids with snag-safe elastic bands and allow the hair to dry fully before taking the braids down.
Once you’ve taken the dry hair out of the braids, you can dip your fingertips in warm water and massage the scalp to remove the partings if any are visible. Use a small amount of styling product spread evenly over your fingers to comb through the waves and give some definition. It is generally best to limit styling the hair to using only your fingers as combs and brushes can tend to create the “poofy” look you are trying to avoid.
See also:
How to braid hair
Curly hair and hairstyles