Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Digitally Permed Hair

Q: For the past few years, I have received a number of digital perms back home in Taiwan. Each perm usually lasts for about 8-10 months, with the curls loosening towards the end before I can make another trip to get it redone. It's been 6 months since my last digital perm, and I'm considering getting a perm here in Southern California. The salon I go to only does the traditional cold perms, and I was wondering how you feel about using a cold perm on my digitally permed hair. Will it cause more damage? Can I compensate it with deep conditioning regularly? What size rods should I ask for a loose curl look? How long does it usually last (given that my hair takes digital perm relatively well and responds well to products)?
A: While everything I've read on the Digital Perm (also called a "Hot Perm") indicates that you should be fine using a traditional cold wave perm on the hair, I suggest talking to the salon you plan to patronize and ask them about performing an "acid perm". The acid perm is very gentle and also requires heat to process. It isn't precisely the same as a digital perm, but it will help you to ensure that the process is as gentle as possible.
If you do opt for the traditional perm, whether from the need for expedience, or the inability to get a salon who can perform one for you, insist on a thorough evaluation and discussion before you allow anything to be planned and started on your hair. It's at this stage where you will get your decisions made about the size of the tools you use and how to care for the hair properly after the service.
Because your hair is preprocessed with a different formulation, the stylist MUST do a strand test on your hair to verify that the hair is safe to perm. (It is a step that is supposed to be done every time a client gets a perm service, but is often bypassed in favor of having the client sign a waiver to avoid liability if something goes wrong.) In your case, INSIST that a strand test be performed. Your hair is likely to be perfectly fine with the traditional perm, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
As for tool size to get the size curl you want, discuss your options with your stylist, and generally use a tool large enough to have the hair wind around it 3 or 4 times at most. With a traditional perm wrap (called a croquignole) the curls will be smaller toward the ends of the hair due to the way the hair overlaps as it winds around the roller. If you want evenly-sized curl, you may need to look at a spiral wrap method. Your stylist can advise you on what he or she has available and can arrange for you.
Related posts:
Perms and perming
What is a digital perm?
What is the difference between an alkaline perm and an acid perm?