Tight Spiral Perm

Long hair with a spiral perm
Photo: Lado/Shutterstock
Q: Hi, I have always loved curly hair and so I am thinking of getting a spiral perm. I am almost a senior in high school (will be this fall), and I have done some damage with my hair in the past including curling it every day with a curling iron, washing it every day, and using hair spray over top. A lot of hair spray. I had oily hair, but it has gotten better now that I am almost an adult. My hair is much better now; it gets oily if I don't have my hair curled but not as bad though.
But I would like to know if I am the best candidate for a spiral perm? My hair is about 5-6 inches below my collar bone when it is straight/wavy. I now use foam rollers leave them in overnight, take them out and spray my hair just to hold the curls. I only wash my hair twice a week. My hair stays curly throughout the week. I have no split ends and no breakage as far as I know. My hair strands are thick. My hair, when it is straight/wavy, is flat at the top, and it is soft. I have fine hair. And I don't want my hair coming out terrible or breaking off, or not being able to hold the perm. My hair curls very well and lasts a while. I wanted to get tighter curls and not an afro but just some kind of tight curl.
I would like it no shorter than reaching my shoulders. And I have a heart shaped face. I need suggestions. Do you think a spiral perm would work out? Am I the best candidate for a spiral perm? Is my hair healthy? When is the best time to get a perm? How long will a tighter spiral perm hold? How much damage will it cause? What to do a few days before getting a perm? Thanks.

A: All right, let me begin by explaining in simple terms what a perm is. A perm is a chemical process where your hair is rolled into perm-rollers. The size of these rollers will determine the size of your curls. The smaller or thinner the structure of the roller, the tighter your curl will be. Thus to emulate an Afro, the smallest, thinnest perm-roller will be used. The tighter the curl, the “shorter” your hair will seem after the perm, as the hair springs up a lot. The larger/thicker of the structure of the perm-roller, the larger, more relaxed the results of the perm.
A chemical is then poured on the rolled-up hair to break down the structure of the hair. This chemical literally breaks down the connections between the amino acids that create the structure of your hair. After about 40 minutes, this chemical is rinsed from your hair, and another chemical is poured over to permanently change the structure in your hair as it is wound around the perm roller. Thus, when the rollers are taken out, your hair “curls” to the same form that it was fixed in while wound up in rollers.
Although perming is “permanent” it does wash out to a degree, depending on a lot of factors such as your natural curl, styling techniques and how often you wash your hair. You will have to touch up your perm every few months. A perm is a chemical process, thus it inevitably causes damage to the hair. If the hair is healthy before the perm, you shouldn’t have any problems except that the hair tends to be dry and somewhat more brittle than before. If your hair has heat, prior chemical or other damage, you will have to consult with your hairdresser.
Don’t color your hair immediately prior to perming, as this will wash the color out. If you want to color it, color it with a semi-permanent color a few weeks after the perm was done. Don’t attempt any, bleaching or highlighting to permed hair, the hair is likely to break off.
It sounds to me that you would prefer a larger, more relaxed curl. According to your portfolio, I think that you would probably be a good candidate for a perm yes. But you will have to discuss this with your hairdresser to a full extent. It sounds as if your hair has a natural curly structure already. I would like to suggest that you go to the hairdresser and ask them to dry your hair with a diffuser attached to the blow-dryer.
A diffuser is a re-attachable structure used to intensify the natural curl in hair. They will basically apply a curl inducing hair-product to your hair (gel-spray or curl-intensifying mousse), and then dry your hair with the diffuser. I prefer to ask my clients to sit with their head upside down, to ensure that the hair curls from root to tip, but hairdressers vary in their preferred technique.
You may not need to do a perm then at all, as the diffuser intensifies your natural curls without all the chemical damage a perm would amount to. You can buy a hair-dryer with a diffuser for a relatively inexpensive price, and save yourself a lot of time and hassle if your hair has enough natural curl.
See also: Curly hair and hairstyles