Back at in September, I won a free “do-anything-you-want-with-your-hair” from a salon. Suggestions included a cut and dye, but I’m an actor and I prefer for my hair to remain its natural colour, so instead, in late October, I went and got a perm.
I had never before dyed or permed my hair, and it had been a while since I’d last had a haircut, too. This is what my hair looked like before. While naturally very straight, there was a bit of a wave where I tucked it behind my ears which became more prominent right after washing my hair. But this is about as straight as natural hair gets.
To begin, my stylist (her name was Torie) shampooed my hair so the chemicals would have the best grip possible. I got a haircut, and we started the perm. In an attempt to avoid a disastrous 80s perm, I emphasized I wanted big curls, borderline waves, and not tight curls. Torie ordered big rollers and chose a mild chemical, and she and an assistant got to work separating my hair by sections and rolling it all up. It took a while, and it looked ridiculous.
They put a band of cotton around my hairline to ensure no solution would get on my face, and then Torie squirted the chemical carefully on every roll, making sure all of my hair was covered in solution. She then covered it all in plastic and I sat for a bit. Ten or fifteen minutes, I think? After which she washed it out, dried it, and curled it, and I had some beautiful waves.
I don’t know if the waves were beautiful only because she curled my hair, though. I waited the recommended time before washing my hair again, and by then it was Halloween so I curled my hair again for my Edgar Allan Poe costume. The day after the curls had loosened perfectly for new headshots, too.
But about a week after the perm, I noticed that although my hair could hold a curl far better than it used to (Seriously, it used to go straight within an hour after curling. It caused trouble on some sets sometimes, I’d always be going back to the hair and makeup chair every hour or so.), without curling my hair, it looked as straight as before. Slightly more noticeably wavy when I washed it, but ultimately it was the same. I went to a party with all my cousins (this was last year, remember) and they honestly couldn’t tell I’d gotten a perm, and looking in the mirror, I couldn’t tell, either. I didn’t get any pictures of this, unfortunately, but it was enough that I called the salon and went back in to try again.
I got a picture after another haircut, in which you can see the waves, but I had showered right before the appointment which I kind of regretted because you couldn’t tell how straight it had been when it wasn’t freshly washed. Some of the staff seemed to be whispering about me coming back when the whole first appointment was free to begin with. I can’t say for certain that was what they were talking about, but they were glancing at me a lot while I waited before the appointment. By the time Torie had come out, I was so embarrassed to be telling her the perm hadn’t worked. I’ve never, ever, gone back to a salon before and I felt so bad.
This time, Torie cut more hair, making sure to thin it out some more and add layers so it would be easier for the curls to show. She also used smaller curling sticks and a stronger chemical, which was left in for nearly thirty minutes this time. I also waited longer before washing it afterward, so my hair looked a little crazy for a few days.
It seemed to work a lot better this time, although I was worried about that dreaded 80s perm. When I did finally wash it, it looked a bit like the kind of 1800s curly hair little girls used to have that you sometimes see on porcelain dolls. We had another party around then, and to cover up how curly it looked, I put it into a ponytail. It wasn’t such a bad look, then.
However, the stronger chemical had dripped down my forehead when it was being done the second time. Thankfully the cotton band stopped it, but it was still easy to see the chemical burns on my forehead. It also caused some of my hair to break where my skin had been burned. Two chemical perms in the span of a week was a lot for even healthy virgin hair to take, I guess. I’d never experienced anything like this before so I freaked out a little bit. It was a bit like a bad sunburn. It hurt a bit at first, and then got itchy and finally flaked which unfortunately looked like bad dandruff. I was worried all my hair might start falling out in clumps, but after a few weeks (a long few weeks during which I filmed two short films, one wearing a hat and one wearing concealer), the burns went away and the hair grew back. The tight curls also relaxed into the waves I’d been hoping for, and I loved it. The second picture here was taken about three months later:
It’s been nice to have that texture and lightness to my hair, and when I go out I don’t have to do anything special for it to look good. Sometimes I curl it and get bombshell curls like these:
But when I leave it alone, it still looks like I put effort in, even though I didn’t. Even eight months later, although my hair grows out straight, the waves are still there.
Ultimately, I’m pretty happy with how things went. If you’re considering a perm like mine it would cost about $400 CAD. What do you think? Worth it? Is it something you would consider? Let me know in the comments, and I hope you found this useful!
Before and After:
Edit: I should mention, immediately after the first perm was done, I went and bought sulfate and paraben-free shampoo and conditioner, and have been using only that for my hair ever since. I also let my hair air dry and very rarely use a dryer.