Perms are making a comeback this year, but they're looking sleek and modern this time around. The word "perm" brings poodle-head hair to mind; the kind that seems to be synonymous with the '80's aesthetic of frizzed out, up-to-the-sky styles. Back in the synth decade, people loved tightly coiled curls that would poof out into a ball of hair, making volume reign supreme. Because of that image, perms have taken a backseat when it came to hairstyle trends, scarring us all from trying out the technique in case we came out looking like the newest star of a hair metal band. All we would need are stirrup leggings and a neon off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, and the look would be complete.
Thankfully, though, hair experts didn't just stop developing perm techniques once it fell out of vogue in the '80s, and they have been perfecting the formula and look for decades. Meaning that if you get a perm today, it will be a new-millennium perm, and not one your mom rocked back when she was in her twenties. But how does today's perm differ from the '80s version? It's more relaxed and air dried, for one. And it involves a whole lot less hairspray. Read all about it below.
Perms In The '80s
The perm look in the '80s was all about the extra volume, curly bangs, tight coils, and lots and lots and lots of hairspray. Hair was meant to reach record-breaking heights back then, so frizzy texture with lots of back combing was the look du jour.
"Perms in the 80’s and early 90’s were stiff and harsh. Lots of hairspray and teasing was the way to achieve the big hair look," Sarah Ramos, the hairstylist and manager at MacKenzie Hair Parlor, tells Bustle. The stiff look isn't really what we're after in 2018, though. If you'll notice, even the "wet hair look" that's popping up all over the red carpet has been tweaked to use pomades instead of gels and large amounts of mousse so it flows more naturally and appears softer. And that's exactly how today's perm has been made over, too.
Perms In Today's Times
Perms today are great because they can give your hair an extra bounce without having to put your hair through extra heat, or eating into your sleep every morning for extra styling time. There's been an interesting shift in perm styles where more and more people are opting out of actual curls (like the ones you would be born with) and, instead, opting for light waves that look more beachy or air dried.
"Today we love the beachy, effortless look," Ramos says. "I would say a popular modern perm if a softer more feminine version of what we saw in the 80’s and 90’s. Lots of texture and volume, just not as stiff and crispy."
Some stylists are even coming up with techniques where your hair is straight at the top of your head, and then bends into natural waves around your ear and down, producing the kind of curls you would make with a flat iron. The perm now is more about making your hair routine in the morning easier, already giving you that bounce you would have made with curling tools.
But There Isn't One Definitive Style
While loose beach waves are a huge hit among perm clients, Ramos points out there are still other styles being requested. While it's not exactly an old, frizzy '80s look, the tighter coils are still on trend among some women. Which isn't surprising, when you take into account how the '90s are back in, bringing with them brown lipstick, chokers, Dr. Martens...and their perms. "People sometimes request something tighter, like a spiral. I think we will start seeing a lot more of these since the 90’s style is back!" Ramos says. Which means there isn't just one perm style out there.
"I have clients wanting loose waves. I also have requests for tighter curls. That’s the wonderful thing about style right now. There are trends happening, but each one branches off into different reiterations. There isn’t just one official trend, and I love that."
So what should you ask your stylist when you land in their salon chair? It's all about the perm rod size. A larger rod will give you more beachy, air-dried waves, whereas a small one will give you more of a spiral. Consult with your stylist and see which one will help you achieve the look you're after, and then rock your curls with pride!