The '80s are back, baby, and that means perms are popular again. Since the 2010s, perms have been experiencing a major resurgence. The rebirth of their popularity means they’ve been everywhere, including the fashion runway and TikTok feeds. The effect has left everyone wanting some wavy volume. Once you make the transition to the curly life, however, you’ll need to invest in some of the best products for permed hair.
While it might seem like a perm is only possible for the straight-haired, it’s actually a viable option for all hair types — thick curls included. “The 2021 perm is softer, more relaxed, and all about creating the perfect texture,” says hair pro and brand Wella Colorcharm Top Artist Oliver Adams. The process, he says, involves wrapping the hair around a variety of roller sizes to achieve a modern, natural finish. The end result is an array of different-sized cascading curls.
A perm is a great choice for those who regularly use hot tools like a curler or straightener as it does away with the constant heat damage your hair has to endure. Since your strands have already been permed into curls, you no longer have to spend hours with a curling iron. Plus, a perm will save you tons of time: Just wake up, apply some curling cream, and you're good to go.
When you have curls, high-quality moisturizing products along with a great haircut are key for maintaining their definition and volume of the perm. For the former, celebrity hairstylist Marcus Francis recommends using curly and wavy hair-specific products since they’re formulated for your particular needs. Namely: moisture. “Curly perms can be quite drying so you need to use products that are enriched with moisture to add shine,” says Adams.
Also, air drying is your friend, says Francis. “The less heat styling, the better,” he tells Bustle, since hot tools are commonly associated with hair damage. If you are going to do some heat styling, make sure to use a diffuser and a low heat setting, he says. And if you’re going to wash your hair at night but don’t have time to let it fully dry before hitting the hay, that’s a good thing. “Sleep on it — it’ll create the best version of your curls aside from an air dry,” says Francis. Another pro tip: If you have a perm, avoid using hairbrushes and stick to your fingers or wide-toothed combs instead, says Adams. “Brushing can break up the curls making them look frizzy and messy,” he explains.
With those tips in mind, here are 11 of the best products for your perm that’ll keep your curls on point.
1. A Universal Salt Spray
This salt spray is great for fine to medium hair. It’s perfect for adding grit and texture to hair when it’s feeling too clean, thanks to, well, salt. A few spritzes also add moisture via kelp and seaweed extracts to restore definition to your curls.
2. A Rich Mask
Reach for a reparative hair mask treatment once every week or so to keep your curls nourished, soft, and untangled. In this one, ingredients like avocado oil, sunflower seed oil, and shea butter help deliver this product’s restorative powers.
3. A Leave-In Styler
This leave-in conditioner is the no-makeup makeup of curly hair styling products. It has a soft touch that gently holds and defines your perm, and your strands reap the nourishing benefits of the mango butter and quinoa protein in the formula.
4. A Refreshing Dry Oil
The idea of putting oil on your hair can be daunting to those whose strands are on the oily side. But this baby’s different: A few drops go a long way and don’t leave any greasy residue. Apply it to your strands when wet for a moisturizing treatment or apply sparingly through dry curls for a little sheen and luster. Key ingredients include antioxidant-rich goji berry, argan oil, and replenishing ginkgo biloba leaf extract.
5. A Curl-Protecting Cream
This cream works like a dream for all curl types. It’s a great styling product, but it also blocks UV rays — which is important for protecting your hair and prolonging your perm.
6. A Refreshing Deep Conditioner
If you’ve got extra thick, coarse, or curly hair, this oil helps restore and condition your strands from any damage, all without making your curls feel greasy. The MVP of the formula? Babassu oil, a plant-based nutrient-rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, two classes of ingredients that are key for maintaining healthy hair.
7. A Daily Hair Mist
8. An ‘80s-Volume Styler
When you’re really going for a Donna Summer-esque depth to your hair rather than super-defined curls, this is your product. It nurtures all types of curl patterns while leaving strands lustrous and loose, all thanks to the vitamin C and fatty acids in the formula.
9. A Curl-Boosting Serum
Harnessing the power of Brazilian superfruit Pequi, this curling product does it all. The superstar ingredient works to maximize the definition of your perm, and castor oil helps lock in moisture, eliminate frizz, and condition the hair.
10. A Daily Treatment
Your hair doesn’t need a wash every day but being exposed to the elements and other styling products can dry it out. Spritz this product into your hair for a daily boost of moisture and curl-shaping. It’s lightweight and packed with hair-nourishing go-tos like argan oil and green tea extract.
11. A Volumizing Shampoo
A good shampoo can be an overlooked key to achieving your best curls. If you have thin hair and got a perm for extra volume, this thickening formula will add volume through the use of ingredients like soothing aloe vera, conditioning biotin, and elasticity-boosting panthenol.
Kobayashi, N. (1993). [Effect of leaves of Ginkgo biloba on hair regrowth in C3H strain mice]. Yakugaku Zasshi. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8254481/
Ma, Z. (2019). Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6343173/
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