How Do I Choose the Best Long Hair Perms?

Elizabeth West

The chemical damage and often overpowering smell associated with perms in the past are long gone. New chemical processes make even long hair perms much easier and more pleasant. Depending on how you want your hair to look, you can choose from a body perm to boost your hair’s texture and thickness, or choose the characteristic ringlets of a spiral perm. You should make sure your hair is in its best shape before perming, to avoid breakage.

A hair perm may help add body to naturally curly hair.
A hair perm may help add body to naturally curly hair.

Long hair perms work by first breaking chemical bonds within the hair so that it can be coaxed to assume a new shape. An alkaline perm is stronger, and is used when you want a tight curl or your hair is tough to perm. An acid perm needs the heat of a dryer for the process and results in a softer look. The neutralizer stops the chemical reaction and solidifies the new bonds so your hair won’t burn and stays in its new shape. Hair is rolled onto different-sized rollers, called rods, with smaller rods creating the tightest ones.

A straight hair perm can smooth naturally curly hair.
A straight hair perm can smooth naturally curly hair.

First you should consult with your stylist, who can help you choose long hair perms that look best with your face shape and work with your hair type. If your hair is all one length, you may want a spiral perm, using long rods. This technique results in tight bouncy ringlets from the base of the hair to the end. A stack perm also works well on one-length hair. Varied rod sizes are wrapped above and below each other, giving the effect of high-volume layers.

Hair should be healthy before getting permed.
Hair should be healthy before getting permed.

If you’re only looking for soft curls, a body wave perm may be ideal. The acid chemicals and very large rods are used to create big waves and movement within the hair, resulting in a feminine and flowing style. A root perm will give you lift at the scalp, increasing volume, but it is best for shorter hair. The weave technique processes only selected areas of the hair, leaving others straight for a textured look. You can also get a straight hair perm to smooth curly hair, like a permanent blowout.

Before committing to any long hair perms, your hair should be in its best shape possible. Deep conditioners should be avoided just before perming, so they don’t block out the chemicals in the solution. If your hair is already processed with color, you’ll need to allow several weeks between appointments for hair to recover. It’s best to color after you perm, not before. Some stylists won’t perm colored hair due to the risk of severe damage to the hair shaft.

Maintaining long hair perms is easy with high quality moisturizing shampoos. It is typically not recommended to use them for at least 48 hours after the process, or they might relax the curl. Longer hair will lose curl faster due to the overall weight of your hair, so you’ll have to perm again sooner than someone with shorter hair. Condition often to keep your hair beautiful and ready for the next treatment.

Maintaining long hair perms is easy with high quality moisturizing shampoos.
Maintaining long hair perms is easy with high quality moisturizing shampoos.

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Discussion Comments


@raynbow- Another tip for getting the best look from your new perm is to ask your stylist to trim the ends of your hair immediately after you get your perm. Because the chemicals in perms can be damaging and drying to hair, having a trim afterwards will remove dry ends and prevent splitting.


@raynbow- You should ask for a spiral perm when you go for your first perm. These types of perms give natural-looking curls to long, straight hair. They also seem to last longer than other types of perms in my opinion. I have had several types of perms, and spiral perms lasted almost two months longer than other perms in my hair.

When you visit your stylist, describe the type of curls or waves that you want. He or she will be able to role a spiral perm using the best pattern and curler size to give you the permed look you prefer.


I have very straight hair, and for a change I'm thinking about getting my first perm. My hair is past my shoulders, and I would like soft, wavy curls. What should I ask for when I see my stylist so I get the most natural perm look?

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