"A likely candidate for a perm at Ouidad would be someone with curly and straight hair," says Ouidad. "Most heads of hair have three to four different textures. The benefit of a spot perm is that you can achieve a uniform curl pattern on a head of hair that naturally has three or four curl patterns."

For spot perms, Torch says he uses different-sized rods to get a more natural look that will blend more naturally with the rest of the curls.

"It blends like normal, healthy curly hair would," Torch says. "If it's the same, it looks like a wig."

NaturallyCurly.com Curl Master Amie Zimmerman of Dirty Little Secret Salon in Portland, Ore., said she has only permed a curly's hair once to match the curl pattern on the rest of the head. She wasn't thrilled with the results.

"The curls turned out great, but the texture of the hair left something to be desired because it was extremely tangly and dare I say, damaged by the end of it," Zimmerman says. "It's an option, but one I only choose if the client has been highly educated about the compromise in integrity that the hair will have."

In many cases, a relaxer or softener is the solution to loosening curls, not a perm. When talking to a stylist, the client must be clear about exactly what it is they want to achieve.

"You need to evaluate the hair to detremine what they need to do," Christo says. "If they have tighter curls, it can be handled with a Biosoftener, which takes out frizziness and dryness."

For those who want straight hair, a thermal reconditioning treatment may be the best choice.

For those with straight hair who want a curly look, perms are an ideal option -- especially with new perm technology that provides a more natural look and is gentler to the hair. Perms now are available that automatically 'shut off' so that the perm cannot be overprocessed.

In many cases, different-sized rods are used to mimic the look of naturally curly hair.