Perm diva Dawn Ramsay-Hiller of the Cutler Salon in New York alternates between larger and smaller rods, sometimes leaving pieces unrolled altogether. This ensures the hair doesn't have the stereotypical poodle perm look.
For those with straight or wavy hair planning to get a perm, there are some important things to consider before undergoing the process. First of all, make sure there's no silicone buildup on the hair, which can act as a barrier to the perm solution. It is good to use a clarifying shampoo before perming to get rid of any chemicals or buildup that may interfere with the perm.
And the client must be prepared for the realities of having curly hair. With their straight hair, they might have been able to pop out of bed, brush their hair and head out the door. Curly hair takes a few extra steps.
"All of a sudden, they have curly hair and don't know how to deal with it," Christo says. "People with a perm have to do everything a person with curly hair does. They need to learn the rules. It's all news to them."
Those rules include applying styling products when the hair is wet, never brushing the hair when it's dry and using a diffuser on the dryer. Never shampoo every day and make sure to deep condition on a regular basis. The cuticle protecting the cortex has been altered, causing the hair to be dryer.
"You need to educate the clients on how to deal with it," Christo says. "Not only will they love it, they'll love it so much they'll bring in more people."
After any perm, the hair must be left alone for at least two days until the hydrogen bonds readjust themselves -- no shampooing, brushing or braiding.
"Even though you've neutralized it, the air will help restructure those bonds," Torch said.
Always wait at least two weeks before cutting it.
"When you first perm the hair, it is so curly and tight," Torch said. "It's not exactly how your hair will fall. Wait two weeks for the hair to calm down. Then you're dealing with reality."
A typical perm lasts three months.
Ultimately, Torch says, the success of a perm lies with the person doing the perming. The way the rods are rolled, how long the perm solution is left in and how the neutralizer is rinsed out all affect the outcome. If the hair is wrapped too tight it can cause breakage when the hair shaft expands. The ends of the hair must be protected from the solution or they can get dry and damaged. The ph of the perm must be matched to an individual's hair type.
"These are all the difference between failure and success," Torch says. "I love perms. You can get a lot of wonderful results if they're done properly."