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How Long Does Your Hair Have to Be to Get a Perm?


Perms - stylish, vintage, and full of volume. The iconic 80s hairdo has come back in full glory, more varied and customizable than ever. With an increased demand that makes every straight-haired person wonder: "Should I add some curls and waves to my hair the next time I'm at the salon?”. No doubt about it, perms bring your hair a whole new personality and are always a worthy investment if you’re looking to reinvent yourself. 

However, people often stop short of getting a perm because of a simple misconception - their hair length, or rather, lack thereof. Because of their expansive size, one might think that you need a large quantity of hair to get the perm into shape. Thankfully, we’re here to debunk the myth once and for all. After all, hair of any length is capable of looking gorgeous in a perm! Let’s look at the science behind it:

Table of Contents: 

  • What Exactly is a Perm?
  • How Much Does Hair Length Actually Matter for a Perm?
  • What Does Hair Perming Involve?
  • Types of Perms
  • Recommended Products for Perms

What Exactly is a Perm?

Getting a perm, or, more officially, a permanent hairstyle, is a roughly 2 hour-long process of applying chemical solutions to your hair, aimed to make it sit in the same position for a long time. While perms are widely associated with curly hair, they can just as well be used for straight hair or, if you’re not feeling too adventurous, moderately wavy hair. 

Perms used to be very popular, especially in the 80s – men and women of the times sported tight curly hair and looked fabulous while doing it. Think of Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston’s iconic looks, and who can forget Cher, the queen of hairdos herself! 

Seemingly disappearing for a while, they unexpectedly made a comeback in recent years. However, perms are no longer what they used to be – hairstylists now have new techniques to give them a more modern, sleek look. 

The technique used in the past was putting the hair on tight rods, which made it seem very harsh and brittle, but the rods used nowadays give the hair a natural and softer look. Moreover, clients are now given a much wider variety of curls, waves, and preferences through the different rods available to them.

How Much Does Hair Length Actually Matter for a Perm?

In terms of the ability to get a perm, length does not matter all that much as long as the hair strands can be wrapped around the tools used for perms. 

If you want exact measurements, on average, the hair should be at least 5 centimeters long (2 inches) so as to be properly wrapped around the curling rod. Still, length can indeed affect the available hair styling options. The longer the hair is, the more styling options exist. 

Naturally, because the hair is short, the stylist cannot use larger rods for more loose curls or waves, as it won't fit the hair. Usually, for very short hair, the only option is getting a tight perm. 

What Does Hair Perming Involve?

Perming your hair can be achieved by going to the salon or by simply doing it yourself at home. Either way, choosing the right type of perm or curl can be a bit confusing at first.

If you choose to go to the hair salon, you should know that there are two main types of perm: digital perm and ceramic perm. Both types use chemicals to help define the hair and maintain the desired form, but do not worry – this process is considerably less damaging than bleaching or dyeing your hair.  

The difference between the two is the amount of heat used: digital perms use hot rods and acidic products, while the ceramic perm does not use heat or harsh chemicals. 

When opting for looser, natural curls, usually the client will get the digital perm, while the ceramic one results in tighter hair.

Types of Perms

  • Body wave perm – natural, loose waves that do not require great after-care; achieved by using large, heated rollers. 
  • Multi-textured perm – bouncy curls with different patterns that require only minimum care through moisturizing; achieved by two different heated rods. 
  • Partial perm – curly ends, maintaining the hair mostly in its original form through low-maintenance; achieved by heated tools.
  • Root perm – voluminous roots, achieved by only perming the first inches from the scalp, with little after-care; achieved by ceramic perm.
  • Spot perm – tight or loose curls, depending on the client's preference, and requiring deep conditioning; achieved by placing either heated or cold rods in specific places, where the client wants the curls.
  • Stacked perm – best for at least medium-length hair, creating the illusion of layers to give more volume to the hair; achieved by using heated rollers of different sizes in the middle and bottom sections of the hair.
  • Straight perm – straight hair that requires higher maintenance than the previously mentioned styles; achieved by applying a straightening solution to the hair, which is then left under heat.
  • Twist hair – very tight vintage-looking curls that need higher maintenance; achieved with cold, long, curling rods. 

Recommended Products for Perms

If you want to get yourself some curls at home, the above-mentioned methods won’t be relevant. When it comes to at-home perms, you can usually only curl your hair, not straighten it. There are five types of curls to choose from - 2B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C.

  • The 2B curls have the form of an S, are very loose and flowy, and can be achieved by using an XXL Flexi rod. 
  • The 2C curls are a bit more defined than the 2B ones and can be achieved with smaller Flexi rods. Because they are tighter, you will need hair products that will reduce the frizz. And our moisture-regulating Black Seed Hair Oil is the perfect option for that. 

  • The 3A curls are very defined, still with an S shape, and can be achieved with smaller Flexi rods, in the case of longer hair, or with rollers, in the case of shorter hair. 
  • The 3B curls are even tighter and frizzier, therefore also require great constant care to reduce the frizz. Regular use of WOW Skin’s hair vitality Castor Oil assures just the right kind of nurturing nutrients that your curls will need. 

  • The 3C curls, the tightest of all, are achieved by very small rods, and if your hair is very short, these types of curls might be the only option. 

As a final piece of advice, to maintain the integrity and healthiness of the hair, you should try to avoid washing the hair for at least two days, as well as using strictly heat-based hair tools, as you are not under the supervision of a trained hair specialist, as you would be in a salon environment.

Embracing Perm Life

And now you know! Perms are much easier to achieve than you might’ve initially thought. They don’t require exceedingly long hair, are easily done both at home and the salon, and with the right products and attentive care, they can last entire months. So if you’ve been thinking about it for a while now, here’s our advice – go get that perm!

Marius Capra

Charismatic copywriter, intrepid linguist, and advertising aficionado. To make a long story short, writing has always been both my greatest passion, and the one thing that would always bring me comfort - whether it was in the form of short stories, poetry, or academic writing. I love to write because I live to express myself as authentically as I can, and I am a firm believer in the fact that words can always do you justice… if you choose the right ones of course.

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