Can You Get a Loose Perm? (How They Work For Your Ocean Summer Look)

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Loose perms are very doable and quite popular for a beach, ocean care-free look in the summer. Keep in mind they do require natural hair free of prior treatments and the cost for a perm session can be notably more than a simple haircut and styling one is used to.

A woman sporting a long and loose perm seen from behind.

Getting a loose perm is not a major challenge but anyone considering the treatment needs to understand doing so is a bit of a long-term change to one’s hair. Done right, a perm can easily last anywhere between two to six months, depending on how resilient one’s hair is and how well it absorbs the chemicals involved.

What is It?

A perm of any kind is a chemical treatment of a customer’s hair so that it retains a specific shape for an extended period of time. When the chemical is applied, the hair retains the shape it’s forced into during the treatment. The chemicals aren’t so harsh in themselves, but they aren’t cuddles and roses on your hair either.

The chemicals alter the structural definition of one’s hair, which does involve some level of damage. As a result, the hair needs to be clear of any other prior treatment, or the damage will compound and become very serious, i.e. breakage. The hair should also be natural and not over-worked already. A sure sign of over-styled hair will be a lot of tangling, snags and split ends.

How the Perm Treatment is Applied

A close look at a hair stylists inspecting the hair of the client.

First off, you’re going to need to make sure you work with an experienced salon stylist who knows what he or she is doing with perms. This is not the kind of hair treatment to go with a rookie on doing her first job.

Expect as well that you’re going to need at least three hours for the entire treatment and work. Shorter hair will take less time, especially if the perm is just for a loose wave versus tight curls. For reference, a customer with shoulder-length hair can easily expect at least two hours of sitting during treatment, not including travel time as well.

The beginning process is prep work. A customer’s hair is washed and shampoo’ed. The next step involves what is referred to as “wrapping,” where sections of hair are wrapped around colorful rods that bend. These rods come in different thicknesses to give the hair a varying curled look versus uniform curls that would look weird and unnatural.

Once wrapped, the hair is then drenched in the perm chemical solution, and it stays soaked for at least a half-hour. Tighter curls can take a longer treatment while a looser wave will be shorter and closer to 30 minutes. The chemicals are then washed out with warm water, there’s a pause for a few minutes, and then a neutralizer is applied.

An additional pause allows the neutralizer to work, and then there is another rinse. Only after all these steps does the unwrapped phase occur, taking the hair off the rods and showing the true perm results. Again, depending on the length of treatment, the curls will be looser or tighter as a result.

Which Hair Does it Work Best On?

A woman with blond loose curls as seen from behind.

Thin hair can be permed but there should not have been any treatment on it at all as a perm would likely finish it off. Thicker hair will do better even with an occasional prior treatment like mild coloring. Those realizing the best impact will be folks who naturally have straight hair to begin with. Hair with loose waviness will be a second category with less of a noticeable impact, and women with serious tight waves shouldn’t even bother as the effect will be minimal.

Challenges With Loose Perms and Similar

Folks who get a perm need to understand they are dealing, at least for a few months, with an entirely different hairset. The only habits of what one used for hair care and styling each morning have changed completely and don’t apply.

First, the hair has been stressed and need moisturizer for care. So hydrating shampoos and conditioners are a must to keep the permed hair healthy. Second, the first two full days after a perm a customer needs to just leave it alone. Let the hair hang and relax. No brushing, shaping, forming or similar. No surprise, Fridays are probably the best days to get a perm to give you the weekend to recover.

You will also need to be prepared for a bit of a cost hit getting a perm. Even a low curl perm is going to set you back probably $100 if not more. Depending on whom you go to for treatment, the perm cost can range from $60 (really scary if you wonder whom you’re dealing with) to $300 (typical high-end salon pricing). You won’t know for sure until you make the appointment and get the cost upfront before stepping in the door.

Things to Avoid

A woman with gorgeous long and loose curly hair resting on her shoulders.

Additionally, the hair needs to generally be in a natural state and should not have been bleached or colored at any time prior. While some perm jobs will state a simple dye job won’t be a big issue, it does increase the risk of damage when the perm is applied. If your hair has been bleached, heavily dyed repeatedly, or stripped, don’t go into a perm at all of any kind.

The hair’s integrity has been already weakened by the previous chemical treatment, and a perm treatment could very well cause the remaining structure to fail. That will mean your hair falling out in large chunks.

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