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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?”, permed hair can bring a whole new personality and it is 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 Hair Perms
  • Recommended Products for Perms
  • Embracing Perm Life

What Exactly is a Perm?

Perm stands for permanent hairstyle. In this (roughly) 2 hour-long process, hair strands are wrapped tight around curling rods, covered with chemical solutions aimed to make your hair “save” the shape of the curling rod. After chemical treatment, permed hair is dried and neutralizer is applied with a goal to halt the perming process and save those curls.

While perms are widely associated with curly hair, curling rods come in all shapes and sizes. You can choose a diversity of curls -  from small, tight curls to just slightly wavy hair made to look like a straight-from-the-beach hairstyle.  

Perms are no longer what they used to be – hairstylists now use safer products and new techniques to give your permed hair a more modern, sleek look.

How Much Does Hair Length Actually Matter for a Perm?

In terms of the ability to get a perm, there is always the question - “How long does your hair have to be to get a perm?” The truth is, hair length does not matter all that much. As long as the hair strands are long enough to wrap them around the rod for the perm you choose – you’re getting a perm.

If you want exact measurements, on average, the minimal length of hair should be 5 centimeters (2 inches) long. Your hair needs to be just long enough to wrap it properly around the smallest curling rod. Still, length can indeed affect the available hair styling options. The longer the hair is, the more styling options exist. 

permed hair, perm rod, rod for perming hair

Naturally, if the hair is short, the stylist cannot use large perm rods made for more loose curls or waves, as they won't fit the hair. Usually, for very short hair, the only option is getting small, tight curls while doing a 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 get a perm in the hair salon, you should know that there are two main types of perms: 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 Hair Perms

  • Body wave permed hair – natural, loose waves that do not require great after-care; achieved by using large, heated rollers on long hair.

  • Multi-textured permed hair – bouncy curls with different patterns that require only minimum care through moisturizing; achieved by two different heated rods.

  • Partial permed hair – curly ends, maintaining the hair mostly in its original form through low-maintenance; achieved by heated tools.

  • Root permed hair – voluminous roots, achieved by only perming the first inches from the scalp, with little after-care; achieved by ceramic perm.

  • Spot permed hair – 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 permed hair – 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 permed hair – 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 permed hair – very tight vintage-looking curls for long hair or short hair 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 perm rod.

  • The 2C curls are a bit more defined than the 2B ones. You will need a small Flexi perm rod to achieve that kind of curls. Also, because they are tighter, you will need hair products that will reduce the frizz. And moisture-regulating Black Seed Hair Oil is the perfect option for that.

    black seed red onion hair oil

  • 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.

  • 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 permed hair. Be careful when deciding on the post-perming process and products that will bring benefits to permed hair. For example, it’s advised to use sulfate free shampoo and conditioner, and nourishing hair oil after hair perming. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about post-perm hair care, so make sure to read all the information available on washing hair after perm.

Embracing Perm Life

Perms are much easier to achieve than you might’ve initially thought. To get a perm, you don’t have to have exceedingly long hair. Also, perms are easily done both at home and at the salon, and with the right products and attentive care, they can last for months.

after perm hair care

All of the products that are recommended for taking care of permed hair are available for purchase on WOW skin science web shop:

  • Rich hair mask created for deep hydration of brittle, dry, and chemically treated hair;
  • Hair oil that will revive stressed strands of permed hair, and be able to tackle dry, brittle and frizzy hair strands;
  • Curl protecting leave-in revitalizer with rich conditioning aids moisture retention for curly hair and easily tangled tresses;
  • Ultra-Nourishing, sulfate free shampoo that will replenish essential moisture of chemically treated hair and work on rehydrating dry, curled hair;
  • Deep Conditioner that will be able to hydrate permed hair, leaving it softer, shiny and bouncy;
  • Wide tooth comb that is perfect for all hair types and textures, especially 2a to 4c wavy hair, curly hair and coily hair that is prone to tangles.

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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