Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About the Modern Perm
If this year’s celebrity obsession with fanny packs and scrunchies taught us anything, it’s that trends never truly die. They shift, they resurge, and they’re reinvented for a new generation. And no beauty treatment proves the point more than the modern perm. It’s made a comeback, and it looks nothing like the one your mom proudly coiffed back in 1984. With less focus on volume, the perm hairstyles now famously produces the type of loose, beachy, or customized waves that you usually spend hours with a curling iron trying to produce, and stars like Jaime King and Emma Stone are hooked.
Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know before bringing it back yourself.
What Is It?
The process involves wrapping the hair in various sized rods and then treating the hair to a solution that permanently sets it in its wavy shape. Perm specialist and co-owner of mizu Salon in New York City, Damian Santiago, says that chemically, perms haven't changed much since the 1980s, but we know visually the treatment has undergone a makeover. "The prep before, during, and after has vastly improved. There is a lot of attention placed on rebuilding the hair and solid conditioning throughout the process. This results in soft-to-the-touch natural results," he adds.
Some salons have even given the perm a new name to focus on the results it produces. At Mare Salon in West Hollywood—where Jaime King went to get her perm—the treatment has been dubbed the mareWAVE. "We've created the mareWAVE, and it's customized to each woman based on the way the rods are placed and the size we use, making it uniquely personal," explains hairstylist Kiley Fitzgerald. "We are really focused on each perm being totally authentic to each woman."
Who Can Get It?
According to Fitzgerald, the mareWAVE works well on most hair textures and types, but if your hair is significantly processed or over processed (think platinum or heavily foiled blonde), the treatment might not be possible. However, if you have subtle highlights or a single process hair color, you should be good to go. "Colored hair can definitely get this process done now, thanks to the softer solution and rods we use on the hair," she explains. "It can even de-frizz and redefine naturally wavy hair." But before you even start the process, you should have a consultation with your stylist to see if the treatment will work for your hair.
VIDEO: Perms Are Coming Back—but They’re Getting a Modern Makeover.
How Long Does It Take?
At Mare Salon, the process takes about two hours, but this can vary based on where you go for a perming treatment and your hair length. "We start by discussing texture and curl desire then place rods accordingly specific to the discussed wave desire," explains Fitzgerald.
How Much Does It Cost
Location and the salon you walk into will directly impact the price of the perm, but somewhere around $300 seems to be average, given our pros responses. At Mare Salon, Fitzgerald says the mareWAVE starts at $350, while mizu Salon's perm starts at $325. At STRIIIKE, a Beverly Hills-based salon, their modern perm treatment, The New Wave, goes for about $450. When you think about the fact that the standard blowout or blow-dry and style costs about $50, this price-tag doesn't seem all that high after all.
How Long Does It Last?
"It can last up to 4-5 months, and it grows out really natural with your hair since the waves are softer and more customizable," explains Fitzgerald. Think about all the time you'll save not having to fuss with a wand every morning. Santiago, however, says a really great perm can last up to a year.
This also depends on how you care for it, the products you're using in your hair, how often you're conditioning, and of course, the frequency of your haircuts. Your stylist can break down an after-care routine for you before you leave the salon, which will detail when you can wash your hair, your new heat styling rules, and ingredients to stay away from in haircare products.
So now you know this definitely isn't the type of perm you'd see in Steel Magnolias, or in any of your family albums. Though you might want to ask your mom about that fanny pack. It's Kendall Jenner-approved.