Here’s the thing I know will be true. Some of you with naturally curly hair will want to shake me and scream why would you want to change your perfectly straight hair?? Those with straight hair will be super intrigued and eager to see how this turns out. We all want we can’t have. When I showed family my new perm my aunt with gorgeous naturally curly hair was like, “It looks good! But I want straight hair!” It’s just the way it goes.
All of us straight-haired gals dream about curly hair at one time or another. Because I have always had straight hair, I have always envied people with bouncy, exciting curls. I am talking Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City or Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman vibes. So a couple of years ago when I heard perms are back, I immediately hopped on board. My mom grew up in the eighties so I have heard perm horror stories but I wouldn’t let that deter me. But then a pandemic happened and lots of things became more pressing than getting a perm. But as fate would have it, a few months ago the opportunity to get a perm landed in my lap. Just as all hero journeys go, the stars aligned and I was chosen for the quest.
This is me and my naturally straight hair. And I love my hair, I really do. I am very lucky to have healthy, thick, long hair, but the look you see here is the one thing my hair does. What I mean is, I am not capable of any type of hairstyling so hair down is the only hair “look” I have in my arsenal. I was beyond ready to switch it up and try something very new.
Enter Curl Cult founded by Emily’s friend and hairstylist Janine. Janine spent four years in Italy creating this new perm technology so I felt extremely safe and comfortable in her hands. I am famously super trusting with hairstylists so I was ready for her to give me the most intense, voluminous curls possible. You know what they say. When in Rome.
Emily was pretty nervous for me and volunteered to be my mom/hair advocate. But I am fairly gutsy when it comes to my hair. I have chopped off all my hair multiple times including getting a pixie cut when I was 16. I guess I have never had a haircut bad enough to make me fearful. *KNOCKS ON WOOD*
I think the above photo depicts Emily, a curly-haired gal explaining to me, a straight-haired gal, that I will have CURLS by the end of this. HA. I think we both would like to swap hair (hence Emily’s blowout and my eagerness to get a perm) so she was trying her best to prep me for curly hair life. Her biggest fear was that I wouldn’t like it. My biggest fear was that my hair would be a few inches shorter. But other than that I was ready and excited.
I showed Janine the level of curl I wanted, while Emily held all the nerves for me. I knew I wanted a layered, voluminous look and was willing to go extremely curly. I really wanted a brand new look, so the curlier the better.
HERE WE GO!
First, Lauren gave me a trim and layered my hair so the curls wouldn’t be too uniform. If I wasn’t getting married this year, I would have done a full 70s shag perm with bangs. But I had to keep it tame for the wedding, and getting bangs is always a risk.
This is the last photo of me with straight hair. Now the party’s about to begin.
Once my hair was washed and conditioned, Janine got to work rolling individual, approximately 1 inch sized strands of my hair. I am no mathematician but I think she had to put in around 100 rolls in my hair. This process probably took the longest and by the time this step was complete, it felt like my head weighed an extra 15 pounds from all the rollers.
The next step is putting a liberal amount of perm solution on each strand. If you ever have gotten a perm, you might remember the smell. It’s not pleasant and the sulfur stink would linger in your hair for days. I didn’t know this but luckily I didn’t have to experience it. Janine spent 4 years working with a chemist in Italy to remove the stinky smells of perms. Her perm reduced the caustic odor adding a fresh berry scent and it WORKED. So this isn’t a smelly American perm, it’s a refined berry-infused ~Italian perm~
Once the solution was applied, I sat in a chair under a heat lamp and waited for about 30 minutes.
Once the perm goddesses (Janine and Lauren) declared the solution was set, they applied a neutralizer. This is another way Janine eliminated steps in the perm process. Their neutralizer is applied over their perm solution, so there is no more messy rinsing and blotting at the bowl. Seriously, Janine’s process is magic.
Once the rollers were removed we rinsed and conditioned my hair once more. You know the famous Legally Blonde quote?
“Isn’t it the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you are forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate” Well more accurately, you are forbidden to shampoo your hair for 48 hours. If you do, it will reverse the perm so if you have full regret, it’s an option. But luckily that was not my experience at all.
The next step feels the longest because you just want to see what the result is. But you must wait for it to air dry so the curls can fully activate. My hair is very thick so this took about an hour (with the help of a heat lamp). As I was letting it air dry I could see the curls were forming and becoming more alive by the minute as I was anxiously awaiting the final reveal.
SHE HAS CURLS. Honestly, we were all shocked at how good it looked. You really never know what a hairstyle change will do to your face and your whole look but luckily I was immediately in love. I think I said “I feel like Julia Roberts ala Pretty Woman” far too many times.
You can almost tell through photos how soft and touchable this perm is. Perms back in the day were crunchy but this perm feels and looks natural. People have assumed that I’ve always had curly hair and that I am just now starting to wear it naturally. *flips hair* No big deal.
The texture is so gorgeous and soft. I couldn’t stop flipping my hair back and forth – it was so fun. That day was windy so you can really see the frizz but as someone with straight hair, I found the big frizzy hair extremely charming. You can come for me in the comments if you want, but I feel powerful having voluminous hair that can not be tamed.
So this concludes my hero’s journey. It was the best experience and I would 100% do it all over again. Next time, I might even go shoulder-length and even curlier. I am all in.
If you want this perm (and you should) I have great news. You do not need to be based in LA to get it. Your stylist can be Curl Cult Certified and join the movement in just 45 minutes. Just have them start here. You can also find a Curl Cult Certified stylist near you here.
And there’s us – just 3 curly-haired gals out on the town! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Janine for giving me the curls I have always wanted. It’s so fun being a curly-haired gal and I think everyone should try it. Here is a video of the whole process if you are interested (just wait for the add to play):
And in case you are curious, here is what it looks like now, one month after the perm:
This is another difference between the Curl Cult perm and the perms of the past. The grow-out process is much easier because the perm softens over time. My perm has already softened so I get effortless, beach curls with no heat or styling tools. I just use the Curl Cult Shampoo and Conditioner, Magic Spell (this stuff is bottled GOLD), and Curl Cream and let it air dry (you can get the whole kit here). I am famously very lazy with my hair so it’s incredible I get this look with the tiniest bit of effort.
Again, THANK YOU JANINE. I could not have enjoyed this experience or the results more. If you have any questions, fire them down below. xx
*Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp