Permanent Beach Waves: What You Need to Know Before You Try Them

Here's something I never thought I'd say in my life. I just got…whispers quietly…a perm. And I'm a woman obsessed. Before you cringe (or too late?), let me preface by saying I know the term doesn't exactly call "enviable hair" to mind. Maybe Aqua Net-laden, crunchy '80s curls or that now iconic scene where Elle Woods expertly proves Chutney's alibi wrong. (Which is also the reason we all know the cardinal rule of perm maintenance and the chemical "ammonium thioglycolate.") But a look you'd want—let alone pay good money for—now? I'm here to say yes. We've all been judgmental of the perm for far too long.

Let me backtrack to how I got to this point. I've been growing my hair from a pixie to a bob for about a year now and what was once limp, damaged hair has grown back into something resembling the wavy texture of my youth. It's curly underneath and straighter on the sides and in the front. It falls somewhere in the middle of two textures and I feel like I either have to straighten it or curl it to look relatively polished. But I'm lazy, and I don't have time for that. I wanted something I could wake up with and head out the door.

So as I was scrolling through Instagram, as one does for hair inspo these days, I came across a model with a "beachy wave perm" and I thought, That's what I need. She didn't have the crazy curls of decades past. She had that cool just-came-off-the-beach texture without the salt water and sand.

That's when I went to the Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City for what they call a "Digital Wave" (a.k.a. permanent beach waves). It's a technique originally created in Korea that Jean Oh, Digital Waves specialist and stylist, found and brought to the salon—and now, salons across the country are following suit. The process helps hair maintain a wave by using a diluted version of perm solution and a crazy looking curling wand.

"Everybody gets a perm in Korea, even men," Oh told me, because most people have such straight hair and want some body and movement.

Basically the difference between a Digital Wave and your standard perm is all about customization (which is also why the cost varies, but expect it start around $350). When you get a perm, the high temperatures and chemicals can cause breakage. That's why most salons won't perm lightened hair, because it's already damaged from color treatments. With the digital wave, the temperature is lower and the time each roller is left on is determined on a case by case basis. My fine, lightened hair processes a curl much faster than thick, virgin hair, so my session was shorter. And naturally wavy hair holds on to the shape for much longer, meaning my perm will stick around for at least four months while straighter hair would need more frequent treatments.

The result: something much more subdued that your typical '80s blowout. "A perm is curly curly but this is more of a soft body wave," Oh says. Once I had the perm solution on my head, we let it sit, washed it out and applied a moisturizing treatment to smooth the cuticle and prevent frizz. After that, it was time to perm.

To get the permanent beach waves, Oh used this claw-like iron to heat metal rollers all over my head. She'd insert the rod into the center of each roller and then clamp down on the outside to heat it. I've personally never seen a hot tool like it. Once my head was covered in curlers, I sat and dreamed of how much better my life would be with my new beachy waves.

Published at Sat, 23 Mar 2019 12:54:00 +0000