How Much Does a Perm Cost?

The infamous perm has returned, but it’s different in 2022 than it was in 1982. With modern perm techniques, you can secure a good hair day every day. Choose from dreamy beach waves, classic spirals, or that fresh blow-out look.

Of course, cost matters. If you’re worried that permanently beautiful hair will be expensive, you might be pleasantly surprised.

So how much does a perm cost? Expect to pay between $80 and $250 for a perm. Keep in mind – your price will vary based on location, perm type, and length and thickness of hair.

If you’re ready for permanent volume and texture, read on to learn more about modern perms, including how perms work, how long they last, and various perm styles.

What is a Perm?

“Perm” is short for the word “permanent” because it is a style that is set into the hair long-term. No, it’s not permanent as in forever – just permanent for about 6 months (more on this in the “How long does it last?” section). Perms change the texture of the hair to be curlier, wavier, or bouncier.

The process to getting a perm involves altering the structure of the hair with chemicals and/or heat. There are two methods behind perming:

Thermal Perm (AKA Hot Perm)

In this method, the hairstylist will wrap small sections of hair around high-temp curling rods. The temperature of the rods will be regulated by a perming machine to ensure a drastic change without frying the hair. During a hot perm, your stylist will apply a solution of glyceryl monothyioglycylate to set the curls. A hot perm:

  • Is sometimes called an “acid perm”
  • Produces a looser curl or wave
  • May cause an allergic reaction in some people
  • Has been used since the 1970s
  • Is less damaging than a cold perm

Chemical Perm (AKA Cold Perm)

For this technique, the hair is wrapped around rods (sized based on your desired curl size). A lotion made of ammonium thioglycolate is applied and will become active in about 20 minutes. With a pH balance between 8.2 and 9.6, this solution is strong enough to curl the hair without heat. Once the curls are set, the chemicals will be washed out. The hair is dried and a neutralizer is applied to stop the curling process. A cold perm:

  • Is sometimes called an “alkaline perm”
  • Lasts longer than a hot perm
  • Can produce all different styles of curls or waves
  • Is more convenient than a hot perm
  • Works better than a hot perm for thick and coarse hair
  • Should not be used on individuals with damaged hair

Ask your trusted stylist if they provide hot perms or cold perms, and which technique would be more suitable for you.

What different types of perms exist?

Some people don’t realize that there are tons of ways to wrap a perm. That 80s ringlet look is long gone (although it’s still an option!) and stylists are creating all kinds of different textures with perms. Here are some of the perm wraps that are available today:

Body Wave Perm

A body wave perm involves large perming rods to deliver a loose, voluminous beach wave. It gives people with flat hair more body and movement.

Spiral Perm

For a spiral perm, the rods are placed vertically in tiny sections of hair (so expect to see a lot of rods in your hair). This type of perm produces those tiny corkscrew curls. 

Spot Perm

If you already have curly or wavy hair, but you still have spots that are straight, you can target those areas with perming rods. Complement your natural texture with a spot perm.

Multi-Textured Perm

If you want to wake up every day with amazing hair, try a multi-textured perm. This perm combines different types of curl patterns for natural-looking volume and texture.

Pin Curl Perm

The pin curl perm is excellent if you want tight curls and you have short or medium hair. You can mix and match different rod sizes and is executed with just pins and curlers – no harsh chemicals.

Root Perm

If you feel like your hair looks glued to your head, consider a root perm. This will give you volume and movement right around the scalp while leaving the rest of your hair straight and glamorous.

Stack Perm

Similar to a spot perm, this technique is best for ladies who have naturally curly hair. The stack perm adds curl to the middle and bottom sections of the hair if your curls don’t extend all the way through.

Volumizing Perm

Unlike other hot perms, the rods are removed before applying the neutralizer in a volumizing perm. This ensures the most relaxed waves possible – perfect if you just want to add a little oomph to otherwise straight hair.

Straight Perm

Perms are traditionally used to change straight hair, but that’s not always the case. The straight perm, AKA Japanese hair straightening, delivers sleek and straight hair that lasts up to six months.

Excited about modern perms yet? This is just the beginning – just ask your stylist about which perms they offer, and what would look best on you.

How much can you expect to pay for a perm?

Now that you know how many different kinds of perms exist, the fact that perms vary greatly in cost won’t surprise you. In most cases, a perm will cost you somewhere between $80 and $250. We recommend getting estimates from a few local perm stylists before making your decision.

What factors impact the cost of a perm?

You can probably expect to pay over $100 for a perm, but you can’t know for sure until you talk to a few stylists. Perms can cost as little as $50, or up to $300. Some of the factors that will influence the cost of your perm include:

  • Location: The popularity and availability of perms in your area will affect the final cost.
  • Hair length: Short hair generally takes less time to perm than long hair.
  • Hair texture:  Thin, straight hair may be easier to perm than thick, coarse hair.
  • Type of perm: Hot and cold perms are usually priced differently.
  • Style of perm: Body wave, spiral curl, and straight perms all come with a different price tag.
  • Stylist: A more experienced professional will charge more than a new perm artist.

Keep in mind that other hair services may be attached to your perm, like a cut, style, etc. Do your research before deciding who can give you the most value.

How long does a perm last?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question, either. The life of your perm depends on:

  • The skill level of your provider
  • The method you choose
  • The style of perm you choose
  • Your unique hair texture
  • How fast your hair grows
  • What your perm is exposed to

A good perm will last about six months before the curls begin to fade. Other perms may last just a few weeks. Once you’re unsatisfied with the curl, you can simply call and schedule another appointment.

More relaxed perm styles won’t last as long as tight curls, and thick hair may weigh the curl down faster than fine hair. Of course, washing the hair with shampoo or applying oils or conditioners will also relax the perm.

Although your desired look won’t last forever, there’s a reason why perms are known as “permanents.” The texture of your hair will not return to its original state, and it can’t be reversed. The only way to get your old hair back is to grow the perm out completely.

How much does it cost to do at home?

Can you save money perming your hair at home? Absolutely. A perm kit will cost you $8-$20, but keep in mind that you may get what you pay for.

If you choose to do your perm at home, do not attempt to do it yourself. It is almost impossible to get an even perm if you do every section yourself.

Perming is tricky, so involve a friend or professional who has done it before.

Pros and Cons: DIY Perm vs. Salon Perm

Should you do a DIY perm or spend the cash on a salon perm? Here are the pros and cons of DIY perms vs. salon perms.

DIY PermSalon Perm
Change your hair significantly for a very small amount of money (as little as $8)Spend between $80 and $250
Mistakes may be made, and the hair may be damagedYour experienced professional will protect your hair and prevent mistakes
You will have to determine which perm kit and rod sizes to use for your hairTell your hairstylist what look you want and they can determine which type of perm you need
You have all the power over the final resultMay try to coax you into doing a perm that doesn’t suit your tastes

Salons offer high-quality formulas that will probably look better and last longer when all is said and done. We recommend selecting a perm artist that has your best interests at heart or at least enlisting an experienced friend to assist you with your DIY perm.

Should I Get a Perm?

If you’re thinking about getting a perm, it’s important to know that perms work best on healthy hair. Chemicals and heat will wreak havoc on brittle, dry, or damaged hair. Avoid them at all costs if you can’t afford further damage to your hair.

Here are some things to remember when it comes to getting a perm:

  • Do not perm colored hair, especially bleached or highlighted hair. Excessive chemical use will lead to permanent damage.
  • Do not perm dry hair, as the perm will strip the hair of all its remaining moisture.
  • If you have short layers in your hair, avoid perming – this may result in the “old lady” look, where all of the hair is curled close to the head.

If your hair is healthy and strong, and you’re ready to enjoy gorgeous hair every day, a perm could be the perfect solution for you.

Long live your perm!

For best results, let your perm set fully, or else the curls may become too relaxed for your taste. After getting a perm, wait 48 hours before washing your hair, and do not comb your hair for at least 24 hours. Do not put your hair up in a ponytail or bun until after you have washed it. The elastic may leave unwanted kinks in the hair.

Going forward, wash your hair less than you did before. When you do wash your hair, use moisturizing shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks. Moisture is essential to undo some of the damage that may come from the perming process. Avoid styling your perm with heat to prevent dryness and breakage.

By taking good care of your new perm, you can enjoy your beautiful bouncy waves for months to come. Enjoy those lovely curls!

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