My Digital Perm Experience

Digital perms are one of the hottest hair innovations to come in the recent years, and are said to be a safer, less damaging option for getting wavy hair than traditional perms.

Unfortunately for me, it did not work at all.

In the past I’ve had disastrous perms, which end up being a big frizzy mess. But I still loved wavy hair on me, so when I heard about digital perms some years back and my friend got one (which turned out fantastic), I wanted one too.

It was a long process. I sat there for almost 5 hours, and when everything was done, I saw minor waves. MINOR. The stylist told me to go home and put some products in, because apparently a digital perm needs products to help bring out the curls. When I got home, I did what he said and I got big, fluffy waves, and I adored it. However, less than half an hour later, the waves were completely gone. I called the stylist to ask what happened, and he asked me to come back to the salon and for him to look at it.

I went back to the salon, where the stylist looked a little puzzled, and then proceeded to take out a curling iron to curl my hair. At that point I was angry, because what is the point in getting a perm is a curling iron is needed?!

Afterward they said they can’t do anything about it, they have a no refund policy, and that was that. I was so mad. (You wanna hear a joke, too? A friend later asked me if I straightened my hair recently.)

I’m not sure what went wrong – my hair used to be able to take perms perfectly, and the steps he was doing seemed to be correct. But if everything was going “right” and it came out like it did, then thats enough concern to say that perhaps digital perms are not guaranteed to work, and I hope this post can help someone else.

I did a lot of research after (basically, typing “my digital perm isn’t curly and I’m pissed” into Google), and found I wasn’t the only one. I’ve learnt a lot about hair, perms and salons since then, so here are some suggestions:

  • Try to find a Japanese or Korean salon. Digital perms originated there and are extremely popular, so they should know what they are doing.
  • Do your research. Seriously, do not miss this step! Research about the hair salon and look for reviews on their digital perms online.
  • The price is a giveaway. Digital perms are expensive. If a salon is saying they can do a digital perm under US$200, it probably isn’t a real digital perm.
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  • http://kah-riel.weebly.com Kah Riel

    Hey, Renee! Thanks for the info. This really helped me a lot to think about getting a digi perm. I was planning to have one next year myself. Better research some more. :))

    • http://www.beautifille.com Renee

      Hey Kah Riel, my pleasure! Good luck, when done right digital perms are gorgeous… I am tempted to try again! Let me know how it goes. :)

      • Kah Riel

        Sure thing! I do hope it goes well. If you don’t mind me asking, do you know of any Korean or Japanese salons that deals with digital perming?

        • http://www.beautifille.com Renee

          Hmm, I’m afraid I haven’t tried any other than that awful one I wrote about above (which I’m definitely not recommend!). I could ask one of my friends, she did one recently, however it was in Singapore. Where do you live? :)

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  • Monalisa

    Hi Renee! I had the almost same experience as you, though I did do some research beforehand and picked a Japanese with a good reputation to do my digital perm. I was so disappointed at the result of my digi perm. My hair was BARELY curly at the end, wavy at most. When I mentioned to the stylist that I feel like it wasn’t curly enough, he twirled it around in his finger and said that it was curly. I decided to go home and see if there would be a difference thoughout the day and after my first wash. My “curls” only flattened out and was only minimally wavy after washing and airdrying. Maybe my hair didn’t take the perm as well, but its disappointing after paying all that money. Thankfully I contacted the salon and they’re taking me back for a correction this week. Fingers crossed that it comes out better this time!

    • http://www.beautifille.com/ Renee / Beautifille

      Oh gosh I am sorry to hear… how did your perm correction go? FINGERS CROSSED for you!

      And yeah – same thing happened to me. I went back about the lack of curls and they twirled it and even put a curling iron to it I was like um… if I wanted to use a curling iron to get curls I wouldn’t have come for a perm?! Haha, so frustrating!

  • terry

    What your stylist failed to tell you is that some perms simply won’t take with some people. In my experience, it truly is up in the air. I’ve chosen not to offer any perm related service in my chair because of that very reason. It’s a financial risk for the client and if it is something I can’t guarantee, it’s a risk to me as well. Every minute is money for both stylist and client. I hate to say it that way but it’s important to consider. I don’t like wasting my time and more importantly I don’t want to waste my client’s time. I’m sorry you spent 5 hours for an end result that was worse off than when you went in :( Check out Bumble and Bumble Thickening Foam in the purple bottle, every time I’ve used it I swear it has actually added hair to my head!! Good luck to you!

    • Monalisa

      Did they perm not take because my hair is too fine or thin? Because I got one done and I had them fix it and it still came out looking the same.

    • http://www.beautifille.com/ Renee / Beautifille

      Thanks so much Terry, and good for you for being so honest in your practice!

      I’ve actually had perms in the past that worked really well, so I am not sure why a digital perm wouldn’t work, but yeah I wish they would’ve been a little more… well, like you :)

      Thank you for your recommendation – I love Bumble and bumble so I will definitely check that product out!

  • joseph

    The problem might be that he didn’t use the correct perm solution for the digital perm service. The digital perm solutions that should be used are a heat active solutions and actually stronger than normal perm solutions. You mention that he used Revlon, they should have used the perm solution that is recommended with the machine. Usually, the manufacturers of the machine have their own perm solutions that are pricey but are formulated for the purpose of using the solutions with heat. Most digital perm services should be done within 2 to 3 hour period. Also, if the client has bleach, highlights or high damaged on their hair, the digital perms will not come out. You will have loose curls not defined. High end salons will opt to use Japanese Hair Straightening solutions for the digital perm process as they have are similar. Only difference is the digital perm uses heat rods and the Japanese hair straightening uses a flat iron. If your stylist is using regular perm solutions, it will NOT work. The digital Perm can be used on all hair types as long as the hair is in a “healthy state”. Virgin, Colored, tinted, and dry hair types are good candidates, but if you have highlights or bleach, you should think twice about it. Once you have been digitized, you should also note that with digital perms, when you shampoo the hair and towel dry, the curls may look more loose. Once you blow dry, your waves patterns will be defined. Its the opposite of what happens when you get a cold perm done on the hair. With cold perms, the curls seem tight when wet but loose when dry. Hope this helps…

    • http://www.beautifille.com/ Renee / Beautifille

      Thanks Joseph. That sounds possible, I am really not sure what happened to me and it’s such a shame! And yes my hair was completely healthy; I had no dye, no bleach, no heat styling, no other chemicals… it was “virgin” hair so I thought it would work – oh well! And thank you, that does help a lot, I hope my post and the discussion we have here can help other women in the future.