Digital Perms: Review & Tips

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

Digital Perms ReviewAs I have mentioned in How to: Get More Hair Volume, I pretty much tried everything when it comes to getting some hair volume. Though now I have found that it’s all in the cut and some very good products, one thing I did try a few years ago was a digital perm, which is what I want to talk about today.

I hope my experience will give others who are thinking of doing a digital perm some food for thought as well as some of my tips in getting a great one, because as you will read, my digital perm ended up being some kind of disaster.

But first: why are digital perms considered better than traditional perms? It’s said that digital perms minimize the ‘frizz’ look, because the heated rollers control it, and secondly, these heated rollers generate less damage to the hair. Some even claim that hair looks healthier afterward, and digital perms also, for some reason give you hair some great shine.

As Sali Hughes, the beauty columnist for The Guardian sometime back:

… Perms are back. Only now, they’ve gone digital. A “digital perm” is a Japanese invention now available here. Unlike a traditional perm, it can create any curl: surfer girl locks, movie star waves – basically, if you can do it with tongs or rollers, you can mimic it with a digital perm. It uses heated rollers, regulated by a digital temperature panel, and is pricey (around £250). It’s not ideal on all hair (like baby-fine or bleached), but lasts for between four and six months, so if you’re someone who goes for lots of blow-dries, it’s worth it.

Unfortunately for me, it was so NOT worth it.

My Digital Perm (Disaster) Experience

In the past I’ve had disastrous perms, which end up being a big frizzy mess. I looked like a clown and my hair became extremely damaged – I’m talking it as so bad that some of my hair would break off. But I never learn, and when I heard about digital perms some years back and my friend got one (which turned out fantastic), I wanted one too.

Perhaps that’s where I went wrong – I didn’t research beforehand. I went to an ordinary salon near my house (because I wanted it done ASAP, my second mistake), and thought since it was close to my house and a reputable hair salon (there were many of them around my city) it would be alright.

It was a long process. I sat there for 4.5 hours, waiting for the solution to set in (20 minutes), rollers being put in (30 minutes), heating the rollers (30 minutes), taking them out, and then applying neutralizer (another 20 minutes). In between, I got a trim and a treatment done, plus random waiting intervals, so by the time I was done, I was ready to pass out!

Here’s the funny part… 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 applied some kind of curling product I had from ages ago and I got big, fluffy waves. I was ecstatic! It was exactly like how I wanted it, and I adored it. However, when I went for dinner, less than half an hour later, the waves were gone. My hair was back to being stick straight, and worse of all, flat as a pancake.

I called the stylist to ask what happened – I spent $300 and almost 5 hours sitting at the salon and it resulted to absolutely nothing! He asked me to come back to the salon and for him to look at it, and of course he said something about blowdrying it into curls and what I can only deem as nonsense.

I went back to the salon, where the stylist himself 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 $300 poorer, had hair that looked as straight as always, only that it was more damaged because of the perming chemicals. (Yep – even though digital perms are less damaging than traditional perms, there is still damage). To top it all off? A friend asked me if I recently straightened my hair.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. 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. The products he used were Revlon, and… I’m stumbled. 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.

Digital Perm Tips

I did a lot of research after (basically I typed “my digital perm isn’t curly and I’m pissed” onto Google), and found that a lot of people had my problem as well. 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 from there and are very popular there, 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. To put it simply, 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.
  • Try something else – know there are alternatives. Digital perms, when done right, are great, but there are other ways to get volumious, wavy here. Check out my tips under “What I do” in this post.

My Recommended Products to Use

Here are some hair products that I have used with or without perms that I find are the best to achieve wavy hair. These are products that I have also recommended to friends with digital perms and they love it.

digital perm best hair products

  1. Bumble & Bumble Bb Curl Conscious: This product is really good for digital perms as it is made for chemically treated hair. It brings out your curls that look natural and soft and keeps them in place. You can find this product at Sephora (US), Boots (UK) and internationally at Amazon.com, and LookFantastic.
  2. Tony & Guy Casual Sea Salt Texturizing Spray: One of my favorite hair products ever, especially for hair volume. This product is fantastic and doesn’t make your hair looks sticky, dry or dirty like other sea salt sprays. It’s a little hard to find so you can buy it internationally at Amazon.com.
  3. Bedhead Foxy Curls Contour Cream: This is a brand that is hard to find, mostly only at salons, but they make some great stuff. Foxy Curls Contour Cream does just that: they bring out your curl and gives get curl and contour to make it obvious. Buy it internationally Amazon.com, FeelUnique and LookFantastic.
  4. L’Oreal Elnett Hairspray: The best to hold your curls or whatever style you have. The best hairspray ever made, seriously, buy in bulk! You can find it at any drugstore or buy it online for cheap at Amazon.com.

Over to you…

Have you had a digital perm, and what was your experience? Please feel free to share your experience. Also, if you know someone who is looking to do a digital perm, please share this post with them so they don’t make the same mistake I did.

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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.