Digital Perms: Review & Tips

digital perm hair review

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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.

It’s no secret that I have major volume issues with my hair, as I have mentioned in How to: Get More Hair Volume, I pretty much tried everything. 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!

digital perms review and tips

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, 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
  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, 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

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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