I Got a Perm. In 2018.

Hey, everyone. Wazzzzuuuuuup? Like the Budweiser frogs, get it? Hey, did you bring your pogs today? Let’s play during homeroom. Don’t let me forget to feed my Tomagochi. Wanna come over to my house tonight? We can watch Dawson’s Creek and do MASH and paper fortune tellers during commercials.

Something something, Clarissa Explains it All, something, something, I can’t wait for the new *NSYNC album. What do you think of Justin’s haircut?

Justin NSYNC
This Justin, aka the only Justin who matters. #BeliebersTakeNote

…. Hellooooo, 90’s kids. Nice to see you! And also nice to see all of the trends made famous by Britney and Xtina – I’m talking of course about the spaghetti straps, chokers, tiny sunglasses, and bare midriffs that are back in style, here in 2018.

You know what else is back in style*? PERMS. (Or, as your grandmother calls them, “permanents.”)

*For the record, I recognize that I’m making 90’s and early 2000’s references and perms were widely popularized in the 80’s. But every girl I went to school with got a perm at some point between 6th and 12th grade, so… My references are on-point is what I’m saying.

Bradley Cooper perm
Bradley Cooper knows what I’m talking about.

You remember perms, don’t you? Who doesn’t have fond memories of standing over the bathroom sink and giving yourself a perm out of a box, leaving it on a bit too long so that you fried pretty much your entire hairline, and stunk up the entire house for a full week? There’s no way I’m the only person who had this experience.

Well, ladies and…. Well, probably just ladies, GREAT NEWS! Perms are back. And not just the super tight rings of curls, Shirley Temple-style, that you rocked during your 10th grade PSAT exams that then quickly devolved into frizzy hair a la Anne Hathaway pre-makeover in Princess Diaries. Oh, no. Much like Surge’s marketing campaign, perms took some much-needed time off to improve themselves and are now back and are friggin’ ~*aWeSoMe*~.

I was alerted to the fact that perms are back by none other than unfairly talented Julianne Hough’s Instagram. It would appear that last summer she got herself some fun little beach waves in perm form and looked perfectly coifed in true #IWokeUpLikeThis form all summer.

When I saw this, I rolled my eyes and thought, “Yes, well, we can’t all be Julianne Hough,” (which is good, since I would not describe my thoughts about Derek I-Don’t-Wear-Shirts Hough as particularly “sibling-like,”) and went on with my life.

Derek Hough Ninja Warrior
Pictured: All the women celebrating that they also aren’t related to Derek Hough and therefore can fully enjoy this moment.

I didn’t really think that much again about perms, despite seeing things here and there on gossip columns about celebrities who had gotten one, or seeing signs popping up in salon windows about offering perms.

Until last month.

I have very thick, very long hair and it’s a pretty standard shade of dark brown. My whole life I’ve never dyed it, not once – I tried a red foam CVS-brand tint in college that in no way took since my hair was too dark, but it stained my fingernails for two months. And I did a red glaze thingy at the salon about 8 years ago that had little to no impact on my hair.

The point is, my hair is so dark that if I wanted to change the color – AND I DESPERATELY WANT TO BE A REDHEAD, IF ONLY SO THAT MY HAIR FINALLY MATCHES MY TEMPER – I’d have to bleach it completely and then dye it.

Bleached HairI have absolutely no interest in fully bleaching my hair. I see my friends dealing with growing their roots out and going to the salon every few months for another $250 dye job, and that’s just not the life for me.

So, until I go grey one day and decide to go insane and dye it every color I’ve always wanted to  – I’ll have to dye it anyway, right? – I’m sticking with brown.

But I’m tired of long, straight, brown hair. There’s only so many times a person can be asked “Excuse me, did you play Winnie on The Wonder Years?” before you’re ready for a change. So what can I do to drastically change my hair that doesn’t involve bleach?


Hey! What about a perm!

Bruno Mars curlers

After running this by all my coworkers, who whole-heartedly encouraged my idea – but they also encouraged me to dye my hair every color under the sun, so I don’t know how much weight I can place on their opinions – I did some research for the best-reviewed Atlanta salons that gave perms. After multiple days of research, I finally found the salon I wanted and called up with some questions.

And boy, did I have questions. Alec, the stylist I spoke with, was AMAZING and asked me to send over a few pictures of my hair now so she could get an idea of what we were working with. After seeing the pictures, we spoke again, and she was clear right up front – my hair was too long and too thick to hold a subtle beach wave. Even with the four inches she was going to trim off, my hair would weigh down and pull out a loose curl like that in just a few weeks, if even that. So we’d have to go tighter.

Mama June hair

It was time for me to send Alec more pictures, this time of the type of curl I was looking for. I did some research about the kind of looks perms could provide that weren’t soft waves, but also weren’t full-on ringlets either, since I wasn’t really interested in repeating 2001. During my research, I found myself drawn to more wild, untamed hair. So… Maybe I’ll have hair that matches my personality, after all? I sent over the pictures, booked the appointment, and when the day came, I walked in ready for whatever happened next..

These are the pictures I sent in as my desired style, as impossible as it may be. I’m basically looking for an “Insane Season 2 Serena” look.

My appointment started with a quick trim during which we talk through my perm options, and just as I’m getting spiral ringlet flashbacks, my stylist springs an idea on me: a French braid perm.

Hair braids
At this point in the process I start getting major Million Dollar Baby vibes.

What the heck is a French braid perm, you ask? Great question. I asked it, too. The basic idea is that you braid up your hair and apply the perm solution directly onto the hair instead of on curlers or anything. So your permed hair looks very wavy, kinda like you slept on braids overnight.

That’s the idea, Alec explains.

I’m in, I say. Let’s do it.

So she braids me up, and then it’s perm solution time.

At which point I am reminded of… Well… Let’s just put it this way: Do you have any scents or tastes that you can recall with absolute, complete clarity, no matter how long it’s been since you experienced them?

Well, it’s been over 15 years since I last had a perm and I still remember what it smelled like. And oh hey, guess what? I WAS EXACTLY RIGHT. IT STILL SMELLS THAT AWFUL.

The first iPhone was released the year I got my perm in high school. Think about all the technological advances we’ve seen as a country since the first iPhone was released. You can pay for things with a thumbprint, you can stream a movie from your computer while on an airplane, you can even put white foundation on your face that somehow changes to match your skin tone EXACTLY when you smear it in, yet we haven’t found a way to GET RID OF THE SMELL OF PERMS.

I will say this, though: While the smell is still there, it’s not NEARLY as strong as it used to be.

So when Alec douses my head in the solution, it smells like I just fell headfirst into that vat of chemicals Harley Quinn swims around in in Justice League. Or was it Batman vs Superman? I don’t remember, I just remember seeing that scene in the trailer. I didn’t see the movie, I was saving my money to watch the newest Marvel movie twice.

(Oooh, comic book rivalry buurn!)

Easy A Burn gif

Once I’m literally dripping with perm solution, I put on a plastic shower cap and get tucked in under one of those dome hair dryer things. Fun fact: That’s the first time I’ve ever sat under one! It feels vaguely like I’m back at Space Camp (and by Space Camp, I of course mean Advanced Space Academy,) and my stylist comes back to check on me every few minutes to make sure my hair isn’t falling out, which would force me to repeat my high school habit of wearing headbands every day while my fried hairline grows back out.

knope Half Perm

Fortunately, Alec’s on it, and pulls me out right on time. Then it’s back to the sink where we – I think I’m getting this order right – rinse out the perm solution (which makes everyone at the salon give me an evil eye, because the smell certainly makes itself known at that point,) then put in a neutralizer (which also smells, but not nearly as bad – it kinda smells like they tried to mask the scent a little with some minty fragrance or something, like a breath mint for hair,) and then rinse that out.

And that’s it! My hair, which usually looks like a long, flat blanket of brown clinging to my neck and shoulders when its wet, is now SUPER crimped up and all bouncy and voluminous.

I feel instantly cooler. Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and just felt IMMEDIATELY cooler? The only time I’ve ever felt an INSTANT increased degree of coolness is after painting my nails in holographic polish, but that’s not something anyone really notices but you, so this is a pretty fun feeling for me.

After promising Alec I’ll send her plenty of pictures, I’m sent on my way with the instructions to try not to shower for 48 hours. But really, since my hair is (again) really heavy and we want to make sure this perm sticks, let’s aim for 72 hours of not getting it wet.

I can do this. I’ve seen Legally Blonde (both the movie and the musical.) I know how perms work.

Legally Blonde

I follow the 72-hour rule and then mostly follow my normal hair care routine.

I am one month out from getting my perm and I absolutely love it. I met a friend for dinner the other night and as she sat down she said, “Your new hair instantly gives you attitude before you open your mouth.”

I cannot imagine a higher compliment than this.

The tightness of the waves has relaxed slightly, but that was to be expected, and frankly, the goal – I didn’t want it to stay the way it was when I first got out of the chair because that was straight-up middle school crimped hair. What I have now is hair with a lot of wave to it, and a TON of volume. I put a little hairspray or dry shampoo on there and it gives me great, day-long height. If I go a few days without washing it – which I can now do since my hair doesn’t just sit flat on my scalp and get oily all the time – it starts to straighten out over time, but the minute I get it wet, it bounces back to tight waves. Which I hold in place with a gel specifically designed for beach waves, so there you go.

I love my hair, and it’s even made me temporarily forget about my burning desire to be a redhead. Shout out to Alec and Julianne Hough for making my hair dreams come true.

P.S. If you’re in the Atlanta area and interested in making your dreams come true, go see my stylist Alec at Craig Stewart Salon. This is not a sponsored post, I just loved the whole experience so much I wanted to give her a shoutout.