Digital Perm Review: My (Disastrous) Experience

digital perm reviewDigital perms are one of the hottest hair innovations to come in the recent years.

Said to be a safer, less damaging option – and more natural looking – than traditional perms, it’s no wonder it’s so popular now!

Unfortunately for me, it did not work at all.

Why digital perms?

I decided on a digital perm because they sounded so good – and as I mentioned before, I once had a traditional perm, and it was the best thing in helping my hair to get more volume.

However, while it was good at giving me volume – it was still that “old-school” perm, and before long, it end up being a big frizzy mess. Plus, the grow out was awful, since my hair is naturally very straight. Digital perms seemed like the answer. It was a long process, but I was so excited, so I didn’t mind.

My digital perm experience

I decided to do my digital perm at a salon close by to me that seemed to know what they were doing. It was part of a big chain of salons that was popular in my city, so I didn’t think much of it. (Mistake #1, obviously.)

The salon seemed nice enough – very nice, in fact. I sat in the chair of the salon, listening to bad pop songs (that I secretly enjoyed, not gonna lie) for almost 5 hours, and when everything was done, I got up to check, and I saw minor waves… MINOR.

This was my first red flag, so I told the stylist about it, and he 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 did indeed get big, fluffy waves, and I adored it. And surprisingly, my hair didn’t feel damaged or dry at all – I was super pleased. However, less than half an hour later, the waves were completely gone. I immediately 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 – you know, the normal curling irons you have at home – to curl my hair. At that point I got a bit mad, 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, sorry but they have a no refund policy, and that was that.

What Happened?! 

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 that’s enough concern to say that perhaps digital perms are not guaranteed to work. I immediately went to Google, as you do, and typed in “my digital perm isn’t curly and I’m pissed”, and it seems like I’m not the only one.

What I Think I Did Wrong

Oh, well, on hindsight – so many things. Let me count the ways:

  • I should have gone to  a Japanese or Korean salon. Digital perms originated there; it’s a technique they would know. This was my first mistake, I went to some salon near my house without thinking about it.
  • I should’ve researched more on digital perms. All I knew was that I heard they were awesome, my friends loved them, I’ve had perms before and they were fine, and that was it. If you’re reading this post – and this one I’ve since written – then you’re doing great on the research front!
  • I should’ve asked more questions to the stylist: my concerns, or just for more information about digital perms in the first place!

It’s Not All Bad…

I hope I haven’t discouraged anyone to not get a digital perm.

Still, even though my experience was a bad one, I know many, many women who has gotten them and absolutely love them – they wouldn’t be so popular if this wasn’t the case. My good friend has been having digital perms for the last 5 years with absolutely no problem.

Bottom Line

If you’ve read this whole post, and my follow up, 9 Things to Know Before Getting A Digital Perm, then you’re already on your way and probably have a 99% chance your digital perm will turn out way better than mine. I would also recommend, after reading this full article, to tell your stylist about your concerns and get confirmation that the salon, it’s tools and digital perm formula are correct, and that they know what they are doing.

I hope this post can help someone else, and make you aware and cautious before you spend your time and money on a digital perm.

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  1. 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. :))

    1. 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. 🙂

      1. 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?

        1. 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? 🙂

  2. 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!

    1. 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!

    2. I just had mine done today
      I did just ask for a natural curls/ wave
      But it’s been a couple of hours only and seriously I can’t really see curls or even much of a wave
      It almost looks straight but just not as flat as before.
      I dunno if I should go back and ask them to do Sth about it or at least get some money back …. it’s kinda disappointing
      The digi perm took 3 hours but included the treatment time … the Korean salon is nice but i firmly believe it didn’t work

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. 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!

  4. 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…

    1. 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.

  5. Hi. I just had digiperm recently and it turned worse. It looks like a fried hair. I should have read this before I dicided to have it. 🙁

    1. Lots and lots of moisture products, shampoo and conditioner that defrizz, only shampoo every second day. Serum if it’s bad throughout the day. Moisture treatment once a week, just buy from a shop, don’t pay a hairdresser for it

      1. Hey Melysa! This post was written many years ago so the digital perm eventually grew out… it never improved, it was the same afterward. 🙁

  6. I love my digital perm. I had to not wash my hair for three days when I first got it done, had to buy special defrizz shampoo and conditioner and moisture treatment, become a serial twirler but it was a success and worth the AUD$300

  7. Hello there, I was thinking of getting permanent loose waves and I was confused on which method to use. Can I get some advice? To save money, I was planning on doing the cold wave perm but I have a few questions. Will I still be able to get loose waves instead of tight curls if I did the cold wave perm instead of the digi perm? And is it possible to get loose waves if I just put the cold wave solution on and then put my hair in a bun (w/o using any rollers) ? :))

      1. You’re welcome! Technically yes, with bigger rollers it will not be as tight. The “tight” I’m mentioning though… hmm, it’s hard to explain, but with digital perm they have a very natural look to the curls, and with a traditional perm, there is still that slight “tight” perm-y look. If that makes any sense… but yes, bigger rollers will definitely be better I think. You should definitely tell your hairstylist about your concerns, though, so that you’ll get exactly what you want. 🙂 Good luck!

  8. Thank you so much though I don’t have a hairstylist. Its definitely something to think about. Wonderful website you have :))

  9. Renee-

    This is so helpful! I’ve been researching perms as you suggested. I have one shot so I want to be as prepared as possible.

    Can you answer a few more questions? I’m curious what types of hair you and your friend (whose perm worked) have. I’m Caucasian with thin fine hair. It’s very limp and rather boring.

    I’m in the US. Where did you have your digi perm done?

    I’ve been looking at cold perms but I think the tight spiral curls are too small, I definitely want a bigger wave. Your post and others are leading me to believe digital will be my best bet (assuming the curl stays).

    I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Thanks!

    1. Hey Alexandra – sure thing! My friend is Asian so her hair type is very thick, coarse Asian hair… and that’s why I think it worked so well. I am half European and half Asian, but my hairdresser has always mentioned that my hair feels “Caucasian”, but when comparing my hair to my blonde, Caucasian friend, my hair feels quite thicker… so my hair is on the thin/fine side, but perhaps not that much? If that makes any sense – trying to give you as much info as I can so you can gauge my hair type!

      I got mine done in Singapore, so if you’re in the US – I’d most definitely recommend not to go to a usual salon, definitely try to find a Japanese or Korean salon near you.

      If you’re looking for the usual cold perm, I’ve done that as well many many years ago, and that definitely made my hair curly. What I did was that I had curls that were “one level” tighter than I wanted (I believe they were 1-inch wide curlers, or slightly less), and while it had that very stiff-old-fashion-perm look, after a few months it relaxed and went to how I wanted it – very nice, natural looking waves. The only thing about traditional perms is that it is quite damaging and it created a lot of flyaways and my hair overall looked really damaged, so that wasn’t so great. While I can’t say for sure that the digital perm is less damaging (it’s still chemicals after all), it definitely makes your hair LOOK healthier than a regular perm, and looks much more natural… if it’s a successful one, of course!

      It’s really tough – if it were me I’d go for a traditional perm again and risk the damage and flyaways, because I feel that’s less risk than spending time, money, and damage on a digital perm that doesn’t curl at all.

      An idea could be if you were to find the salon for digital perms and go in for a consultation first? Tell them all your concerns and ask them to take a look at your hair?

      Hope I’ve give you some food for thought. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  10. Hi guys

    Just an update from another hair type… I am from London and of Indian descent. Just had a digital perm done in Malaysia (did my research and went to a good place). It didn’t turn out at all. I have thick but fine hair (i.e. a lot of hair but each individual strand is fine). When it was done there was barely any curl at all. My stylist told me he had only ever seen that happen 3 times, and that digital perms don’t work on Caucasian hair. He said this by way of explanation (he knew I was British but apparently hadn’t computed that that doesn’t actually mean I am Caucasian). Anyway, I just wanted to post this here in case it’s an Indian hair thing. Very disheartening after 4+ hours in the chair, but I must say the salon were good about it and didn’t charge me for the procedure nor for the cut and even did a free treatment on me since they acknowledged they had effectively damaged my hair with perm and hadn’t produced any result. They also curled it with an iron and it has already fallen out 2 hours later. I have that kind of hair. I think anyone who has hair like this is probably going to have a tough time with the hot perm. (and I’m not going to go for a cold one because I want the loose waves)

  11. Hi Renee, it just happened to me 🙁
    I just did digital perm to my hair and it’s not visible at all. After the process is finished, the stylist styled my hair and my hair looks nice. But as soon as I got home and woke up from a nap, it becomes not visible at all. I also don’t want to blame the salon because that one has got many good reviews on their fb and website although the price is not very expensive. It was about SGD 245 including treatment so it could be considered reasonable. I first thought it was because of my hair which has done zig zag(also called crimped hair) so my hair is totally spoiled and frizzy. But when I google this topic, I find I’m not the only one. Please advice me what should I do to my hair. The only things I got from this perm are that, my crimped hair are straightened out, my hair colour changed from reddish to goldish(i dont know why) and my hair turns to hold curling iron curls longer(lol). Please advise me what should I do.

    1. Hey Rose! Sorry this happened to you too. 🙁 For me I just let it grow out, that’s all you can do unfortunately. The hair is already very damaged so try to take care of it – deep condition once a week, and don’t do anymore chemical or heat treatments on it.

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