9 Things to Know Before Getting A Digital Perm

One of my most popular posts on this blog is My (Disaster) Digital Perm Review.

And as disastrous as it was, I must admit…

I would do it again.

(Yes, really. Because as much as I hated that experience, digital perms, when done right, are incredible.)

how to get proper digital perm
Image: We Heart It

Because while my initial experience was nothing but a waste of time and money, I’ve since learnt A LOT since my experience a few years ago, and spoken to all my friends who’ve gotten successful ones.

Here are my tips on how to get a proper digital perm and avoid a disaster one like I did…

1. Try to find a Japanese or Korean owned salon.

Digital perms originated in that part of the world, and done extremely well there, so they should know what they are doing. Personally, I wouldn’t trust any other salon than a Japanese one for my digital perm.

Double check with the owners to be extra sure, ’cause there are many salons and shops now that claim to be “Japan beauty” and “K beauty” due to their growing presence around the world.

A lot of them are just cashing in on this trend, and don’t exactly know what they’re doing. (Like the salon I originally went to for my disaster digital perm.

2. Do your research.

Seriously, do not miss this step. Research about the hair salon and look for reviews on their digital perms online, blog reviews, or even ask friends if they know about this salon. Yelp is always the best place to start.

3. Treat your hair right before… and after

Even though it’s “digital”, a digital perm is still a perm and will damage and dry your hair out.

The best is to make sure your hair is in tip top condition beforehand, to take on the perm well.

I recommend doing a weekly at-home deep conditioning hair treatment a few weeks leading up to your perm, and especially after.

I tend to avoid heavy formulas that don’t really help the hair, and would instead recommend something like coconut oil or castor oil to really penetrate the hair shaft and make it super strong for the perm; and then super soft for after.

4. Consider the price and duration.

The price and duration of the digital perm procedure is a huge giveaway.

Digital perms are expensive.

If a salon is saying they can do a digital perm under US$150, it probably isn’t a real digital perm, and you’ll get an awful experience like my own.

The digital perm machine is expensive for the salon, so the service itself should be more than your usual perm.

Also keep in mind your hair length and thickness – the more hair you have, the more expensive it will be.

The duration of the digital perm is another sign. If a salon says they can do a digital perm in less than 2 hours, that is a dead giveaway it’s not a real digital perm as well.

Digital perms take up at least 3-4 hours – it’s quite a tedious process, so it will take quite a bit of time (bring books!).

5. Speak with the stylist.

This is vital.

Have a talk with the stylist before you start your digital perm. Tell them what you are looking for with your digital perm, and mention how you’ve read that some digital hair perms don’t come out at all; and that you’re concerned.

Hopefully if it’s a good salon, you will be confident that you’ll get a proper digital perm.

Check out How to talk to your hairdresser for my tips on showcasing exactly what style you would like so you won’t have a misunderstanding.

6. Make sure you have the commitment

Digital perms last a long time – they say it can last up to a year, but from what I can tell (and from my friends who’s had proper digital perms), they can even go until 2.5 years, with a little hint of waves after you shampoo your hair for much longer. S

o make sure you want waves, and to get the correct type of style you want, ’cause you’ll likely be having this style for a while! (Not to mention the upkeep of it.)

7. Be prepared for frizz

Oh, yes. The frizz!

Digital perms are said to be better in reducing frizz compared to normal perms, but unfortunately, there is still the risk you may have frizz – you are chemically frying your hair, after all.

The solution?

Unfortunately, it’s like normal frizz problems – you’ll need to get a proper shampoo, conditioner and a strong anti-frizz product to tame the frizz.

The frizz will depend on you and your hair type, though.

Personally, I had zero frizz in my hair afterward (I have straight, fine, thin hair), and you could be the same. But generally I believe that frizz is something you have to deal with after a digital perm, at least for the first week or two.

8. Invest in hairstyling products

This was the shocker for me when it came to my digital perm – I was told to “bring out” the curls with the usual styling products you need for wavy and/or curly hair.

I was shocked.

I mean, isn’t a perm… permanent? Isn’t that the whole point of a perm, that you chemically change the structure of your hair to waves, so you don’t have to do anything afterward?

Unfortunately, this is probably the biggest con about digital perm – there is maintenance.

There will be frizz with your digital perm, some days your wave won’t “come out” and you’ll need some mousse, and as mentioned above, you’ll need to keep your hair in tip top shape, as the digital perm is still hard on your hair.

9. Twirl, twirl and twirl some more

This was recommended to me after I got my digital perm, to bring out the waves more: twirl your hair. A lot. All day, if you have to.

No, but seriously – twirling is some sort of practice for digital perms, and is said to be super important for it.

After you’ve styled your hair to bring out the waves (see above), twirl your hair, especially towards the end, and that will somehow bring out the waves and keep it in shape.

Bottom Line

Digital perms are awesome, but one cannot deny the maintenance – if you’re unlucky, of course.

For some it comes out amazingly and there is very minimal upkeep.

For some it’s a lot of work. You’ll have to see with your hair type. I have a sneaky suspicion it’s only really amazing on Asian hair (since it was created for it), but it’s worth a try if you are OK with the above points!

But if you want wavy hair without getting a digital perm, you can always just style your hair to get waves.

There’s even a super easy way to get cool waves like a digital perm, and you can even do it without with heat! You might also be interested in How to Get Boho Waves Without Heat.

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  1. Hi Rennee! Thanks so much for your post. I had the same terrible experience on Saturday. I am caucasian and after 4.5 hours sat in a chair my hair looked exactly the same. The hairdresser has offered to do it again but i’m worried about damage. Did you ever go back and try a second time?

    1. Hey Mujella! I am so sorry for your bad experience 🙁 It really sucks. I haven’t gone back to try but I am tempted, now that I know what to look for the next time. I would wait at least 3 months if you want to re-do it, just to give your hair a break, and meanwhile strengthen it with coconut oil.

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