Choose from Three Options
- $17 for haircut, deep-conditioning treatment, and style ($38 value)
- $30 for relaxing treatment ($60 value)
- $37 for relaxing treatment with haircut and style ($75 value)
Perms: If Nature Didn’t Do It, Science Can
How exactly do perms change hair’s texture so thoroughly? Find out with Groupon’s examination.
If you wanted to get a perm 100 years ago, it was a good idea to bring along a very big book. Using a process patented in 1909 would require 10 hours at the salon under an unwieldy, electrically heated machine. Eventually, the process became more streamlined, and around the height of the style’s popularity, beauticians reported giving approximately 36 million permanent waves in 1936. Today, stylists may use several different (much improved) formulas, but all follow the same chemical principles.
Hair is 95% keratin, a protein rich in the amino acid cysteine. The bonds between molecules of cysteine are called disulfide bonds, and the arrangement of these bonds will determine whether hair is straight or curly. To make hair curly, the key step is to break those bonds with one of several chemicals, which stylists choose based on your hair type. Ammonium thioglycolate (thio), a salt, is what powers most perms, though because of the damage it can cause, it’s usually recommended for non-treated and thicker hair. As the chemical slackens the hair’s disulfide bonds, the hair is free to be molded into a new shape, such as a pretty ringlet or Vincent Price’s profile. To do this, the stylist wraps the hair around rods or curlers of the desired curl size. Afterward, a hydrogen peroxide solution neutralizes the hair, locking it into its new, curly, “permanent” shape. The effects will last until the hair grows out.
Besides thio, other solutions may be recommended for thinner, color-treated, or damaged hair; the acid perm, for instance, is gentler on hair than thio, though it tends not to last as long. Stylists will also often use an intensive conditioner to help hair stay healthier after the treatment.