The Permanence of a Bad Hair Choice

I’m not sure if everyone who visits blogs are aware that the blog owners can view the search terms which brought readers to their site. Sometimes, it makes a lot of sense, and gives me something to work with when thinking of new ideas for blog posts. Other times, however, it makes me wonder, who actually asked that question?

Somebody recently used typed the phrase “want an 80s style perm” into Google and found my blog. I had to search my own posts to find out where the phrase lived, and that’s fine. What isn’t fine, is that somebody WANTS AN 80s STYLE PERM!

What I won't do for my readers! Yep, that's me, circa 1988!

What I won’t do for my readers! Yep, that’s me, circa 1988!

Young lady, man, whoever you are, run….far away…run until your legs can no longer sustain you. Run until you’ve passed the very last hair salon, the last Wal-Mart or Sally Beauty Supply, or any friend or relative who offered to help you do an 80s-style home perm. Because A. any salon who agrees to do so should not have a cosmetology license, and B. any friend or family member who offers to roll your perm themselves is NOT A FRIEND!!

Okay, there were some people who looked really awesome with their perms. My sister had the perfect spiral perm – it didn’t frizz, she kept her curls tidy and soft-looking. But it took hours to do, and tons of ozone-depleting hairspray to keep it that way. She was also an anomaly.

Perms are evil. Don’t get one. If you need a reason, I’ve given you seven. Read on.

Seven Reasons to Not Get a Perm…EVER!!

7. The time, smell and discomfort of getting a perm. Doing so required a minimum of an hour of wearing tight rollers while your hair, scalp and sinuses burned from the chemicals that would transform your limp, straight locks into frizzy, curly ones.

Shame on you, Amazon!!

Shame on you, Amazon!!

Whether you went to a salon or had your mom/sister/friend/enemy do it, the process was the same. I was shocked to discover that one can still purchase home perms. Who looks at this box and thinks, “Yeah, that’s what I want to look like!”?

6. The amount of time it took to style kinky, frizzy permed hair into something that wasn’t kinky and frizzy. This process often required a blow dryer, diffuser (look it up if you’re under 30), a curling brush (a contraption that often got stuck in said frizzy mess), and lots and lots of styling products. Combining alcohol in the styling products with heat from hair appliances helped further crispify already damaged hair, creating an even bigger aura of frizz.

Screen capture of a young Nicole Kidman during an interview.

Screen capture of a young Nicole Kidman during an interview.

Unfortunately, some women (and men, think Richard Simmons) did the “wash and go” thing, letting their hair air-dry, letting everyone know that your frizzy mop isn’t natural.

5. The potential for any increase in humidity to undo any styling, scrunching and spraying of chemicals (mousse, gel, hair spray) and turn you (back) into a poodle. This was about the time when giant bows, scrunchies and banana clips became fashionable as a way to “rescue” a bad hair day. Permed hair was often so voluminous that anything you stuck in there would just stay. Hair clips, pencils, whatever.

Aside from scrunchies, which are great when you're cleaning or sleeping, most of these things should have been destroyed a long, long, time ago.

Aside from scrunchies, which are great when you’re cleaning or sleeping, someone should have destroyed these things a long, long, time ago.

You can still find these online if you’re really desperate. A seller on Etsy has a whole boatload of hair accessories if you want a closer look, but you really need to see the banana clip in person to appreciate its full glory!

4. Something that I could not stand was the inability to touch or put my fingers through my hair. Even if I was able to achieve smooth-looking hair, touching it roughed up the cuticle and loosened the curls.

Hair should move independently of your head, not with it as one entity!

Hair should move independently of your head, not with it as one entity!

I grew to hate the feeling of “helmet head,” created by layers of hair products in the pursuit of maintaining perfectly styled hair, and the crispy texture of scrunched hair. This problem afflicted women with shorter permed hair.

3. The time warp between when your perm “relaxed” enough that your curls weren’t so dang tight and frizzy and when your hair started to grow out was maybe a few weeks. Despite all the abuse we did to those precious follicles, our hair still grew. Perms didn’t change your natural hair style from straight to curly, so within a month, there was a noticeable difference between the curly frizz and your natural, flat hair growing in.

Michelle Duggar from the television show "19 Kids and Counting."

Michelle Duggar from the television show “19 Kids and Counting” in a recently taken photo of her grown-out home perm.

One “solution” was to either get a “Spot Perm” to carry you through until the time came for another whole-head overhaul. The other solution was to puff up the flat hair with a curling brush and spray the heck out of it. The results were rarely successful either way.

2. Perm regret. Type the phrase into Google. It’s a real thing!

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 2.29.37 PM

I remember the very last perm I had around 1994. I was so distressed by the fact that I couldn’t brush or touch my hair that I got it chopped into a bob, and kept chopping it as the perm grew out. Since then, I actually have had nightmares that I had permed my hair and regretted it and wished that I could go back in time. Yeah, I’ve got issues!!

1. As with just about everything, fashion and style (I use that term rather loosely here) has a trickle down effect. Kids invariably end up wanting to look older and/or stylish like teenagers on television and in the movies, or like their cool cousins.



This is the result. The 80s perm victimized even the youngest children, as shown here in a photo of actress Candace Cameron from the TV show, “Full House.” Take this as a warning that this sort of thing will follow you everywhere you go for the rest of your life. Like the internet, bad hair is immortalized. Remember – not everyone throws away class photos or school yearbooks.

If you take anything away from the post, it’s to give your hair a fighting chance. Don’t kill it with a perm.


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