Get the Most Out of Your Perm: How Long Does It Last?


Bored with your stick-straight hair and ready for a big time makeover? Try a perm. Despite its once negative associations with over-processed ’80s hair, the perm is making a very positive comeback. The modern perm has become one of the most popular hair trends of 2023. The technology behind the perm hasn’t changed much since its iconic debut in the 1980s, but it has undergone a transformation to limit damage — both from the chemicals and the heat required to set the curls. And today’s version can give you more than just one finished look. 


There's still the option of tight spirals, ringlets and corkscrew curls, but it’s also possible just to add a bit of texture and wave. If you’re thinking about getting a perm, you’ve come to the right place. We’re telling you everything you need to know about permed hair ahead.


Factors That Affect Perm Longevity

Perms can transform the straightest of hair into curls, and make the curliest hair straight. A perm chemically alters the shape of hair strands. So how long does a perm last? The longevity of a perm can be influenced by the following.


Stylist expertise

The most important thing to consider when it comes to getting a perm is going to a hairstylist who knows what they’re doing. A perm works by using a solution to chemically break apart hair bonds, before rebuilding them around the curling rods. The chemicals in perm lotion are potent, so it’s worth investing your time to find a stylist with experience.


Chemical processing

While techniques now exist to allow somewhat lightened hair to be permed, if you’ve got heavily bleached or chemically processed hair, we don’t recommend it. Your hair should also be in the same condition from root to tip. The more chemicals your hair has been subjected to, the less likely it is to hold the new structure. That might mean cutting off damage or avoiding color treatments before you perm your hair.


Lifestyle and environmental factors

If you want your perm to last, you’ll need to consider its exposure to water. Continuously subjecting a perm to activities like swimming, frequent shampooing or wet weather will damage the longevity of your perm. Getting it wet opens your hair’s cuticle, releasing the chemicals used to set the perm.


Quality of perm products used

When you perm your hair, expect to completely change your hair products and routine. Permed hair needs more nourishment. Your new hair texture needs different maintenance so use only high quality, moisturizing products free of harmful toxins to make your perm last.


Davines LOVE Curl hair care products

Understanding Perm Maintenance

Maintaining a perm is crucial to prolonging its lifespan and keeping your curls looking their best. These do’s and don’ts will help you maintain the look and health of your perm.


Wait before washing your hair

You’ll have to wait 48 hours after perming your hair before washing it. You can’t get your perm wet, put it up or even touch it much while the chemicals reset your strands. Even after getting your perm, washing it everyday will affect the longevity of your curls, so prolong the gap between washes as long as possible.


Use the right shampoo or conditioner

Once you’ve got permed hair it’ll be more prone to frizz and a lot dryer, so incorporating hydration where you can is a must. After perming your hair, wash twice-weekly with a moisturizing shampoo and follow up with a deep conditioner to keep your hair in good condition. 


Don't brush your hair when its wet

Wet hair is fragile and susceptible to breakage, so brushing when wet is never a good idea. But especially after it’s been permed, don’t brush it when it’s wet. Curly hair especially needs moisture in the form of a detangling spray, or leave-in conditioner, or oil in order to prevent damage while brushing.


Avoid heat styling tools

A perm will dry out your hair, so it will need more moisture and less heat. Embrace air drying or using a diffuser when blow-drying. This also helps activate your curls, which will maintain the perm for longer. And if you must use heat, at least prep your strands with heat protection.


Sleep with your hair in a loose bun

It’s important to keep your permed hair safe while you sleep. Cotton pillowcases cause friction that damages your hair. Sleep on a satin pillowcase and tie your hair up in a loose bun, or do the plop method. To plop your hair, wrap it in a microfiber towel, plop the excess on top of your head and secure it.


products to make perms last longer

How Long Does a Perm Last?

Perm may be short for ‘permanent,’ but its lifespan can vary. A perm typically lasts three to six months, depending on the type of perm you get, your hair type and how well you take care of it. A traditional perm that produces a uniform curl pattern can last 3-6 months, depending on how fast your hair grows and how you treat it. The same goes for a spiral perm, the only difference between the two is the variety of curl sizes or lengths with the spiral. A digital perm, also called a hot perm, is a method for getting permanent waves. Unlike a traditional perm (or a cold perm), the rods are heated and digitally controlled. A straight perm is a chemical treatment that straightens natural hair and curls, similar to how a perm creates curls on naturally straight hair, but without the rollers. Heat is applied with a flat iron to lock in the treatment. So how long does a straight perm last? Once the hair has been treated, it will remain straight until it grows out and/or is cut off, anywhere from 4-6 months after.


Is There Anything You Can Do to Make it Last Longer?

Once your hair becomes too dry and frizzy, your perm may suffer irreversible damage that can only be fixed in time. But these tips will help your perm go the distance.


Get regular haircuts

Your curls will become less pronounced as your hair grows out. Trimming your strands every 3-4 months will keep your perm looking its best.


Wash your hair less

Washing your hair too often strips it of its much needed natural oils. To banish unwanted dryness, cut down your weekly shampoos.


Invest in protein treatments

Perming chemicals break your hair’s protein bonds. They’re re-bonded before you leave the salon, but adding a protein treatment will help strengthen your hair.


Change your brush

Brushing your perm will ruin it in the blink of an eye. Use a wooden wide-tooth comb to gently comb damp hair and use a soft paddle brush to remove knots when it’s dry.


Avoid chemical treatments

Wait at least a month after your perm before applying any further chemicals to your hair.


FAQs on perms

Frequently Asked Questions to Consider Before Getting a Perm

Now let's take a look at some of the most common questions people have before getting a perm.


  1. Does getting a perm hurt your hair? A perm isn’t as detrimental to the health of your hair as bleaching, but the process does weaken and dry strands. If you already have damaged hair, it’s likely prone to a brittle feel or break off.
  2. Does your hair type or texture matter? Perms work on most hair types and textures. Those with thicker and slightly wavy hair may find the process easier. Thin and stick-straight hair will often require longer processing times in the salon.
  3. Does your hair length matter? The more hair you have, the more difficult it can be to get a perm. An even application of both chemicals and rods is needed to create a uniform look, so if your hair is very long, it can take a long time to get it done. Layers can also be tricky to deal with, if they’re on the shorter side.


Final Thoughts on Perms

The bottom line is that a hair perm works best on virgin hair. So if your hair is bleached, chemically-straightened, or color-treated, perming your hair isn't recommended. Otherwise you risk extra damage to your strands. It’s important to note that a perm will usually take best on stick-straight, thick hair, but those with curls, natural hair and fine hair can still get great results. If you’re ready to get your perm on, book an appointment with a Davines hair stylist in your area. And remember that maintaining your perm relies on your at-home permed hair maintenance routine. Follow our tips and use only high quality hair products. All Davines formulas are free of harmful toxins, use natural ingredients, and are made with renewable energy and packaging that minimizes the environmental impact. Our hair care isn’t just good for your hair, it’s good for the planet.


by Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor


Curl-enhancing shampoo for wavy or curly hair.


Elasticizing and controlling conditioner for wavy or curly hair.


Transformative gel-to-oil definition leave-in for waves and curls.


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