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O, That Way Madness Lies

By Amalah

Hi. I’m Asian, and I have really thick, straight hair, that is impossible to coax into anything without tons of hair spray. I’ve always wanted to have wavy hair, and I’ve been considering getting a perm, but I don’t want curls, just waves. Is this even possible since I want softer waves than the picture I attached?? If it is, what do I ask for? I definitely do not want a fro.


For the record, I am deepy distrustful of perms. DEEPLY. They’re absolutely wretched for your hair and totally unpredictable. Too loose and you’re left with fried-yet-still-straight hair, too tight and it’s fakey-fake spirals. They take forever to grow out and are really costly to maintain.

Technically, there’s supposed to be a big difference between perms and body waves, but I still don’t trust them. Any of them! (Eyes them perming rods suspiciously, shakes broom menacingly.) My mom got a body wave a couple years ago and it was…a perm. It fried her hair and left it impossible to style.

I know there MUST be people out there who love their perms and body waves, but…I just don’t know any of them personally. My friends and I just sit around and laugh about the horrid perms we all had in junior high (I PERMED my BANGS, my GOD), and swear that we’ll never let each other go down that path of madness ever again. Pinkie swear!
After looking at the photo you included, I just don’t think a perm is even what you want. Really thick and straight hair won’t take to perming easily, so I’d be worried that you’d end up with a lot of damage and no results. Or your hairstylist might go a little too far and give you something way curlier than you want.

If I had to guess, I’d say the model in that photo used good old-fashioned hot rollers and a wide-barreled curling iron. And lots and lots of styling products — applied before AND after the heat. Or possibly sponge rollers in wet hair. Either way, it doesn’t look permy to me.

Start out with a curl-enhancing shampoo and conditioner, like . (Honestly, that whole line is great.) Then layer in some decent mousse (or something like Bumble & Bumble Prep…or the ) before blow-drying. THEN use some spray gel or pre-heat treatment just before using your rollers or iron. (I’ve used Bumble & Bumble’s , and with good results.) Then roll your hair up and let set for at least10 minutes. Spray the hell out of it with a flexible hold hair spray. Re-spray the gel and scrunch your waves as needed during the day.

I know. I KNOW. This sounds like it will take forever and cost a zillion dollars and wouldn’t a perm be so much easier? Possibly. But…dude. I just CAN’T. I can’t tell you to do that to your gorgeous, thick, untreated virgin hair. Going the way of the perm means a lifetime of expensive treatments and damage and maintenance and GAMBLING WITH YOUR VERY LIFE. For lo, I have gone the way of the perm and…it’s just bad. So seriously bad.

(Here is where I would LOVE to include a photo from my permed days, but…huh. I don’t seem to have any. It’s like someone destroyed the evidence of me and my PERMED BANGS. Imagine that!)

Published April 16, 2007. Last updated September 7, 2017.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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