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To Perm Or Not To Perm

By Amalah

Hi, Amy,

I had a baby a little over a year ago, and did the mom cut thing. I had long hair before I had her, and that long hair became thick(ish) and lush during my pregnancy. Then, after delivery, it fell out in clumps, which I understand is normal – pregnancy hormones make it beautious, and the loss of those hormones takes it back to reality, yada, yada, yada… Between the grief over the thinning hair and my infant daughter adding to the loss by pulling out handfuls, I went the mom cut route. However, she’s past that stage, and I’m coming to terms with the fact that I just don’t do bobs well. I want to grow my hair out again; however, it’s still so pathetically thin, fine, straight, dull and…. blah. I lived through the 80s and early 90s. I had the big hair. I went through a can of Rave a week, while spraying my head with a blowdryer pointed at it. I did the spiral perms. I don’t want to return. I was, however, considering a body perm? Is this a big no-no?? I don’t want New Jersey hair. I just want to have something other than long, stringy, straight, dull hair. I’ve never had a body perm. I don’t want to look like a poodle. Please advise on how to get the long, flowing, gorgeous hair of my dreams….

Thank you,
So Over the Asymmetrical Bob

I don’t quite remember when I last touched on the topic of perms, but I do remember coming down fairly strong on the “NO DON’T STOP NOOO” side of the argument — and getting promptly spanked in the comments by ton of people who had good experiences with them.

Okay, I found the link to it.

Eh, actually now that I read it…it’s about an even number of happy results and stereotypical perm disasters. (Me. In junior high. WITH PERMED BANGS. I was the biggest dork in the school and even *I* knew that wasn’t a good look and gave up on the perms after that.)

Have I learned anything more about perms and/or grown as a person since writing that column? No. I have not. SO THERE. And I still don’t think you should perm your hair. Or body wave it, or whatever. It’s a really risky proposition, since you never really know 1) if your stylist really knows what they’re doing, or 2) how your hair will handle the chemicals until it’s basically too late, and unlike bad hair color, there’s not much that can be done to correct a bad perm. Except re-perm it and damage it and then pray your hair grows really, really fast.

I have hair that sounds a lot like yours — WITH THE WRONG HAIRCUT. The only salon that ever tried to sell me on a body wave was a walk-in cut-n-cry that gave me the wrong haircut to begin with. The wrong kind of haircut for hair like ours? Blunt cuts, including bobs or anything that’s highly structured and angled and…yeah. The asymmetrical bob certainly falls into that category, and I should know, because I went and chopped off my long wedding hair after my honeymoon into that exact style and oh. My God. Was that a mistake.

I resigned myself to high-maintenance, flat hair and seriously hot-rollered it every day of my life, just to get it to do ANYTHING other than just…sit there, plastered to my skull and hanging around my face like underdone spaghetti. I knew better than to get the body wave at the walk-in salon, but did wonder if I went to a higher-end place if they’d do a good job.

So I went to a “better” salon (still nothing outrageou$, I just picked up a local “best of” magazine that did a reader survey on the best salons and called up the one closest to me). They laughed at the very idea of a body wave, complete with Steel Magnolias jokes and all, and the stylist cut my hair into a zillion and one layers — all at an angle, pointing the scissors directly AT my hair, not across the ends. The layers start just a few inches from my crown and go all the way down and all over and yet…if you look at the back of my head you don’t actually *SEE* any layers.

I’ve had versions of that cut ever since — longer, shorter, with bangs and without. But always, ALWAYS with lots of layers and no. blunt. edges. It’s not anything earth-shattering or revolutionary — it’s just a damn good cut for straight, fine hair that desperately needs volume but can’t hand excessive daily heat styling or product. (Damage and limpage, respectively.)

So. Anti-perm. (And for the sake of completeness, let me repeat a story from that earlier entry: my mom got a body perm from her long-time, nice salon and it completely fried her hair into straw without any of the desired volume or body.) Pro-growing-your-hair-out-and-finding-a-stylist-who-understands-your-hair. Who understands that “layers” don’t always equal “the Rachel.”

You can do it! Me and my fundamentally crappy hair that I just successfully camouflage (well, most days, anyway) believe in you!

(Commence commenter perm horror stories in three…two…one…)


Published March 20, 2009. 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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