How to care for your perm in 2020: The best products, tricks, and treatments to try

How to care for your perm in 2020: The best products, tricks, and treatments to try

Mortal coil

Text: Emily Heng

It's hardly hyperbolic to claim that we've all been put through the wringer in 2020. As the year draws to a close, we've been dealt a deadly pandemic; the ramifications of the tumultuous U.S. elections; and an economic downturn rivalled only by The Great Depression. In wake of such instability, coping mechanisms have cropped up in every size and colour. Some have turned to knitting, others to baking. As for me, I have shifted my attention to my locks. That is, my bleached-damaged, Sahara-dry strands, all of which has taken the brunt of my anxiety in recent months. From dark dyes to hair toner, there was nothing I deemed too outrageous or permanent — until I made the ultimate decision to dunk my noggin into perm solution.

It might seem incomprehensible that someone who once had a head of platinum blonde hair would saturate her tresses in even more chemicals. In my defense, I have a track record of a) bad decision-making as well as b) impulsivity. And so, I was left with a head of blow-out worthy curls that lasted all of the three days I opted not to wash it. What came after proves to be an experience to say the least; a series of trial-and-error that allowed me to emerge from it wiser and more well-informed than before. And because sharing is caring, well — I decided, why not disseminate my hard-earned knowledge to the masses? Below, everything I gleaned from this harrowing hair journey.

#1. It will take a lot more maintenance than you'd think

I'm not sure where this misguided notion came from, but I was led to believe that getting a perm translated to beautiful, beachy waves all the time. No curling irons, dryers, or product needed — just effortless, enviable locks in the vein of Blake Lively circa 2007. Ha. The illusion was thoroughly shattered on my fourth day post-perm. I woke up with a frizzy, tangled mess that required a wet brush detangler and heck lots of hair oil to comb through.


#2. You will experience a ton of breakage... and hair loss

For those fond of brushing through their strands with their fingers — or, well, fiddling with their hair in general — boy, do I have bad news for you. All that unnecessary touching is a surefire way to cause breakage to your already-delicate strands, leaving you with a crippling sense of paranoia that you could be balding pre-maturely. I observed this most often when I was washing my hair. As it turns out, kneading and scrubbing your scalp furiously is probably not the best idea. The golden rule: treat your hair as you would a delicate Fabergé egg. I learned to alter my habits to be as gentle as possible. No more senseless hair tossing, twirling, or tugging; no more severe hairstyles with tight buns and ponies... the list is a mile-long.


#3. Heat styling tools are a major no-no

My GHD straightener has served me well. Alas, it is now gathering dust in the depths of my drawer; a relic and reminder of a time where I'd rise early simply to run its heated plates through my hair. I was warned by my hair stylist that any form of heat styling would ruin cause locks to frizz out quickly. Seeing as how you've essentially modified the integrity and structure of your strands, it is plain to see how heat-application would only serve to damage it further. Which brings me to my next point...


#4 Silk hair ties — and a good diffuser — will be your best friend

Preparation is key should you want to emerge with blow-out worthy tresses. To define my curls, I invested in a diffuser and curl cream. The helpful video below should give you some insight on how to use this handy extension. After my hair is (mostly) dried, I twirl it into Princess Leia space buns, secure it with delicate silk ties, and sleep on 'em. Unlike the usual elastic variations, they don't pull clumps and tangles out no matter what configuration I've wrangled my hair in. For those with finer, thinner-textured locks, I recommend smaller silk ties from Silke London.


#5. Swapping to specialised, curl-enhancing formulas are encouraged

I learned the hard way that anything with alcohol and silicones are not doing my new mane any favours. The former left my hair dry, frizzy, and tangled, while the latter made my hair look greasy and weighed-down. To that end, I scoured the shelves of my nearest Sephora and scooped up anything with the word 'curl' in it. In my experience, the best brands developed for such textured tresses include: Briogeo, Moroccanoil, Ouai, and Aveda.