Perms have come in and out of style since they were first introduced in the early twentieth century by Karl Nesser, who invented the first permanent wave machine.
By the 1950s, perms were widely popular as people flocked to hair stylists to get the latest style.
Today, perms are still popular as perm technology has greatly progressed, allowing both men and women to achieve the curly look they want.
How Much Does a Perm Cost?
Perms can cost anywhere from $50 to $250, with an average cost of around $85.
The cost of a perm can fluctuate due to the method used to do the perm, the perm style, and the length of your hair.
Also, some people opt for partial perms in which only part of the hair is permed, as opposed to all of it, which brings down the cost.
Experienced stylists might charge more than newer stylists also.
Before investing in a perm, it is important to look closer at all of the factors that contribute to cost.
Do Different Methods Cost Different Amounts?
There are generally two methods or processes of perming available: ceramic (cold) and digital (hot).
The processes are quite different, which affects the cost.
Overall, cold perms tend to be cheaper than hot perms, mostly due to the added time the hot perm process takes.
For a “ceramic” (or cold) perm, hair is wrapped around rollers or rods while an alkaline perm solution is applied to the hair.
The rods come in various sizes, with thicker rods providing looser curls or waves and thinner rods making tighter curls.
Then, a neutralizer, like hydrogen peroxide, that re-bonds hair and re-collaborates its pH level back to normal is applied to set the curls.
This method of perming creates the tight curls that most people associate with perms.
A cold perm is also easier to maintain, costing you less money in aftercare and necessary products.
“Digital” (or hot) perms go one extra step by wrapping straight hair around rods that heat up and applying a perm solution that breaks the disulfide bonds in your hair, activating the perm.
This acidic process restructures the hair follicle.
According to Curl Centric:
“Once the solution softens the outer cuticle layer enough, the chemicals make their way to the cortex and medulla, the innermost layers of the hair strands.”
As with cold perms, a neutralizer is applied at the end to lock in the curls.
Digital perms give hair a more natural look and may give hair more of a wavy look than curly.
Hot perms take a bit more maintenance afterward and will cost more in upkeep.
What Do Different Styles of Perms Cost?
There are a number of different styles of perms, each giving you a very different look and each costing different amounts of money.
Depending on your hair type, it’s best to consult with a professional hairstylist to decide which style will work best for you.
Spiral (or twist) perms are the style that most think of when they think of perms.
These are the traditional tight, corkscrew curls that tighten up close to your scalp.
Because of this, your hair may appear shorter than it actually is.
Spiral perms are created by wrapping your hair vertically around the perm rod before the rest of the process begins.
Spiral perms can cost anywhere from $80-$200.
Body wave perms are a more natural-looking style of perm.
This type of perm uses thicker rods in your hair, giving it wavy, looser curls.
This is a great way to add volume and texture without going for the tight curls of a spiral perm.
This style runs around $40-$200.
Multi-textured perms are similar to the body wave style but use different-sized rods to give more dimension to the hair
They still give that natural, wavy look, but with some variety in wave size.
These cost anywhere from $40-$200.
Spot perms can be done using the hot or cold method and are used to apply curls to help even out naturally curly hair, adding curls to specific areas, like the roots or ends.
With spot perms, the curl size depends on the person’s preference—either tighter or looser.
Spot perms typically cost less than other types, running between $30-$95.
Stacked perms are used on individuals with unlayered, straight-across haircuts who want to add the look of layers.
To do this, different-sized rods are used, starting from the middle of the hair growth down to the ends.
This keeps the top of the hair straight with “layers” of curls as you move down the head.
Similar to multi-textured perms, stacked perms cost $40-$200.
Root perms only curl the parts of your hair closest to your scalp—usually 2”–4” from it— leaving the rest natural.
This gives the hair more volume but doesn’t stay intact for long because your hair grows out.
Because of this, root perms are one of the cheaper perms to get, costing between $30-$80.
Straight perms are just what they sound like—they straighten naturally curly hair.
In order to do this, a straightening solution is applied that breaks down the cystine bonds of the hair, and you are left under a heater.
The hair is then washed and dried and re-straightened.
These types of perms can cost $100-$200.
How Much Does It Cost To Take Care of a Perm?
The best way to care for your perm is to leave it alone by avoiding heat, chlorine, and excessive products.
This may make it sound cheap to maintain a perm, but the right products for upkeep can make costs run high.
Though many of the best perm maintenance products will cost you a good chunk of money, they will help your perm last longer and keep you from having to pay for a whole new perm quicker than you want to.
Plus, the fewer perms you get, the less damaged your hair will become.
So, using better, higher-end products will afford you the opportunity for more perms through the years.
Since perms can dry out your hair, using high-quality moisturizing products will help keep your curls healthy and happy.
Nourishing sprays and dry oils add moisture and volume.
Reparative hair masks and deep conditioners are great to use once a week or so to restore some of that lost moisture.
Leave-in conditioners are also useful in keeping your hair looking healthy all day long.
Investing in high-quality maintenance products is a must if you wish to keep your perm healthy for longer.
Products that will moisturize and hydrate your permed hair are the best.
Salt sprays are a great choice for adding texture to a perm, and the kelp extract typically found in these sprays is great for hydration.
A good salt spray will likely cost around $30 a bottle.
Strengthening masks are a great product to add to your weekly routine of perm upkeep.
A mask like Aveda’s Botanical Repair Intensive Strengthening Masque might seem pricey, but it’ll save you money in the long run.
Leave-in conditioners are fantastic at rehydrating your perm and keeping it looking great and vibrant all day.
Bread Beauty Supply’s leave-in conditioning hair cream costs around $28 for an 8.4oz. container.
Like leave-in conditioners, dry oils also replenish lost nutrients in your hair and provide it with ample hydration.
A good dry oil will probably cost you around $40 but will be well worth it.
Using the right products can also make a big difference in perm longevity and save you from spending more at the salon.
It’s best to avoid products that contain alcohol or silicone because these ingredients can quickly break down the structure of your perm.
How Much Does It Cost to Perm Your Hair at Home?
Doing your perm at home is a great way to keep your costs down.
Home perm kits can run anywhere from $7-$30, with an average of around $14 for a single application.
The most popular at-home perm kit products are Ogilvie Salon Styles Home Perm, Zotos Texture EFX Color Perm, Quantum Classic Extra Body Acid Perm, and Zotos Feels So Lively – Exothermic Alkaline Perm.
However, unless you know the ins and outs of proper perming and which product is best for you, you might end up spending more on damage repair.
Both acid and alkaline perms are available for at-home application, but it’s safest to know which one works best for your hair before you start the process.
Does the Length of Time Spent at the Salon Affect the Cost of a Perm?
As previously stated, hot perms generally cost more than cold perms because they take more time to do and are more involved.
The time and effort level for each perm style also affects the cost.
Perms can take a few hours, so it’s best to set aside a good chunk of time when preparing for your perm.
On average a perm can take one to five hours, depending on what kind of perm you’re getting and how long your hair is.
If you’re getting your perm done by a professional at a salon, you might be looking at close to half a day, if done correctly.
First, stylists will evaluate your hair and scalp, ensuring they are healthy enough to perm.
This process can take up to thirty minutes.
Then, you must choose the right size rod for the style you want.
Spiral perms and perms using smaller rods will take longer because there will be more sections of your hair to separate.
If your hair is longer, it will take even more time to wrap the hair.
It might take up to two hours just to wrap your curls when getting this style.
On the other hand, body wave perms or perms with larger curls or waves will take less time because the stylist will wrap the rods in larger sections.
Shorter hair will take less time to perm overall since there’s less hair for the stylist to work with.
After the hair is wrapped and the solution has been applied, the hair sits for around 20 minutes before the neutralizer is applied. This takes another 20 minutes.
Due to multiple factors, the total time and money you’ll spend at the salon can vary greatly.
Does Length of Hair Affect the Cost?
Yes, the length of your hair greatly affects the cost of a perm.
Generally, the shorter your hair is, the cheaper the perm will be.
Short hair perms on average cost $30-$80, while medium hair perms can cost anywhere from $50-$150.
Long hair perms are the most expensive, ranging from $80-$200.
In order to save money, if you have medium-length or longer hair, you might opt for a partial or spot perm.
Spot or partial perms cost between $30-$95.
They’re a great opportunity to test out what a perm will look like on you by only doing a couple of areas of hair and leaving the rest natural.
Then, you can decide whether or not it’s worth the investment of a full perm.
It’s recommended that short hair be at least 2” long before even attempting a perm, and some stylists will tell you it should be longer.
How Much Are Men’s Perms?
Cost shouldn’t change based on gender, but because men’s hair is typically shorter than women’s, the cost is usually less.
Men’s perms typically cost between $40-$150, with an average cost of around $70.
Again, this price is dependent on the length of the man’s hair and which type of perm he is getting.
How Does Perm Damage Add To the Total Cost?
In essence, the process of perming is the act of damaging your hair.
Depending on the state of your hair, a perm may end up costing you a lot to repair down the line.
This is why it’s always best to consult a professional.
Perm technology has advanced greatly through the years, so modern perm techniques aren’t as damaging as they used to be.
Better technology means less damage and an altogether less expensive process.
Aside from the intentional damage though, perms can cause other damage to your hair, such as split ends, hair loss, and breakage.
This all depends on what other processes your hair has endured in the past.
If it’s been dyed often or has undergone other chemical processing, a perm might be more damaging to your already-treated hair than it would be to healthy, untreated hair.
Also, the number of perms you’ve gotten in the past will greatly determine the health of your hair.
Hair that has been permed frequently will be more prone to damage with each subsequent perm, costing you more money to fix.