Post-Perm Haircut

As I moved into week two of my perm, things started to go awry. First of all, the perm was calming down, and I actually had liked it as curly as it was in the beginning. Next time around I may go for a full spiral perm, as I really enjoyed having the springy curls more than I thought I would. It was still pretty springy, but it had toned down just a bit and gone a little flat.

Mostly, though, I fell into the trap of thinking it would be “fun” to try out new products on my new hair. Not that there’s anything wrong with this; I just went overboard with both product-buying and hair-styling, which stressed my hair out and made it a bit of a mess, so  overall the experience was more frustrating than it was fun. It’s not usual for me to put more than two products into my hair when styling it, but since I was continuously curious about the new stuff I bought (all made for curls, supposedly), I was piling as many as five products on my hair during the course of a day. I was also washing and styling my hair more than usual; pre-perm, I would have at least 2-3 days a week where I didn’t wash or style my hair, opting for a ponytail or just letting it go. Post-perm, I was washing and styling every day because I was trying out new products or styling strategies. And some days, I’d dump a bunch of stuff into it, attach some new fancy diffuser to my blow-dryer, style it, then decide halfway through the day I wanted to try something else out and re-wash and style all over again. The end result of all this was a frizz-fest. So as I said, at the end of week two my hair was not very happy, and after three days of nothing but fluff I was feeling regretful.  At that point, I decided to get back to basics. I washed my hair one last time, put my old standby products in (mousse when wet, a little spray gel before diffusing, then a bit of spray wax after drying to hold the style) and it looked much better.  Not that some of the products I tried weren’t nice, mind you,  and I may review them later,  but it wasn’t like any of them were more magical than other, similar products I’ve tried over the years. I even spent $44 on a special diffuser that looks like a big robotic hand and claims to be THE BEST DIFFUSER EVER for curls (see below) only to discover that the diffuser which came free with my cheap old hairdryer worked much better. Sigh.
fuser It looked too ridiculous NOT to work…It didn’t work.

Once I pulled myself out of my product-induced hair funk, though, I suspected there was still a problem. I’d considered the possibility when I first got the perm that my one-length bob cut might not work with it, but I didn’t want to do any chopping too soon. As I moved  into week three, though, I began to believe that I did, in fact, need a more layered cut – especially around my face. The perm added so much weight to my hair that those long layers, which framed my face so nicely when it was straight, were dragging my face down, making my forehead look big and making my face look older – not to mention turning my hair into a triangle by adding all the bulk around the bottom. I became so convinced I needed a few wispy layers around my face that I got scissors and tried to do it myself. But with one snip it was clear that was a bad idea, because even though the wisp of hair I cut was tiny it still looked horrible, and I decided to make an appointment to get my curls cut into a new style ASAP before I could do any more damage. I was nervous about going to my usual guy, because he didn’t give me the perm and had never been very enthusiastic about the idea of me getting one. But I decided to face his potential wrath since I trusted him to give me a good cut that would work with my curls, even if he didn’t like them.  I also knew I could trust him to tell me if my instincts were wrong and I shouldn’t go adding layers to my hair. As it turned out, he was fine with the fact that I went elsewhere for the perm, admitting he hardly ever did them himself so it was probably better that way. And although he made note that my hair was still “fragile,” he said that it had nice curl and the guy who permed it did a good job. So, he was very gracious and supportive of the new look, which I appreciated. We discussed giving my hair more shape and he got down to work:
No idea why I’m making robot-face here

I think the results are great, but it does look very different from before (not to mention that whatever he put on it before styling made it VERY crunchy) so I’ll have to get used to it. I have never been one to voluntarily wear too many layers in my hair when it’s longer, so this is definitely an adjustment. But I think it’s what the curls needed to keep from dragging my face down and aging me  -to be honest, I think I look about 5 years older in the before-the-cut pic. I also think it gave the curls back some of their original bounce and spring, so overall I think it’s an improvement. I also think it’ll look more like “me” when I style it for myself in the morning. He did some things to it when diffusing it dry I wouldn’t have done (like diffusing when it’s too wet, but I get why he would do that since he needed to get me out of his chair and move on to the next customer).
permcollage Crappy iPhone pics, but you get the idea

I’m tempted to like the before shot in the pic above, until I really look at what it does to my face, which is pretty much swallow it. And the curls were getting dragged down by the weight. So I still think the after-cut was the right move, even though all those layers are going to take some getting used to. The whole look, quite honestly, is 180 degrees from any goal I ever had for growing out my hair, and to think I did it so impulsively (if you call thinking about getting a perm for a year before actually doing it impulsively that is) is freaking me out a little. But I don’t regret it; I still have my length and both layers and perms grow out, if nothing else. I will say once I figured out a good routine that styling has been a snap and has never been easier, so there’s always that. So I’m on the right track here, I think, and I’m still glad I went through the whole process. But I can’t wait to wash this crunchiness out of my hair tonight – I don’t know what product he used to get such a Ramen Noodle effect, but believe me, I have loads of other products on-hand now that will work better!


Another Perma-Post: The Perm Summary

So, Day 4 post-perm is over (see part 1 and part 2 of the saga at the links), and so far the hair is a hit. I went to lunch with an old friend on Sunday and didn’t mention the perm at all until right before we parted ways, and she was totally surprised – she said she thought it was just my hair un-blowdried (not a word, sorry). I thought that was a pretty nice compliment.

A little bit of end-frying there, but not bad

On Monday I tried not washing it for a day, but then I went and put way too much extra product in it and it got crunchy and heavy. Total user error there; I am now in the stage of trying to figure out a whole new hair routine so I’m bound to make mistakes. I’ve never been one to go days without washing my hair, it makes me crazy to go every other day even, but I do think it would be better for my hair to wash less frequently, so we’ll see if I can find a way to pull that off now. I read Lorraine Massey’s book Curly Girl years ago (since my hair does have some curl) and tried to follow her “no ‘poo” rules but I just couldn’t swing it, and chalked it up to my hair being so fine and limp that it made it impossible. But maybe I can work some no-‘poo days into my routine now, days where I just cleanse with conditioner and skip the shampoo altogether (hence the phrase “no poo”). Then again, maybe not; one of my friends who used to perm her long hair regularly said she actually felt like she had to shampoo it more, not less, and she regularly goes three or four days without washing hers un-permed.

I was actually using my macro lens for these shots, hence all the close-ups

Other than that, I have been using Moroccan Oil on the ends especially (blog follower Alma suggested Emollient by Aveda, but I didn’t have any on-hand and read online that it was a gloss so I thought this was similar), which has really helped with the frizz. I have two bottles of that stuff based on a friend’s insistence I buy it about a year ago – never had any use for it until now, but it’s been great so far. I also picked up Aussie’s 3-Minute Miracle moisturizer but I haven’t yet that yet, and I’ve been using Framesi’s Curl Shampoo and Conditioner when I do wash it. I put plain old grocery store mousse on it when it’s wet along with the Moroccan Oil, and have tried out various other products just to play around and see what I like.

I’m also trying to figure out what products are best to use and doing a lot of experimentation, so I’ve amassed a little arsenal of bottles to use. Probably I’ll end up sticking with my old favorites, but it’s been kinda fun to try out new things here and there. I haven’t gotten to the “Sea Salt Spray” yet because I’ve read it can be drying (which my hair does not need right now), but it sounded so tasty I had to buy a bottle (hey, remember when there was beer in shampoo? Yep, me too).

…but don’t drink it!

So if I had to sum up the whole hair-perm experience at this point (and I know it’s still too early to do so, but that won’t stop me from trying) I’d recommend the following, if you’re considering one:

  • Go to a stylist who does perms at least semi-regularly, even if that means it isn’t your usual stylist. I went to a guy named Philippe who said most younger stylists don’t know how to do perms since they’ve been out of favor for more than 20 years, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. He did a good job though, and he was 60, so take that with a grain of sea salt. Or not.
  • If the stylist doesn’t insist on a consultation before giving you a perm, run from them. He or she should want to know about the condition of your hair and if it’s been chemically treated recently before jumping in. I called two places to make appointments for perms, and both salons insisted on a consultation before they would book it, so I felt good about going to either place (one could see me sooner than the other though, which is why I went where I did).
  • Having dyed hair does not rule out getting a perm, but talk to the stylist about it, and keep in mind that chemicals from the perm will lighten dyed hair a shade. And bleach is more problematic than plain old hair dye, so be sure to talk to the stylist about your highlights or if you’re a bottle blonde.
  • Be prepared for a shock at first if you’ve not had a perm before or in a long time; I could be wrong but it seems to me that no matter what kind of perm you say you want, there’s a good chance you’re going to look like a poodle initially, so you need to be prepared for that (still not sure mine is ever going to tone down into waves, but in my case, I like it fine as is and am not worried about it. But it’s way curlier than I asked for).
  • Don’t be averse to getting a cut at the same time; Philippe wanted to cut my hair also but I’d just spent $75 on a haircut the week before (then impulsively decided to get the perm a week later) so I insisted he not do this, but – I should have allowed it. My non-perm cut was almost entirely devoid of layers, and post-perm I’m still thinking it’s going to need more shape. So a new cut is in my future. Going from straight to curly will most likely require a different shape, so don’t be too committed to keeping the same exact cut.
  • Don’t judge the perm too quickly! It takes a few days for your hair and your nerves to settle down, so I’d caution against going home and immediately trying to wash the perm out or buying chemicals at Sally’s Beauty Supply to “reverse” it. When reading the Google results for OMG I GOT A PERM AND I HATE IT, I found loads of people recommending immediately washing the hair to “wash the perm out,” and that sounded crazy to me even in my frazzled state. I mean, I wanted the perm, so why would I immediately flush all that money ($125) down the drain just because it didn’t look like I thought it would? I’d recommend giving it at least 2-3 days before attempting to change it, and even then, go see the stylist for help.
  • If it’s your first perm, try to schedule the appointment when you at least have the weekend to hide out and let the hair calm down. I had several days to stay home and acclimate to the new me, and knowing I didn’t have to see anyone else right away really helped calm me down when I went into intermittent freak-out modes.
  • Go back to your stylist in about 4-6 weeks for a trim to get any damaged ends snipped off.
  • Don’t perm it yourself! Go to a salon, unless you know someone who is a trusted stylist and is willing to do it for you. But even then, proceed with caution!

So, did I miss anything? Am I way off the mark with any of this? Let me know if I am, or if there’s anything else we should add.

Here’s one more pic – my skin is WAY over-softened here because I actually was hot when taking these pics and my makeup was melting, so it looked awful in the original and took a lot of work to repair (too much work, I think, but hey, it shows the hair).  Our air conditioner is out on my side of the house so it gets sweltering during the day…getting that looked at Monday night. It’s always something around here!

Too much Photoshop made me look doughy, but still, that’s way better than looking sweaty.

I’ve written a lot more about this whole perm experiment, but it’s too many posts to link. Just type “perm” into the search bar at the top right of this page if you actually want to read more about this for some insane reason.

Got Perm, Will Travel – Part 2

Holy hell, this whole hair-perm thing has been one serious rollercoaster the past few days. I went through an entire romance with this ‘do in the span of a few hours – from love to tearful breakup and total reconciliation in one night. And all it took to set me off was a shower. I actually wrote a whole blog post at each stage too, and am having to re-write it a third time now that the whole cycle is over. Here we go:

I got through Day 2 of the no-shampoo edict that was handed down when I got my perm on Thursday; the hair had calmed down a bit and I was thoroughly enjoying it. Then I went ahead and washed it Saturday evening since it was after the 48-hour time limit and I wanted to start playing around with it to see what it could do – major panic! The ends frizzed up and dried as soon as I got out of the shower, and it appeared to have suffered major damage from the perm. It looked really bad, and I was back in that “OMG I’ve ruined my hair” headspace I was in on Thursday.

Fortunately, I’d stopped off at Ulta Saturday afternoon and picked up a product called “Anti-Snap” by Redken that I had to use when I bleached and fried my hair two years ago; I figured I’d be needing some sort of deep conditioner to use regularly on my perm, I just didn’t know I’d be needing it this soon. In fact, the stylist specifically told me not to deep condition the hair right away, but this looked too bad to leave alone, and fortunately with a little Anti-Snap worked into the damaged ends it looked a bit better.

Taken before the breakup

I don’t mind telling you that the five minutes or so I was staring at all those fried frizzy ends was almost as bad as the first few minutes after I saw myself in the mirror Thursday. I went through a depressing period of considering all I was going to have to do to learn how to work with this new ‘do.  I considered the possibility that I would have to find all new products to use; the stylist put something in it that gave the curls nice definition, but the little bit of mousse and curl cream I applied Saturday night definitely did not do the trick. I began to swim through the internet sea of products available to curly hair currently on the market – the number is somewhere around eight billion I believe – and I began to worry I might spend weeks trying to concoct the proper hair cocktail to get the curls back that had apparently washed down the shower drain, while in the meantime I pulled my newly-permed hair back into a ponytail and prayed for a miracle.

Then I considered the ways I’d need to change my normal hair routine, as my usual one was working against me. I’ve always washed my hair at night and left it alone to air-dry, then styled it in the morning. Because of this, my hair generally looks terrible in the evening after I shower; I just let it go and don’t even put much product in it, so it’s a shapeless mess. I am totally used to this, but it was painful Saturday night looking in the mirror and seeing this big puffbull atop my head, waving back at me like a massive dandelion in a breeze bidding goodbye to it’s previous curl definition. I thought I would probably have to completely change my daily routine and start washing and styling my hair in the morning until my perm grew out to avoid being depressed every night.

And then I started thinking I would probably need to add some layers to my hair to balance out the triangle-shape that was going on too…and just about the time I started regretting the whole thing, I realized it would be easier, and not really all that ridiculous, to go ahead and finish the entire styling process to see what I was really dealing with, even though the the only thing I was going to do was go to bed once I was done, and I would have to do it all again in the morning. And of course, with just a little more product spritzed in it and a blow-dryer shot with a diffuser, it looked great. At least in my opinion.

Photo Jul 05, 11 29 33 PM
I was so excited I stuck my tongue out and it looked terrible, and no way I’m sharing that, sorry.

Overall the curl hasn’t relaxed much and is still very tight, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it tones down a bit more it’ll look more on-trend. Curls in general are making a comeback – or so the magazines say – so in time I can figure out how to work with this and make it more current if I need to do so. Oh and by the way – the stylist did mention that since my hair was dyed back in March, the perm would lighten the color, and that has definitely happened. Not totally thrilled with that, but it was unavoidable. And I really do still think some layers are going to be necessary to make the shape work better with the curl, but that’s not a major deal and can be done without losing much length – I think adding some long layers around the crown area would do it, and I’m supposed to go back to the stylist in 4 to 6 weeks to get the dried ends trimmed off anyway. I’m not going to do that too soon though, so I have time to play around and be certain that it’s what I need to do.

Another one taken before the split-end meltdown – actually, I think you can already see the curls getting a little softer in the photo above

On another note, I am having thoughts about the blog and ways in which I’d like to change it. I’d like to utilize better categories than the ones I have now, since it appears the blog is never going to be solely about art and will always in part discuss things like clothes, hair perms, and other frivolous life-in-generals. I figure I might as well structure the blog that way so it makes more sense instead of labeling everything that isn’t about photography “blog” and letting it all pile up in that category. I’d like to change up the look of it too – it feels so dark to me right now. Lightening it up should be easy; the rest might take awhile, so stay tuned.

You can read another update to the perm adventure here!