Perm and colour – the perfect match?

by | 29 Mar 2018

Break out your banana clips and scrunchies (even your shoulder pads), because perms are making a comeback. But with the increase in clients asking for perms, where does colour fit into the scenario?

Check out LA celebs on Instagram and you’ll have seen all the recent perm love – Emma Stone, Olivia Munn and Jaime King rocking modern, beachy takes on the ’80s classic admittedly, but still PERMS! But if we’re about to see more clients embrace the curl, what do you need to know about slotting in colour?

As the perm evolves into something more gentle and altogether softer, clients are slowly coming round to the idea of curling their hair once more. “There has been a phenomenal rise in the amount of perms we do in the salon,” says Karine Jackson, owner of Karine Jackson Hair. “I’d say roughly it’s about 30 perms a week. In 2005, we did 30 perms for the whole year.”

Hair: Karine Jackson

Colour on top of a perm was always a cause for concern as both can damage the hair, so as if we’re seeing a rise in perms, is colour about to fall behind?

“The perm is kinder on hair now than it was back in the ’80s,” says Dale Hollinshead, owner of Hazel & Haydn. “It’s come a long way over the years, allowing us to work more creativity and with the ability to combine colour to enhance the finished perm.”

Janet Maitland, from Janet Maitland Hair Excellence, agrees: “The products are far superior than before, so it’s much easier to reduce any damage. It’s always a good investment to stock a really high-quality perming product, such as Schwarzkopf Professional’s Natural Styling Glamour Wave, which I have always had fantastic results from.”

With improved perm technology, comes better condition of the hair, so clients scared of both shouldn’t be, especially with improved colour products, such as bonding additives. Dale uses Smartbond from L’Oréal Professionnel and is “able to protect the hair more than we’ve ever been able to”.

Karine Jackson also recommends a pre-treatment and the perm they use is organic with no ammonia, which “means it isn’t as strong and in turn is kinder to the hair”, she explains.

Tom from Neville Hair and Beauty

Neville Hair & Beauty has recently introduced a new perm service, but senior colourist Tom Cruickshank still wouldn’t recommend it to all clients. “The perm is a chemical process, regardless of whether it is modern or the ’80s perm there is still a procedure to follow and not everyone is a candidate. I would not recommend it to people who suffer from damaged and pre-lightened hair.”

Colour has moved on since the perm

The difficulty that Sharon Peake, from Ethos Hairdressing, has noticed is that they’re now dealing with complicated colours, leading to dealing with extreme differences of hair strength and porosity.

“This is a problem when it comes to choosing one perm solution for the whole head,” says Sharon. “The other problem is that there is no training in perming at colleges.”

Anne Veck has also found this to be a problem problem. “Although products are better and less harmful to the hair, it is still a perm that breaks about 20 to 30 per cent of Cysteine bonds. And because we do a lot more extreme colour using bleach, clients now must choose between perm and colour. I wouldn’t perm hair on someone who has bleach or more than 30 per cent blonde highlights,” she says.

Damage levels aside, the one thing all colourists agree on is that the colour should always happen after the perm.

“Perms can fade colour so I would recommend perming the hair first then colouring it, leaving two weeks in between,” says Neville’s Tom.

Kai Wan, from PKai Hair, also believes a colour should mainly happen after a perm, he does allow dispensations, especially for root regrowth. “If there is a lot of growth at the roots, do the colour before the perm, as it’s always best to work with an even canvas,” explains Kai.

But what about colouring and perming the hair at the same time?

Jack Howard at Paul Edmonds London has devised the Permage – a wavy, lightened summer hair look where he simultaneously perms and lightens the hair around the face.

Hair: Jack Howard

“This new modern way to perm gives a really gentle wave, which lasts for six to eight weeks and by colouring at the same time we can frame the face for really gorgeous beach-inspired hair,” says Jack.

Jack used Curlformers to perm the hair, as well as added L’Oréal Professionnel’s Smartbond during the colouring process to keep the hair strong.


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