Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Fine and normal hair shouldn't have all the fun when it comes to perming -- coarse-haired gals want to get in on the curls and control a perm can give, too. Of course, because coarse hair is so different than hair classified as normal or fine, you have to pick solutions that accommodate its structure. Good ones tend to be alkaline ones with added conditioners, coupled with a loose wave style.
Coarse Hair Defined
To know exactly what perms are good for coarse hair, you've got to grasp what coarse hair is and what sets these manes apart from other hair types. Coarse tresses are flat-out bigger around than fine ones. This gives them a little more strength, but that strength also translates to more stubbornness when you're trying to change the strand's shape through chemical processes such as perming. Additionally, the protein scales of the outermost layer of your strands, the cuticle, don't sit as flat and overlap quite as well. Instead, they look more roughed up. Raised cuticles mean it's way tougher for you to keep the right amount of moisture in your locks -- it's easy to get water in, but water does a magic trick and disappears out of the strands into the air just as easily.
Gals have three major choices for perms. You can grab an acid, alkaline or exothermic one. Generally speaking, acid perms that have glyceryl monothioglycollate are the gentlest on hair because they have a lower pH level, around 5.5 to 7 or so. Exothermic perms don't contain any thioglycolate and usually have a neutral pH, around 7. These perms are good for hair that is weaker and needs some TLC, because they produce their own heat through a chemical reaction. Alkaline perms with ammonium thioglycolate have the highest pH, around 9.5. This means the perm solution does a better job of getting into your hair, softening it and changing the shape of the stands. Because coarse hair is so stubborn, alkaline perms usually are the best pick.
The only bummer about alkaline perms is that, as great as they are for coaxing stubborn, coarse hair into a new shape, they also are the most damaging. They have a real tendency to dry out your mane, which means you'll need to pay more attention than ever to getting moisture back into your hair and protecting it. Once you're to the point where you can wash your hair after perming, use a good conditioner specifically designed for permed hair to keep your hair from getting brittle. Many alkaline perms have conditioning agents added right to the solution, so using these versions will put your hair ahead of the beauty game and keep it in better shape through the perming process.
Alkaline status aside, the best perm for you if you have coarse hair generally is one more on the wavy side. Super tight curls often frizz too much. Not only that, but they add volume you probably don't need because of the size of your strands. The exact perm you should get will depend on factors such as your hair density, face shape, hair length and overall build.