Seven Types of Natural Hair Alternatives to Perms

Have a stylist or friend help you with the time-consuming task of braiding or dreading your hair.

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Sick of shelling out all your money to feed the never-ending perm cycle? Break free by embracing what your mama gave you! You don’t have to feel limited by your hair’s natural texture: in fact, there are endless variations on what you can do to keep your look exciting without subjecting it to harmful chemicals. Try one (or all!) of these seven healthier alternatives to perming. Your hair will thank you for it!

Au Naturale

Whether you’re a former hair relaxer enthusiast or you’ve been using perms to create curls in limp hair, give your natural look a try. For ladies with coarse, curly hair, chop your hair down to a one- or two-inch ‘fro for a fresh start. If you’re switching from a curly perm back to your naturally straight strands, use a flat iron to balance out your look as it transitions -- or chop off those permed strands and rock a close-cropped pixie cut! In both cases, use conditioner regularly to keep your hair strong and soft.


Dreads, which used to carry a stigma in mainstream culture, are slowly becoming more acceptable. They’re great for making thick, wiry or super-curly hair more manageable. And once they’ve “locked” in place (it can take months or years), you’ll no longer have to fret over weather-induced frizz.


Braids (three strands of hair woven together) can be as thin as twine or thick as dreadlocks. Whichever variety you choose, braids are more versatile than dreads because you can have them undone if you want to try a new hairstyle. However, don’t leave them in longer than your stylist recommends, or they may transform into dreadlocks!


Twists are like braids, except with two strands of hair instead of three. They’re often used as a method for dreadlocking, but they can work as a cute style on their own. Simply take a small area of hair, divide it into two sections, and twist one strand around the other. Secure it in place with pomade or gel.


Cornrows can be sporty, funky or elegant — and though you probably know a guy or two who wears them, they’re totally chic on ladies, too. Cornrows are very tight braids that lie flat against the scalp. They’re great for taming very short hair, or for serving as a base for extensions or weaves.

Hot Curls

Using a curling iron to shape your tresses is sure to fire up your style. Let your hair dry naturally to keep frizz away, then set your curling iron to medium heat. Holding the iron vertically, insert it in a one-inch section of hair, twist it and pull it through your hair slowly to create a controlled curl.

Cool Curls

Heat isn’t a requirement when it comes to curling your strands. Spend a couple extra minutes at night braiding damp tresses, and then wear a cap to sleep to keep friction at bay. When you wake up, unravel your braids for a head full of luscious waves.

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