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You’re about to get big news: Every permanent wave on the planet can produce wash and wear hair -- why else would you subject your scalp to all those chemicals? Fact is, the idea of “wash and wear” anything is pure marketing hype and can apply to everything from duds to curls. But there are several things you can do to turn an ordinary perm into the no-fuss hairdo you crave, and these things have absolutely nothing to do with the stuff in the box that produced those carefree curls.
Once Upon a Perm
Back in the day, girls with straight hair used weird recipes to curl their hair, most of them passed down through generations. The result: curls for a short time, but no long-term solution. During the early 1930s, a permanent wave machine that resembled a metal octopus on steroids was invented, and a few years later, Karl Nessler invented the first alkali-based perm requiring brass-heated rollers to set ringlets. Arnold F. Willatt formulated an ammonia-based “cold wave” requiring no heat during the same decade.
Early Perms Weren’t Always Wash and Wear
Back in Grandma’s day, women continued to set their hair to keep it looking styled even after getting perms, until hair cutters began educating women about the benefits of the right haircut. These days, a girl in search of wash and wear hair understands that she needs the right haircut to maintain her perm, but even a great cut may not mean that you can abandon your styling tools. According to celebrity hairdresser Trevor Sorbie, even the best perms need more help. He insists, “the best way to get that sexy just-out-of-bed look is to use heated tongs.”
The Right Perm
Choosing a perm is like choosing a guy, who needs to look great, stick around and treat you right. Advertising and store displays take aim at your vanity and pocketbook, so when you choose a perm, do your homework. Go with an alkaline product if your hair is coarse or thick, a true acid wave if you worry about porous or damaged tresses, an acid-balanced perm for hair requiring a gentle but firm curl. Or choose an exothermic wave, a new product that never met coarse hair it didn’t love. Research other perm types – ammonia-free, thio-free and low-pH, for example. Choose the right one and your chances of winding up with wash and wear curls increase.
The Right Rod
Getting wash and wear curls can depend on the rods used during the permanent wave process. Opt for rods with small barrels to create curls for the duration of your perm if your hair requires a tight wrap. If you want spiral curls, use a larger rod to set the wave. Remember, too, that the curls you roll are the curls you get: using too few rods or wrapping too many hairs around a single rod could result in messy curls that require styling tools for the duration of the perm. Perfectly rolled curls on the right size rods can turn you into a wash and wear queen.
Obey All the Rules
Perhaps you couldn’t get off the phone in time to pull those rods when the timer went off last time you permed, or your hair was in no shape to be permed in the first place. Stow your expectations if you don’t follow package instructions and recommendations to the letter, because ignoring directions can prevent you from enjoying the wash and wear freedom you crave. Apply due diligence to important rules such as waiting 48 hours after the perm to shampoo and always using conditioning products that keep your curls bouncy and easy to maintain.