Have You Ever Had a Perm?

Published in: Hair, Just For Fun

Baby Karen had stick-straight hair back in the day…

I have naturally wavy hair now, but I didn’t always. Up until my tweens, my coif was a curtain of stick-straight Asian girl hair.


In all of my childhood pics, I’m rockin’ the same wanna-be Dorothy Hammel hair…except for the year when my grandma went to beauty school at the community college.

That fall she learned how to do perms.

I don’t recall exactly how it went down or whether I protested, but somehow Granny talked my mom into giving both of us perms.

Oh, boy…

I was really young at the time (I think I’d just turned four), so I don’t remember it well, but I do know that in all the Thanksgiving and Christmas pics I have from that year, my mom and I have the same short bowl-cut perm with curls that look a little too tight.

And my mom looks pretty cranky, LOL!

Years later in high school, when spiral perms were all the rage, my best friends Jen and Cindy had them, and I was the only one of us who didn’t.

It was a good time to have wavy hair. Those were the days… Haha! Of course, that all changed in the mid-’90s when straight hair came back with a vengeance, but that’s another story for another time. πŸ™‚

How about you, love? Have you ever had a perm, and how did it turn out? Did you like it enough to do it again? Please share your perm adventures in the comments.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. shannon says:

    I remember my dad giving my brother and I matching perms back in the day! It was horrible, a perm plus my naturally really curly hair was so horrible. My mom snapped a picture of my face when I first saw it too! She keeps it up on the fire place!

  2. M.May says:

    Wow I had a perm back in 2006 during high school, and I really loved it! Everyone was getting their hair straightened, so I got them curled.

    It started really poofy and weird, but after a couple of months, it relaxed into the most gorgeous beach waves. They were waist length and oddly enough, they were super healthy and shiny!

    Ah I miss those days.

  3. Gowthami says:

    I have pretty straight hair !! But i wanna try wavy hair always πŸ˜›
    Gowthami recently posted … Review | Swatches : Coastal Scents 88 Original Colors Eye Shadow Palette

  4. Jane says:

    Omg yes. I had a perm, several actually! It was the 80s, and I guess I didn’t realize I had naturally wavy hair! Oh, I have some pretty sweet pics. Sounds like primo idea for Instagram #permpics πŸ˜‰

  5. Jenny S. says:

    Ha! Yes! My hair was SO long that they had to piggyback the perm rods. When it came time for me to sit under the dryer, they had to push it over ALL of the rods. Wow, the 80’s…lol.

  6. Nicole says:

    Erm, I got a perm when I was 7 years old. I begged my parents for ages until they finally caved. What was I thinking, I didn’t know how to take care of permed hair.

    It lasted for all of three months:)
    Nicole recently posted … The gods smiled upon me with their latest revelation


    My mother was a hairdresser so I can remember her giving me a perm as early as middle school. It was horrible.

  8. πŸ˜€ That picture is so adorable!

    I never had a perm. My hair is really straight and holds curl really poorly.
    Kiss & Make-up recently posted … Preview | new Dr. Hauschka bath milk & bath oil

  9. grlnxdor says:

    I had the permed mullet back in the 90’s. My kids were little and everyone else in the Midwest had a perm too. It fit my active lifestyle at the time–taking the kids to the pool or beach and swimming with them. Looking back at the pictures is kinda scary. My daughter is a hair stylist now, so she is always critical of both perms and mullets. I could get 6 months out of the perm and it kept getting better every time it was trimmed! Not sure if I would ever do that again.

  10. Sarah says:

    I permed my hair twice in high school. I loved the curly style but once my stick-straight hair grew out a little I’d have to cut my hair really short so it would look normal again. I’d definitely consider getting a light perm again just to add a bit of wave to my hair.

  11. Lisa S. says:

    Oh God Yes! I had long permed hair all the way through the 90’s and early 2000’s. One of my perm adventures was the spiral perm. They had so many rods in my hair they couldn’t rinse it the normal way with my head back so I had to kneel in the chair with my head over the rinse bowl! Sometime about 2001 I said enough was enough and let my straight hair finally see the light of day. I haven’t gone back!

  12. Amy says:

    I’ve never had a perm! Not too sad I missed that trend…
    I have wavy hair that usually doesn’t work without help. I have to push it one way or another (to straight or to decidedly curly). I did have a bad haircut experience in the 2nd grade with the notorious mullet. Never. Again.

  13. Danielle says:

    Great post! I had a perm in high school. And I actually have naturally curly hair, but my hairdresser at the time claimed that a perm would help calm my curls. Honesty, I didn’t notice much difference. Maybe my hair was a bit more wild. I would never do it again, though.
    Danielle recently posted … Birchbox August 2013

  14. Elena says:

    I was born in the late 80’s so I luckily skipped the 80’s perm craziness. My mom has beautiful curly hair but mine is that stupid middle point where it’s not either wavy not can remain undone. When I was in my early teens I thought of having a perm after watching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s villain with huge curls. Ha!

  15. Laure says:

    I’ve never had a perm, but, Karen, I’m so excited that we’re hair sisters! πŸ˜€ I also had really straight hair as a child that turned wavy in my teens.

  16. Stephanie says:

    I have naturally wavy hair when I wear it up. If I leave it down and let it air dry, I have spiral curls. Both my grandma and Mom have curly hair, so I think we know which side of the family I got it from!

    Going to be a good day today though…I have a new Nars lip pencil to wear!

  17. Tara says:

    I had a spiral perm too. I remember we did the overnight process and I couldn’t lay down with all the rollers in my head. It turned out cute, but I never did it again. Oddly enough, after I had my kids I had a great head of wavy hair. The minute I stopped breastfeeding, it went straight again. Now I just have one weird bump in the back of my hair.

  18. Noga says:

    Never had a perm… never had to when I was younger – I had a crazy Jew-fro going on πŸ˜€ Once I hit high school though it turned wavy.
    So glad to see I’m not the only one who’s hair changed with time! My grandma still blames me for ruining my hair, though I keep telling her it changed on its own!

  19. Maegan Morin says:

    I had a perm when I was in the 5th grade and honestly it was cute and doll like but heck no I would never get a perm again lol.

  20. Dominique says:

    Baby Karen πŸ™‚ Yes I once but now I am allergic to some products so I will never do it again. I have some Russian and Indian blood so my hair is, well, so electric, strong but very electric.

  21. Maggie says:

    Nope, never had a perm. I get tempted whenever I see my friend’s long glossy and slightly wavy locks. But then, I remember the perms my grandmother and my mom used to have and that’s usually enough for me to nix the idea. My hair is as low maintenance as preferred and I think a perm would change that. Not messing with a good thing…

  22. Chelsea says:

    No perms here! My hair has looked basically the same for about 13 years (half my life!). Long, red, middle parted, stick-straight, although I’ve gotten layers added in at various points, and the length has varied a bit, but never shorter than shoulder length. It was down to my waist at one point too.

    I like the way I look with curly hair, but my hair doesn’t do curly.

  23. Colleen says:

    You are adorable! Love your blog! Thank you for the great reviews and the fun throwbacks. And of course, Tabs!

  24. Minsooky says:

    You know those bowl cuts Asian kids always get as a kid? I had that. THEN my mom permed it. I had a freaking Asian afro! Really made 5th grade a rough experience…
    Minsooky recently posted … False Eyelashes With Just Mascara? L’Oreal Voluminous Waterproof False Fiber Lashes [REVIEW]

  25. Barbara says:

    Had perms in the late 80s and early 90s. My husband hated the perm solution smell after I had it done. I too am now allergic and my scalp probably couldn’t take it anymore. Lucky for me straight hair came into fashion!

  26. Miranda Ledbetter says:

    When I was younger, I had board straight, long, thick hair. I decided I wanted an “in style” hair cut, but my mom said “No!”. She and my dad went out of town for the weekend and my (favorite) grandma decided it was MY hair and I could do what I wanted with it, so she let me get my hair-down-to-my-butt, cut barely below my shoulders in a MULLET! I was horrified and my mom was beyond mad. It looked awful and we decided a perm would help. Only, my right side didn’t take the curl, while my left side OVER curled. My hair was doomed for months. I’ve never permed again!!

  27. Mandy Sark says:

    I had a perm in the 6th grade. I have naturally curly/wavy hair, but I wanted those tight spiral curls (1992) so for my 12th birthday my aunt, who also took some cosmetology classes, permed my hair. It was a frizzy mess. I have not been tempted since.

  28. Joy says:

    I have sausage curls, or spirals about the diameter of a nickel. But I have gotten a perm twice. When I was little I was scared of the hairdressers — coming at my ears with scissors. My ears are already on the small side and I didn’t want to lose them. So when I was five, my mom told me I was going to get my mid-back length hair trimmed after lunch. So while she was cleaning up and doing dishes, I went into the bathroom to trim my own hair. Honestly, I did really well on it until I got to an inch wide spot at the back of my neck. And cut the hair pretty much right at the nape. Yeah. So instead of a trim, I ended up getting a hair cut, up to my chin. Oh, but it’s 1985 so it’ll look much better permed. Yeah…

    But then earlier this year I was getting tired of my thin hair and the unevenness of my curls. Like, if I straighten it, two pieces will curl regardless and the fairy hair around my face goes into ringlets. But if I take the time to put in cream and diffuse it, two pieces will go straight. And if I do nothing, it just looks stringy because its trying to curl. So my hairdresser, who I completely trust, suggested doing a perm. We matched it exactly to my natural curl. No one even noticed. My husband just asked if it was that humid out. But at last my hair just behaves, and looks fuller. πŸ™‚

  29. Nichole says:

    When i saw your baby pic, i couldnt help but fist my hands up to my
    Cheeks and say awwww, you are adorable! πŸ™‚

  30. Brianna says:

    Omg, baby Karen is so cute!!!
    I totally had an awful perm my dad made me get when I was like 10. He thought it would help tame my tangled mess of hair. . .How that made sense to him I will never know! lol.

  31. Kim says:

    Oh, heck yeah to the spiral perm. It’s funny because now I think “why didn’t I just dry with a diffuser?”. My hair has enough curl to do that pretty easily. I think the answer must have been that I didn’t know what a diffuser was until late high school and, by then, I already had the perm! πŸ™‚ Things are so much easier for young girls today. The internet is always available for beauty tips and knowledge!

  32. Natalye says:

    When I was in the 8th grade I used to have frizzy puffy wavy hair and I decided to get a straight perm and I loved it. I’ve done it about three more times since then but I recently decided to stop doing it because I like my hair now, it’s curly and definitely more tame lol.

  33. Hanna says:

    I hate the look of perms. It seems like they never turn out right it seems. I used to think about it but I’ve grown to accept my hair.
    Hanna recently posted … Freshman Year Has Matured Me

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