Although Asian hair is very straight, it is surprisingly suitable for perming. In this article I provide you with the exact steps you need to follow to perm Asian hair at home and go from straight to curly!
Why Is Asian Hair So Straight?
Asian hair is relatively straight compared to Caucasian hair and African hair.
According to genetic studies, hair in the Asian population tends to be straight and round with black or brown pigmentation.
But not all Asians have straight tresses since some have naturally curly or wavy hair.
The main reason Asian hair why Asian hair is straight is then down to genetics and evolution.
However, it’s important to note that there has not been enough scientific research to explain why Asian hair is predominantly straight.
What is known, is that Asian hair is stronger compared to Caucasian hair and can therefore easier withstand damage from heat tools and chemical dyes.
Can You Perm Asian Hair?
Perms are generally suitable for all hair types, so yes, you can perm Asian hair.
As a matter of fact, Asian hair appears to be the perfect candidate for perms.
That’s because Asian hair exhibits better stability and strength compared to African or Caucasian hair.
Besides the fact that it contains more cuticle layers, the cuticle layers in Asian hair are wider, thicker, and more tightly packed.
Since the cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair responsible for protecting the inner protein layers from damage, this means Asian hair could be potentially more resilient when permed.
The thick cuticle layer contributes to the diameter of Asian hair strands and helps minimize breakage.
Considering going from straight to curly? Check out these benefits of perming your hair.
How to perm Asian hair at home – easy guide
Although there are many perm kits available to buy, they all more or less follow the same application process.
First, you need to choose your waving lotion (perm solution).
Waving lotions can be either alkaline or acidic and its vital that you choose one based on your hair type.
For Asian hair, choose an alkaline lotion.
The waving lotion works by breaking down the bonds that give you your hair pattern and an acid-based lotion may be too weak for Asian hair. This could cause the perm to lose the curls after a few weeks.
Now let’s get to it.
What you need
- Perm kit (waving lotion and neutralizer)
- Spray bottle (for water)
- Reinforced salon cotton coil
- Perm rods
- Perm papers
- Microfiber Towel or t-shirt
- Clips/hair ties
Step 1. Prep Your Hair
Wash your hair with a pre-perm or clarifying shampoo and then brush your hair.
It is important that your hair is free from build-up, oil and dirt before you begin the perming process so make sure your hair is clean.
Don’t dry your hair completely. Wrap it in a microfiber towel or a t-shirt to keep it damp.
Step 2. Section Hair
Sectioning your hair will make the process much easier.
Create a partition on your left, right, and middle side. Tie these up into three separate buns so you can work with them easily whilst wrapping each hair piece around the perm rod.
Choose one partition and take a small section of hair and perm paper and place your perm paper on top and fold around the hair section at the ends.
Then grab a perm rod and begin to wrap your hair around it, from the ends up to your roots.
Repeat this process several times on all the hair within the partitioned section.
Finally, rip off a large piece of the cotton coil and place it around the edge of your hair from ear to ear. This is to protect your skin from the perming solution.
Step 3. Prep The Perm Solution
Put on your gloves and wrap a towel around your shoulders.
Check your perm solution/waving lotion for instructions on whether you need to mix solutions together or if the lotion can be used straight from the box.
Mix the perm solution as per the instructions.
Step 4. Apply Perm Solution
You’re now ready to begin the process.
Prick the tip of the bottle cap so that the waving lotion can be distributed evenly.
Apply the solution onto each rod using repeated slow, circular motions. Make sure you cover each rod carefully and try not to miss any areas.
Let the product sit on your hair for around 5 minutes, then unravel one rod to see if your hair has started creating an S shape curl. If not, let the solution sit on for 3 minutes longer. Then check every 2 minutes to see if the curl has taken shape.
Don’t let it sit on for longer than recommended and don’t wait the full 15 minutes before you check. If after 5-10 minutes a section of hair is showing an S shape, you’re done.
Once you’re happy with the curls, rinse your hair for about 3 minutes with the rods still in your hair.
Step 5. Apply The Neutralizer
Like you did with the waving lotion, puncture a hole in the neutralizer bottle cap and apply the lotion in the same way using circular motions. Check the instructions for the wait time and follow these.
Then rinse off the neutralizer for around 3 minutes.
Step 6. Dry Your Hair And Remove Rods
You are now almost ready to reveal your curls!
Let your hair dry naturally or if you’re in a rush, you can use a blow dryer. Just be careful to not use in on high heat and maximum setting.
Wait for your hair to dry one last time, and remove the rods to reveal your curls. You can use a blow dryer too, but be careful not to use excessively high heat. Your hair is already very fragile at this point, so be as gentle as you can.
Once your hair is dry, remove the rods and run your fingers through your hair.
And you’re done!
Avoid combing, brushing or styling your hair for around a week and you should wait 48-36 hours before washing it again.
For better results, use a silk or satin scarf when sleeping. This will protect your curls from friction caused by the pillow.
Tips For Perming Asian Hair At Home
Make sure you follow these tips to ensure the best at-home perming treatment when it comes to Asian hair:
- Use an alkaline-based lotion with normal strength
- Go a rod size or two smaller than the curl you want
- Clarify hair before perming
- Use pre-perm or detoxing shampoo before perming
- Wind hair tightly in clean sections
Blot hair with kitchen towel before rinsing off the waving lotion
- Be prepared for your hair to feel very different. Permed hair is very porous straight after a perm so it may feel damaged and frizzy. This will settle within a week.
- Don’t use a straightening iron or curling tongs for at least a month. Heated rollers are OK
- Practice on perm rods before committing if this is your first time
Make sure you have an after-perm hair care routine in place.
What About Asian Perms?
An Asian perm is also called a digital perm.
It involves using temperature-controlled electric rods that connect to a machine with a digital display.
As the term suggests, an Asian perm originated from Asia and is still a popular trend in Korea and Japan.
In a nutshell, the digital perm gives hair long-term curls that are soft and delicate. Here’s a breakdown of how the digital perm works to recondition your hair thermally:
- Before the procedure, your stylist will typically trim your hair as this produces well-defined curls.
- The stylist will then apply a protector, conditioner, and solvent that softens hair and alters its structure.
- Your hair is then wrapped around rollers. The rods are attached to the connectors from the machine, and a suitable temperature is set.
- More chemicals are then applied to lock the curls into place. The whole procedure takes roughly three hours or more.
Asian perms can further be differentiated into Korean perms and Japanese perms.
Japanese perms create more natural waves and lighter curls, while Korean perms produce heavier curls that are more voluminous and defined.
What Is The Difference Between A Cold Perm And An Asian Perm?
A cold perm and an Asian perm can help you achieve your desired curl or wave if you have straight hair.
However, with a cold perm, the curls tend to be more defined when the hair is wet or moist and looser when hair dries.
In contrast, a Digi-perm produces curls that are more noticeable when the hair is dry. That means the curls are tighter when the hair is dry, making them easy to maintain.
This look is achieved by applying a chemical to break down hair bonds.
The hair is first sectioned and curled with perm rods, and curlers are connected to a machine with a digital display for time and temperature regulation.
With a cold perm, an alkaline solution breaks down hair bonds while the hair is wrapped around perm rods. Unlike the Asian perm, the cold perm doesn’t involve heat, hence the name.
Pros Of Asian Perm
- Gives a more natural and perfect blowout
- Easier to maintain
- Lasts longer
Cons Of Asian Perm
- Not suitable for all hair types – more ideal for thick, healthy hair
- More expensive than cold perms
- The process takes longer than traditional perms.
- May not produce enough volume because the heated curlers can’t get too close to the scalp
Pros Of Cold Perm
- The procedure can be done quickly
- Cheaper than Asian perms
- Can create more defined, bouncy curls with volume
Cons Of Cold Perm
- Requires more maintenance
- Curls don’t look as natural
- May require more styling products
- May not last as long
How Long Does An Asian Perm Last?
Generally, Asian perms can last up to six months.
However, if your hair is colored or damaged, the hair perm might not last as long. For that reason, it is also not recommended that you dye and perm your hair on the same day.
These tips will help ensure your Asian perm stays in place for longer:
- Before the procedure, use a clarifying shampoo to remove product buildup that can prevent your hair from setting properly.
- It’s essential to work with a stylist that has experience with Asian perms and can produce the right amount of curl or wave using the proper chemicals.
- Perms tend to loosen up over time, so starting with smaller rods that create a pronounced wave pattern is better. That way, you won’t lose the curls quickly. Instead, the curls will still look more natural after the perm relaxes. However, you can still use larger rods to achieve tousled and beautiful beachy waves.
- Ensure your hair remains dry and untouched in the first 48 hours after the process. In some instances, waiting up to 72 hours before washing your hair gives you even better results since the curls have more time to set.
- Use the right hair products. Find a shampoo and conditioner formulated for curly hair and avoid anything containing alcohol or silicone.
- Avoid heat styling tools as this will break down the bonds in your hair and wreck your perm.
- Avoid chlorinated water, and keep in mind that too much humidity will lead to frizz.
How Much Does An Asian Perm Cost?
As mentioned, Asian perms usually cost more than traditional perms.
This is probably because the process takes longer and is more labor-intensive.
It also requires a machine for temperature and time control. However, the exact price of an Asian perm is challenging to nail down.
It depends on the salon you go to, the stylist you choose, and your location.
That means estimates vary a lot. For example, you may hear that Asian perms cost around $50-$150 on the low end or $250-$400 on the high end.
Does An Asian Perm Damage Your Hair?
An Asian or digital perm is a chemical process that also requires the application of heat to alter your hair’s structure.
Unfortunately, that means your hair does get damaged.
That’s why Asian perms are ofte
n not recommended for bleached and damaged hair.
Using a strong chemical solution on bleached hair will severely damage your hair, and you may not achieve the desired look.
But if you have healthy hair, you can work with an experienced stylist to minimize hair damage. The stylist can pre-treat your hair to prevent damage.
Also, the fact that an Asian perm involves temperature control can help reduce damage.
The good news is since the perm lasts up to six months, you’ll only have to perm twice a year to maintain the look, which minimizes damage.
Be sure you moisturize your hair to counteract frizz and the drying effect caused by the perm. Regularly moisturizing will keep your hair hydrated and healthy.
Disclaimer: This site is not intended to provide professional or medical advice. All of the content on LovedByCurls.com is for informational purposes only. All advice should be followed at your own discretion. Ingredients may change at any time so always check the product label before using. Check our full disclaimer policy here.
Dee has been following the Curly Girl Method for over four years and is our in-house Curly Girl expert. She has a keen interest in natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She has a photographic memory of most sulfate and silicone-free hair products available on the high street and she’s always happy to recommend you her favorites.