How To Perm Asian Hair – A Complete Guide

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Asian hair is usually straight, so perming adds the desired wave or curl. This article explores the A-Z of how to perm Asian hair.

How To Perm Asian Hair

Digital perms are one of the top answers to how to perm Asian hair. They are also known as Asian perms and involve temperature-regulated hot rods attached to a machine with a digital display. Digital perms give hair the perfect wash-and-wear texture. The curls look natural and are easier to style.

Also Read: 5 Best Curling Irons for Asian Hair (2022 Buying Guide)

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 is so straight is probably 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’s known is you can’t change your hair type permanently. But if you’re born with straight hair, you can use styling techniques, such as perms, to alter hair structure.

Can You Perm Asian Hair?

A perm is a hairstyle that changes the natural texture of straight hair by adding waves or curls.

The hair is treated with chemicals so that the hairstyle lasts for several months, hence the name perm or permanent wave.

This process is different from relaxing, which uses chemicals to achieve the opposite effect — straighter hair. 

Ideally, perms should be reserved for virgin hair that has not been color-treated. 

That’s because it can cause weak and dry strands.

So the damaging effect would be more pronounced in bleached or dyed hair.

That being said, perms are generally suitable for all hair types, meaning 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.

Also Read: 12 Best Purple Shampoos for Asian Hair

What Is An Asian Perm?

What Is An Asian Perm

An Asian term 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:

  1. Before the procedure, your stylist will typically trim your hair as this produces well-defined curls.
  2. The stylist will then apply a protector, conditioner, and solvent that softens hair and alters its structure.
  3. Your hair is then wrapped around rollers. The rods are attached to the connectors from the machine, and a suitable temperature is set. 
  4. 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?

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?

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.

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 often 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. 

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Dee is the founder of Loved By Curls and in-house Curly Girl expert. She loves natural haircare and has tried and tested her share of CGM products. She's always happy to recommend you her favorites.