I have been addicted to this technologically advanced version of the perm since I went to Tokyo over a year ago and now I can't see myself ever going back to the stubbornly stick straight hair that I've had my whole life. For all of you who have tried every type of hairspray, curling iron, hot curlers, wax, and curling product out there, this is the true method that will actually work and allow you to have naturally looking waves everyday (obviously I am a huge convert). The Japanese digital perm is much different from the stinky perms of the 80's. It involves multiple steps that I have finally deciphered, since none of the hairstylists I've been to have spoken English.(Before: my hair is super duper straight)
- haircut. The extremely important first step is a layered haircut, which thins out the bulk of your hair to avoid the excessive volume that was caused by 80's perms (I call it the unfortunate "triangle look"). I'm wary of layers, but in the end it is barely noticeable and just makes the curls more natural looking.
- heat-activated conditioner. A chemical conditioner is painted into your hair in small sections over your entire head and left to saturate each strand for a length of time.
- wash. The conditioner is washed out.
- curlers. Your hair is rolled up into large heavy curlers that each have an outlet for an electrical connection on the end.
- heat-activation. A foam insulation pad is inserted between the curlers and your head to avoid burns and each curlers is plugged into a central station. This is the craziest part because your head weighs a ton and you feel like your hair is being cooked by a robot.
- relaxer. The curlers do their job and then they are removed. Your hair will be super duper curly in tight ringlets...but don't be scared, this is not how your hair will stay! To create the loose curl look your hair will be saturated with a relaxer.
- blow dry. After the relaxer is washed out, your hairdresser will teach you how to properly blowdry your curls so they look beautiful.
(After: this is my first perm in Japan when my hair was shorter.)
One of the main differences between the digital perm and the regular chemical perm is the heat activation process. After your perm is completed, your curls will be re-activated by heat instead of water. There is a special method for blow-drying your hair and shaping the curls with your hand to create the exact loose wave look that you desire. The process is also very programmable (literally, since it is electronic) so they can tailor each perm to match the exact size and tightness of curls that you are looking for.
The entire process takes at last three hours, but the curls don't really fall out...they basically stay until your hair grows out so I re-perm every six months. The price is fairly high at about $175-200 for the perm plus around $60 for the cut, but I think that it is completely worth it.
To get a digital perm in the U.S. you will need to find a Japanese or Korean hair salon. If you live in New York, I highly recommend Kiwa Salon on the F.I.T. campus on 27th St b/w 7 and 8 Ave. Make an appointment with Tany. If you are interested in going to Kiwa, let me know and I will get you a discount since I am a regular customer.
UPDATE: I already had a lot of responses for the discount and gave out my new customer discount cards! Sorry to those of you who have contacted me. I am trying to get in touch with Kiwa to see if they can give a discount to more people and I will post if I figure it out. Sorry!