I have gotten so many questions about my digital perm that I've decided to do another post to try to offer interested perm enthusiasts some more info. Please post any more questions you have that I might not have answered and let me know if you have any Japanese salon recommendations in the U.S.!
I don't know why this type of perm isn't being done everywhere, but unfortunately it's not, which means that it's still pretty difficult to find a salon that offers this service...
Q: Can I wear my hair straight after I get a digital perm?
A: Yes, definitely! If you want your hair straight, really all you have to do is brush it. The curls are so loose and bouncy that they can easily be brushed out to straighten them. If you want super straight hair, just use a flat iron and your hair will be straight until you wash it again.
Speaking of brushing, I actually don't own a brush anymore since I only wear my hair in loose curls. I use a good strong conditioner, finger comb it when I first get out of the shower, and then no more brushing because they will pull the curls out...I actually love it!
Q: Where did you get your digital perm done in Japan?
A: I had my first digital perm ever in Harajuku in Tokyo at Anny Hair, although I'm sure that most salons on the same street will have talented stylists who know all about the digital perm. I recommend flipping through their many magazines to pick out an image that shows exactly the level of "curliness" that you want in your hair since the digital perm will be designed specifically for your style. The stylists I worked with at Anny Hair is no longer there, but I still recommend it!
Q: Where can I get a digital perm in the U.S.?
A: In New York, I used to go to Tany at Kiwa Salon (234 W. 27th St, 212.620.3846)
In San Francisco I go to Mr Kudo at Arty Salon (1680 Post St, 2nd Flr, 415.931.4405)
If you don't live near NY or SF you should find a Japanese or Korean hair salon in your area and call to ask them if they do digital perms. If they don't, they might have another similar perm service that works well on Asian hair that could have a similar look...
Q: What type of hair does a digital perm work on? Does it only work on Japanese hair?
A: I asked Mr. Kudo at Arty about this and he said that he has tried the digital perm on a caucasian client and wasn't able to get the perm to work. According to Mr. Kudo, the digital perm was invented by performing experiments specifically on Japanese hair and the entire process was designed around this. I am half-Japanese and Mr. Kudo had some difficulty on my first visit because he had to adjust the design of my perm to work on my type of hair. You will notice that analysis of your hair is a very important part of getting the digital perm.
So the bad news is that unfortunately I haven't heard of any salons being able to master the digital perm on non-Asian hair...but hopefully there are some experiments in the works...
Q: How do you style loose curls and what products do you use?
A: Every girl with a digital perm probably has mastered her own special technique for getting her curls to look perfect. Here is my daily method that I learned from Tany in New York:
- When hair is wet, apply some sort of anti-frizz serum and finger comb through hair. I use Kerastase Oleo-Relax. Like I mentioned before, I don't actually use a brush or comb because I think it pulls out the curls.
- Separate the hair into about 5-6 sections and twist using your fingers (in that ditzy schoolgirl kind of way...)
- For a naturally curly wavy look, I just apply a curl enhancing gel and let it air dry. I don't really have a favorite curl gel yet (give me recs if you have any!), but right now I'm using Garnier Fructise Curl Shaping Spray Gel and it seems to be doing the trick without being too sticky or stiff. I found a list on Elle.com of the Best Products for Curly Hair, so I will probably try some of those next.
- For a loose bouncy curls look (I call it my "Hills hair" because I feel like those girls always have professionally curled bouncy hair at all hours of the day) I blow dry the twisted sections. Start by drying the roots of your hair for just a few minutes and then blow each section dry while constantly twisting the hair around your fingers to keep the curled shape. I also twist the hair and then cup it in my hand (like a squished spring) and blow dry that way for awhile. Try to keep twisting the hair to keep it curled while also separating the sections a little to dry all the hairs in the section.
- To finish off the bouncy curls I use Nigelle Contrastmove Wax, but any fiber wax will work. If you haven't used a fiber wax before it's more like clay than regular hair wax and it's not greasy. Rub the wax on your fingers and then use it to shape the curls, especially the ends.
Q: How long does the perm last?
A: I get a perm probably about twice a year, but I think the hair stylists recommend that you come in every 4 months. The perm is fairly pricey ($150-$250) and takes a good chunk of time (3-4 hrs), which is why I stretch it to 5-6 months. Even though the perm starts to straighten a little after awhile, I would say that it never really goes away like the old perms did. The reason I end up going back to get a new perm is more because my hair has grown out than because my hair is straight again. But if you get sick of the wavy hair, you can always just brush it out and it will be straight.
Q: What if I don't want a layered haircut?
A: Then you shouldn't get a digital perm. The stylists who perform the digital perm treatments consider the specific haircut that is paired with the perm as a very important part of the process. If you don't want your hair greatly thinned out and layered, then you probably want to talk to the stylist about getting a different type of perm. I was very nervous about the massive amount of thinning the first time (I am used to having tons of hair and suddenly my ponytail was super skinny!) but it works perfectly with the curls and ensures that you don't get an 80's style frizz puff ball triangle head.
Any more questions?? Let me know...