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Will the Digital (Asian) Perm Work For You?



Zhang Ziyi showing off her curly tresses.
Jan 4, 04:33 PM

     How do you maintain a sexy celebrity wave, day after day? The hot perm, or more popularly known as the “Digital Perm” has been the recent hair craze among Asian women wanting a hipper alternative to old-world curlers. It’s a sexy, fun and low-maintenance style that can be dressed up or down. But before you go running to the salon and blowing your hard earned cash, be aware that the hot perm isn’t for everyone, and if done incorrectly, can yield unpredictable results.

History Behind the Hot Perm

     The hot perm was initially developed in South Corea, quickly spreading to Japan and gaining massive popularity throughout Asia. The name “Digital Perm” is actually copyrighted by a Japanese company, PAIMORE Co. (which is why many stylists will use alternative names to avoid infringement). Whether it’s referred to as the ionic perm, the Japanese perm, the Korean perm, the spiral perm, the body perm, or the wave perm—they all promise to give you that tousled, beach-hair wave.

Difference Between Hot and Cold Perms

     The major difference between the hot perm and the cold perm process is that while the cold perm technique only uses perm solution, the hot perm uses both perm solution and heat. Hot perms require the curlers to be attached to a computer that can be digitally programmed to heat up to specific temperatures, giving your stylist control over the temperature of the rods, and therefore, control over the curling effect.


The temperature controlled computer used to heat up the hair rods. Photo taken at the New Look Beauty Salon in Seattle, WA.

     The major difference in results between the cold perm and the hot perm is the type of texture and curl it yields. A normal perm is the most curly when the hair is wet, and it loosens as the hair dries. With a normal perm you can achieve tighter, smaller, curls that can start at the top of your head. The digital perm tends to be straighter when hair is wet and curlier as it dries. The curls are usually bigger and cannot be applied to the top of your hair, only the lower half because of the heat process.


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