Perms are among the most-requested chemical treatments in salons today, providing a range of stylish, low maintenance makeovers for the stylish Singaporean. But as with all artistic endeavours, there is a possibility that it turns out picture-perfect, garnering you all that double-taps on your IG but it could very well go the other way and get you looking unkempt and dishevelled with dry and frizzy hair.
That's why choosing the right stylist is SO IMPORTANT. Top perm specialists are so experienced with perms that they know exactly what to do to make sure that 90% of their perms turn out amazing.
Read on to find out what they are and check if your stylist do the same.
What looks beautiful to me may not necessarily appeal to you. It is hence important for stylists to perform a thorough consultation for all their customers to find out what exactly they're looking for and customize the perm accordingly. A first timer to perms may request for loose waves for fear of looking "auntie" while another may want the curls to be tighter if they perm only once a year. Getting the expectations right is the first step towards a great perm.
Beyond that, a meticulous stylist should also take the time to check your hair condition. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that healthy hair produces the bounciest lustrous curls. To be honest though, all of our hair is damaged to a certain extent, be it from UV damage, frequent swimming or even bleaching. Instead of waiting till after the service to apologize for a bad job, a great stylist should check your hair condition ahead of time to tell you if your hair is sufficiently healthy for a perm.
If however your stylist says that your hair is overly damaged, don't press the point - not every stylist / salon has the special perm technology to perm bleached locks! What you can do instead is to get a second opinion from stylists who are best known for perming damaged hair and get their advice to see if your tressres are truly too far gone.
It is no coincidence that top perm specialists tend to be very skilled in haircut. As the haircut forms the base for the perm, it determines where the curls starts and ends and how the curls layer onto each other for texture and dimension.
That is why most perm specialists will trim the hair a little before going ahead with the perm.
Perm lotions usually restructure your locks using alkaline agents that open up hair cuticles and then enter the hair shaft to break the bonds holding it in its current shape. But when cuticles are opened, some cell membrane complex - the glue sealing each strand into one smooth, self-contained unit - is lost, meaning nutrients and moisture can escape from your tresses, which can in turn leads to dry, brittle hair.
When perm lotions used are too strong for your hair type, hair cuticles can be left open and the cell membrane complex can be completely leached away, leaving you with an head of weak, tangled frizz. This can also happen when your stylist leaves the lotion on for too long.
To avoid this, top stylists tend to stock up various types of perm lotions so that they can offer the one with the most suitable strength for your hair texture. To find out more about them, read about the differences between perm lotions in Singapore here.
Salons often use heated curling rods to create your hair's curls during a perm. If the temperature is not well controlled, you could end up with frizzy, brittle strands and curls of unpredictable direction and texture.
That is why top stylists choose to use perm lotions and machines that enable them to reduce the temperature as much as possible. You'll therefore find a number of top salons using the Paimore machine; this machine allows hair to be permed at a temperature as low as 60 degrees celsius thanks to a consistent control of heat that creates bouncy curls at such low temperatures.
Perms are meant to create permanent waves on your hair, so any mark that is left during the process will be there for a good long time too. If the rollers are secured to your locks using badly-placed bands, they might leave their own lasting imprints on your coiff, affecting the shape of the swirls. While this isn't as bad as damaging your hair quality, the unsightly effects are just about as durable.
Another thing you'd observe top stylists do to prevent that is to insert plastic tabs like this to ensure that the rubber bands don't exert excessive tension on the hair, thereby preventing these marks!
Does all that sound like a lot of work? You bet.
To make sure that the perm doesn't just look good on just one customer / model / influencer, top stylists pull out all the stops for ALL their customers. This may be why their perms tend to cost more; they use better quality perm lotions and take these precautions that lengthen the time of service to give customers the perfect perm.
What does that entire process actually look like? We follow Agent A on her perm at Branche Japanese Hair Salon to see how they crafted the perfect perm for her.
Hello everyone, I am Agent A.
I come from Japan and am currently working in Singapore as a marketing executive.
People tend to have this impression that all of us Japanese women are well-maintained and love to perm our hair.
As you can probably tell, that isn't exactly me. It is considered basic courtesy for us to put on makeup and look presentable but I've kept my hairstyle in Singapore much simpler than in Japan.
While Singapore's weather is a factor, I haven't tried perms in a long time because of a past experience that still haunts me.
A decade ago, I tried my first and - to date - only perm, which damaged my hair so badly that my coiff turned into a mop of frizz. It was awful, and I had to live with the consequences for several intensely upsetting months. Since then, I swore no perm lotion would ever touch my tresses.
Who knew that colours are not much better. I last coloured my hair in 2017, three years ago and guess what, more dry, damaged locks. So for the past few years, I resigned myself to having virgin hair.
Before the pandemic, I used to fly back every three months to get my hair done by stylists back in Japan. Now that borders are closed, I have to find alternatives in Singapore. Since I'm here in Singapore, a Japanese friend of mine insisted that I try Branche Hair Salon.
Branche's parent company is a top hair salon chain back in Japan and I hear that they sent only the crème de la crème of their stylists here to Branche Singapore. And so I did.
The place is located in the historic and majestic Capitol building, and is the picture of luxury and style from its crystal chandeliers to its snazzily suited-up staff. Having polite Japanese stylists conversing with me in my native language in a very Japanese-like environment somehow made me miss home a little lesser.
During my first visit, the stylist who attended to me was Ryo. As I mentioned about wanting to give myself a bit of a change, Ryo recommended me a low-damage hair colour along with a cut. Maybe it's because I've been craving for a change, I found myself saying yes to the transformation.
And yes! The results are good!
I don't have a photo of my hair immediate after but here's what it looks like on a regular day with zero maintenance. While there are some flyaways, the resulting subtle shiny brown brightened my face and gave my hair that bit more life.
Since my excellent experience the first time around, I've been wondering... were perms a possibility after all?
I talked to Ryo about it and he excitedly shared with me about this new perm lotion he's been testing from Japan: the Advante Perm.
Ryo himself was very impressed, having seen how the perm could create curls without even opening hair cuticles. He also affirmed that he had personally witnessed Advante lotions produce gorgeous, defined ringlets, whereas other low-damage treatments might only be able to generate subtler waves.
This got me hyped up... could Ryo help give me the elegant romantic waves I've always dreamed of?
I arranged for an appointment with Ryo.
As usual, our appointment starts with an in-depth consultation. After showing him some photos of the hairstyles I like, Ryo began to check my hair condition. Thanks to the low-damage colour used in the last visit, my hair still felt healthy. Even though it is a little finer than he would like, Ryo mentioned that the perm would still be able to create bouncy lasting curls that last.
That's good news, I think!
With the green light to go ahead, we discussed about the type of style I was looking for: subtle waves near the ends of my hair that could perhaps add some sophistication and femininity. Ryo cautioned that my hair will look a little shorter than it would be now as the hair hikes up due to the volume. He also shared about the type of maintenance I should expect after the perm.
By the end of the consultation, I'm all ready for the change.
Before working on transforming my hair, Ryo started the entire experience with a hair wash.
That to me was always a special part of the process.
This is the only salon I've been to, in both Singapore and japan that actually has a seat automatically lowers to the wash basin, so I must say that I'm pretty impressed by the lengths Branche goes to for that exquisite hair experience.
It doesn't just looks good, the seat is mighty comfortable as this specially selected chair is designed to support my neck throughout the entire process. I can't help but find myself closing my eyes in the process while Ryo personally scrubs my hair clean.
Ryo started with perm lotion to break down the chemical bonds holding my hair in its current structure, so that he could later reshape them into lovely loops.
As the Advante perm doesn't open hair cuticles, it is hard to tell when processing is complete. Hence, Ryo rolled a slender lock of hair, which he will unroll to check when the time is up.
To accelerate the processing, he applied gentle heat on my hair from a distance with this impressive, space-age seeming machine.
When the time was up, he unrolled the lock of hair and it bounced back beautifully, meaning that we are now ready to take the next step.
Now that the disulfide bonds that kept my hair straight had been relaxed, Ryo could now roll my tresses into ringlets.
He was extremely meticulous with this procedure, picking out locks to section into rollers and thus determine how the curls would eventually fall.
Before coiling my locks, he wrapped each one in a layer of thick sponge. Ryo explained that this was to trap the heat that would help set my new hair structure, and also seal in the moisture, and finally, to act as a barrier between my crowning glory and direct heat.
To absolutely avoid singeing my scalp, he created a distance between the rolled up curls and my skin using large hair clips.
After just 13 minutes, the curling was done!
It wasn't just significantly quicker but it did take place at a much lower temperature of 60 degrees celsius (lower than the 120 degrees celsius previously). Ryo explained that extended exposure to high heat causes damage to hair follicles, so the faster the process and the lower the perming temperature, the better your hair condition. These cooler temperatures wouldn't manage to activate all perm lotions, but did for Advante's special formulation.
To fix the new spirals in place, a neutralizer solution was applied to my curls, which continued to be held in place with rollers and rubber bands.
To prevent hideous rubber band imprints on my perm, Ryo separated the bands from my hair using wide plastic tabs.
And then all that remained was to wash off the neutraliser, and reveal the curls I had been waiting a decade for.
A simple blowdry later...
Are you ready to see the final unveil?
I guess it was worth the wait.
The distinct, romantic curls have transformed my fine, featureless hair.
And yet it still remains soft, smooth and bouncy - none of the noticeable damage that so scarred me ten years ago!
The 'do looks equally luscious from the back, where you can really see how pretty and pronounced the curls are - no halfhearted waves for this girl.
I'm really grateful to Ryo - I never thought my hair would ever house such stunning spirals, but he offered me a solution that preserved my hair's smoothness, strength and shine, and kept me feeling calm and confident through every part of the process.
Arigato Gozaimasu, Ryo san for taking such good care of my hair.
I can't wait to come back again to see what new creations you have in mind.
Fan of the Advante Perm? Tell us why at BU.sg!