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Natural Curls Vs. Perm: What’s The Difference?

Have you ever walked down the street and seen a woman with glorious, bouncy, healthy curls and wondered, “Is that a perm, or is that natural? If it’s a perm, can my hair get that too?

Perms nowadays have become so sophisticated that, when they’re done right, it can be hard to tell if it’s a perm or if it’s natural. In this post, we’ll talk about perms, what makes a good one, and how to spot the difference between natural curly hair vs. perm hair.

What Is a Perm? (And Should You Get One?)

What Is a Perm?

A perm, also known as a permanent wave, is the process of chemically altering the structure of your hair from straight to curly.  Despite the name, a permanent isn’t forever. Most perms last between three and six months.

To create a perm, a stylist wraps hair around rods, also called perm rollers, and applies a chemical solution that changes the hair’s texture. You can also do an at-home perm with a purchased kit, though the results might not match what you’d get at a salon.

People use perms and perm rollers of different sizes and materials to create everything from tight uniform ringlets to soft and subtle waves.

Is a Perm Bad for Your Hair?

Compared to other hairstyles (like bleaching), getting a perm hair treatment is relatively benign. However, the process can weaken already dry or damaged hair. If your hair is damaged or brittle, you should avoid perms until you’ve restored your hair to a healthier state.

Related: Difference Between Spiral Perm and Regular Perm

Natural Curls Vs. Perm

As perms become more and more evolved, it can be tough to spot the difference between a perm and natural curls. Hairdressers will make curls in different lengths and sizes to give it a more natural look. However, you can usually spot a perm with a few tell-tale signs.

Uniform Curls

difference between natural curls and perm

People still have the option to get what’s called a “regular” perm, which is where all of the curls are the same size and same shape. Uniform curls are usually an indicator that someone has gotten a perm and doesn’t have naturally curly hair.

Frizzy or Dry Curls

There are other ways to tell the difference between natural curly hair vs. perm. If the curls are frizzy or dry, that’s a big indicator that the hair has had some treatment and, as a result, their hair could be a perm.

Straight Roots

Straight Roots Differentiate Perm from Curly Hair

Probably the biggest tell of all, though, is when the hair begins to grow back in. After several weeks, as the new hair grows out from the roots, you’ll notice the person has straight hair at the top and curly hair in the middle and bottom. ’

Since naturally curly hair is curly right from the root, straight roots are a sure-fire way to tell if a person has a perm.

Lines and Bends

Another big sign that hair isn’t naturally curly is a bent or folded appearance. If you spot these unnatural crimp-like bends or lines in someone’s hair, they probably got a perm that was wrapped improperly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are perms more high maintenance than natural curls?

Perms tend to be one of the most high-maintenance hairstyles you can get. It can take many hours to receive a perm treatment.

Afterward, you must carefully protect your hair and avoid washing it for the first 48 hours. In the long run, you will have to take special care to treat your permed, damaged hair with nourishing shampoos and conditioners.

Moreover, your perm will grow out in as little as six months, making it a high-maintenance hairdo with a low reward. If you get a bad perm, you can fix it.

Can I get perms on naturally curly hair?

Some people get perms to straighten naturally curly hair. Others may get perms to change their natural curl pattern. Since natural curly hair is already delicate, the damage risk of a permanent treatment likely isn’t worth it. 

Is a perm drier than natural curls?

A perm is much drier than natural curls. Natural curls tend to be dry and delicate, but hair that has been permed is quite damaged, meaning it is breakable, dry, and brittle. 

Final Thoughts

As perm treatments become more sophisticated, it’s harder and harder to tell if someone has a perm or natural curls. However, there are still some tell-tale signs, like unnaturally uniform curls, bends or lines, or hair growing out straight and not curly from the top of the head.

If you get a perm, make sure to go to a hairdresser that knows how to create natural-looking perms. Also, make sure you always schedule your perm before your new hair starts growing in to avoid people being able to tell if you have a perm or not.

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