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Regular Perm Vs. Digital Perm: What’s The Difference?

A perm is a way to have bouncy curls daily without using heat tools. The two main types of perms are regular perms, the cold one, and those that are hot – digital perms. If you’re thinking about getting a perm, both are perfect solutions if you have straight hair and want to add volume and texture.

To help you choose from regular or digital perm, we’ve listed what each entails and the differences between the two.

What is a Regular Perm?

Regular Perm

Regular perm is also called cold perm or cold-wave perm, as no heat is involved. Regular perms use an alkaline solution of ammonium thioglycolate to saturate your hair while it’s in rollers.

Ammonium thioglycolate breaks the keratin bonds inside your hair. This allows the hair to reform as curly or wavy, according to your hair length and the size of the rollers you chose.

Your hair won’t be as strong as it was before the procedure because the keratin bonds inside the hair must break, which entails damaging the hair. Regular perms are best for strong, coarse hair.

What Else to Expect with A Regular Perm?

You need to care for your perm. For the first 48 hours, you shouldn’t wash your hair after receiving a regular perm, as the chemicals are still setting. The alkaline solution is drying to the hair, as it lifts the hair cuticle, leaving the hair porous.

Avoiding heat during the first few weeks and using hydrating conditioners can help your hair find an ideal moisture balance. Permed hair is more curly when wet, so you can use mousse to set your curls and air dry for a defined look.

What is a Digital Perm?

Digital Perm

A digital perm is a hot perm. The technique was created in Japan for very straight, Asian hair. It is a popular procedure in South Korea, as well. Digital perms restructure the hair from the inside but use a relatively mild, acidic solution instead of an alkaline solution.

Because the solution is acidic, the hair cuticle stays closed, and the heat is used to penetrate and add the chemicals to the inner core of the hair. Heat is applied with heated rollers that allow the curls and waves to take shape.

These rollers connect to a machine that keeps the heat at a steady temperature. With heat, the solution can break the keratin bonds within the hair.

Heat is needed with this treatment, as the acidic solution isn’t as strong. Processing also takes longer because of the mild solution. Once the allotted time has passed, which will depend upon how tight you want the resulting curls, other chemicals are used to set the curls.

The rollers are typically large and placed away from the scalp. So this processing isn’t ideal for short hair.

What Else to Expect with A Digital Perm?

Digital perms take several hours to finish. Your curls will come out loose, wavy and bouncy. They are more defined when your hair is dry. You might find that you only need to boost your curls by wrapping your hair around your hand or fingers.

This type of perm works really well on long hair. Because many styles only curl the bottom half of the hair, a digital perm can last up to a year. Digital perms can be done on fine hair.

Use hydrating, moisture-retention products to help counteract the drying effects of the perm. You might have frizz during the first few weeks until your hair finds its moisture balance.


What Do a Regular Perm and a Digital Perm Look Like?

Difference between Regular Perm and Digital Perm

A regular perm uses harsher chemicals, so the curls come out tighter. Even if you use a one-inch roller, the curl will conform to the size of the roller and be large, but it might still be tight.

With a digital perm, you can get either curls or waves, depending on the size of the roller, the temperature used, and how long the rollers stay in your hair.

During your consultation with your stylist, if you show a picture of exactly how you want your hair to look, they can help you choose the right type of perm so that your curls or waves come out as desired.

Regular Perm Vs. Digital Perm At A Glance

There are many differences between the regular and the digital perm. Here are some of them:

Regular Perm

Digital Perm

Stronger chemicals, more damage

Milder chemicals, less damage

Uses no heat

Uses controlled heat

Curls from the roots

Curls from the mid-lengths

Appropriate for very short hair

Better for long hair

Curls are more prominent on wet hair

Curls are more prominent on dry hair

Tighter curls

Looser, more natural-looking curls

Alkaline solution

Acidic solution

Curls last three to six months

Curls can last an entire year

The chemical process is done on healthy hair

The chemical process that can be used on damaged hair

Older technology, meaning more stylists are familiar with it

Newer technology, meaning fewer stylists are familiar with it

So, What’s The Difference Between Regular Perm and Digital Perm?

Digital perms and regular perms both make curls, but they do so in different ways. Different chemicals and processes are used.

A regular perm is quicker, but it can be more damaging to the hair. But if the results are what you’re used to, and you prefer them, go for it.

A digital perm is a milder perm that uses newer technology. You’ll have a looser curl with less potential for damage. Whichever method you choose, let your curls shine!

But what if you get a terrible perm? Well, you can fix it without sacrificing hair length.

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