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Tight Perm Vs. Loose Perm: Which One Is Better?

If you’re thinking about getting a perm, you’ve probably heard the terms tight perm and loose perm.

But, what’s the difference between tight perm and loose perm? How do stylists use these terms vs the clients who talk about them?

Tight perms and loose perms have to do more with your individual style and the shape your curls will take to reflect that. So let’s see what these terms can mean.


What is a Tight Perm?

tight perm

Tight perms are more retro than modern. So before you tell your stylist that’s what you want, consider how it will make you look and feel. A stylist will interpret tight perm as using many rollers that are relatively small compared to your hair length.

When a lot of these are used, the result is very voluminous and the curls overlap. They might be big curls on short hair that can make a bob look almost horizontal or very small curls on long hair that make it look ethnic and almost like afro hair.

So if you have a “curly hair, don’t care” attitude about your style, and you don’t mind that it’s not a style that’s trending, a tight perm could be for you.


What is a Loose Perm?

Loose Perm

Loose curls are the more modern version of a perm. It can give you anything from beach waves to moderately curly hair. There won’t be as much volume as with a tight perm.

A stylist will interpret “loose perm” in a way that she should use fewer rollers and make them of a normal to large size relative to the length of the hair. Digital perms are a perfect way to create loose curls like this.

So if you like to stay with the trends but don’t want to curl your hair every morning, a loose perm is for you. The nice thing is that you can perm just the mid-lengths of your hair to the tips, and it will create those lovely barrel curls that everyone is wearing.


What Do Tight Perms and Loose Perms Look Like?

Tight Perm Vs Loose Perm

A tight perm is characterized by curls that are tumbling over one another. Regardless of the size of the actual curl, a tight perm will have curls that overlap.

When you see someone with super curly hair, chances are they have a tight perm. A loose perm also makes curly hair, but the hair is more wavy than curly.

When the curls are apparent, they don’t overlap. These curls cascade instead and look very natural.


Difference Between a Tight Perm and a Loose Perm

To give you a better idea of the differences between tight perms and loose perms, here is a tight perm vs loose perm comparison table.

Tight Perm

Loose Perm
Always use concave rods for a curl that starts at the roots

Might use straight rods that start the curl an inch away from the roots.

Uses perm rods that are under an inch. These can go down to the smallest size, 1/16 of an inch, if the hair is short.

Uses perm rods that are over an inch in size.

For retro-rocker styles or very voluminous curly styles

For modern, sleek styles or large, retro Hollywood curls.

Can create styles with spiral curls or regular messy, overlapping curls.

Can create beach waves or large barrel curls.

Adds extra volume.

Adds extra body.

Great for coarse hair.

Great for fine hair.

So although both are perms, tight perms and loose perms create completely different looks. Before you go get a perm, think carefully about what you want your curls to look like. A good stylist can create a perm from almost any curly look, so don’t forget to bring pictures. The sky is truly the limit!


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