Style Hair

Sunday 23 September 2018

Not that kind of curl

As the beloved 80s perm springs back into fashion, Tanya Sweeney looks at how salons are replacing the 'poodle head' with modern waves

Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars. Photo: Getty Images
Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars. Photo: Getty Images

Tanya Sweeney

Is it fair to say that the 80s were the decade that style looked over? Whatever about dungarees, berets and paisley, the poodle perm was the decade's defining hairstyle. Every 80s style hero, from Cher to Kylie and Madonna, flirted with the crispy curl look.

Time once was that the big-haired perm - or permanent wave, to give it its official title - was achieved at home with spongy curlers and lashings of ammonia. Depending on your luck you could end up with cute corkscrews or Guns N' Roses-style frizz, but that was the gamble you had to take. Even worse, growing it out was an ordeal in and of itself (remember the half-straight, half-frizzy nightmare that you attempted, in vain, to carry off?).

Thalia Heffernan. Photo: Brian McEvoy
Thalia Heffernan. Photo: Brian McEvoy

Yet fashion is cyclical by its very nature so it was only a matter of time before the perm supplanted the Brazilian blow-dry or the shaggy 'lob'.

Celebrities are already leading the charge: Emma Stone debuted her fresh perm during awards season, after documenting the process on social media with her friend and make-up artist Rachel Goodwin. Yet the end result was closer to a classic wave look than the crunchy curls of yore. Emma's stylist has observed that, much as it was back in the days of shoulder pads and Working Girl, the perm is the ultimate power move.

"It really feels like this is super fun, it's bold," said Mara Roszak. "What really was true in the 80s was that it was the working woman, everything was so big and bold and like, I am here, I'm not invisible. I really do think that some of that sentiment is represented in this time with women and very much is, 'we are here'."

Elsewhere, Jennifer Lawrence's showstopping, bed-headed perm at this year's Oscars made an even stronger case for a return of the perm to the mainstream. The trend went even bigger when Blake Lively (right) showed off an enviable set of curls recently.

Blake Lively. Photo: Getty Images
Blake Lively. Photo: Getty Images

Closer to home, model Thalia Heffernan was an early adopter of the look, injecting the age-old perm with a shot of modernity and personal style.

Dublin-based hairdresser Dylan Bradshaw has observed that the bouncy curls are a rejection of the sleek extensions that have dominated the red carpet and the high street in recent years. "People don't want hair that looks identical to everyone else," he says. "They want something that's their own."

"The late 80s/early 90s is back in more ways than one," says Dublin-based hairstylist Trudy Hayes. "The modern way to wear a perm is thankfully a little more effortless than the looks of the past. I'm loving the looser waves with the hair layer quite short around the face, giving a Fame vibe to the look."

As if we needed any more proof that the perm was officially on the comeback trail, the world's top salons, from Mare in LA to Hershesons in London, are customising the look for the 21st century and updating the perming process.

On the same wavelength: Emma Stone and Rachel Goodwin chart the process.
On the same wavelength: Emma Stone and Rachel Goodwin chart the process.

Essentially, the hair is restructured to go from straight to wavy, and stylists are in control of how wavy the end result will be.

"The way a perm works is that you're putting in a solution that chemically breaks down the natural bonds of the hair, and then you're neutralising the hair so that you can set it in a new way," explains Emma Leung of Kelly Leung salon in Malahide.

Yet just as it has always been, the experts advise a note of caution.

"To be honest, the process can still be a bit damaging to the condition, especially if you have had coloured hair," adds Leung. "You can't put bleach on a perm, which is why you're unlikely to see anyone with very blonde hair with a perm.

"More recently, I did a perm on a client with a bob - it was a very loose perm but you don't tend to get great lasting times out of them," she adds. "The end result was more of a messy, shaggy look than tight curls. And, most importantly, she had never coloured her hair before."

A poorly executed perm will result in breakage of the disulfide bonds through chemical reduction because it fails to fix the newly formed bonds.

This results in hair that is no longer elastic, but brittle and fragile.

That said, Hayes reckons the perms are no longer quite as devastating to hair condition as they once were.

"The solution is much softer, meaning that the hair doesn't take as much of a hit, and the rods used are softer and bigger, giving a more natural wave while still adding volume," she explains.

"There are some caveats: bleached hair is a no-no but if you are unsure, have a consultation with a stylist. Personally, I'm loving L'Oreal Professional Perming Lotion or Maxi Perm (Beach Waves). The Natulique range is also good for those clients who want to get away from using too many chemicals."

The good news is that as well as looking carefree and low-maintenance, upkeep for the modern perm is relatively straightforward once you observe a handful of golden rules.

You'll need to wait three days before getting it wet - only wash sooner if you want to break up the curls to achieve more of a beachy waves style.

Because the bonds in the keratin of the hair will have been treated, it's best to steer clear of styling and brushing for a week, and simply scrunch the hair with your fingers to set the curls in place.

As with any hair that has been chemically treated, heat styling and straighteners are best avoided as much as possible.

Hair products with alcohol and silicones will dry out the hair, leaving it brittle and fluffy, but a deep cleansing shampoo will remove any build-up from creamy conditioners and masks.

Many protein-rich, curl-enhancing haircare products are available at every price point: your best bet against the dreaded hair-metal look.

Is it fair to say that the 80s were the decade that style looked over? Whatever about dungarees, berets and paisley, the poodle perm was the decade’s defining hairstyle. Every 80s style hero, from Cher to Kylie and Madonna, flirted with the crispy curl look.

Time once was that the big-haired perm — or permanent wave, to give it its official title — was achieved at home with spongy curlers and lashings of ammonia. Depending on your luck you could end up with cute corkscrews or Guns N’ Roses-style frizz, but that was the gamble you had to take. Even worse, growing it out was an ordeal in and of itself (remember the half-straight, half-frizzy nightmare that you attempted, in vain, to carry off?).

Yet fashion is cyclical by its very nature so it was only a matter of time before the perm supplanted the Brazilian blow-dry or the shaggy ‘lob’.

Celebrities are already leading the charge: Emma Stone debuted her fresh perm during awards season, after documenting the process on social media with her friend and make-up artist Rachel Goodwin. Yet the end result was closer to a classic wave look than the crunchy curls of yore. Emma’s stylist has observed that, much as it was back in the days of shoulder pads and Working Girl, the perm is the ultimate power move.

“It really feels like this is super fun, it’s bold,” said Mara Roszak. “What really was true in the 80s was that it was the working woman, everything was so big and bold and like, I am here, I’m not invisible. I really do think that some of that sentiment is represented in this time with women and very much is, ‘we are here’.”

Elsewhere, Jennifer Lawrence’s showstopping, bed-headed perm at this year’s Oscars made an even stronger case for a return of the perm to the mainstream. The trend went even bigger when Blake Lively (right) showed off an enviable set of curls recently.

Closer to home, model Thalia Heffernan was an early adopter of the look, injecting the age-old perm with a shot of modernity and personal style.

Dublin-based hairdresser Dylan Bradshaw has observed that the bouncy curls are a rejection of the sleek extensions that have  dominated the red carpet and the high street in recent years. “People don’t want hair that looks identical to everyone else,” he says. “They want something that’s their own.”

“The late 80s/early 90s is back in more ways than one,” says Dublin-based hairstylist Trudy Hayes. “The modern way to wear a perm is thankfully a little more effortless than the looks of the past. I’m loving the looser waves with the hair layer quite short around the face, giving a Fame vibe to the look.”

As if we needed any more proof that the perm was officially on the comeback trail, the world’s top salons, from Mare in LA to Hershesons in London, are customising the look for the 21st century and updating the perming process.

Essentially, the hair is restructured to go from straight to wavy, and stylists are in control of how wavy the end result will be.

“The way a perm works is that you’re putting in a solution that chemically breaks down the natural bonds of the hair, and then you’re neutralising the hair so that you can set it in a new way,” explains Emma Leung of Kelly Leung salon in Malahide.

Yet just as it has always been, the experts advise a note of caution.

“To be honest, the process can still be a bit damaging to the condition, especially if you have had coloured hair,” adds Leung. “You can’t put bleach on a perm, which is why you’re unlikely to see anyone with very blonde hair with a perm.

“More recently, I did a perm on a client with a bob — it was a very loose perm but you don’t tend to get great lasting times out of them,” she adds. “The end result was more of a messy, shaggy look than tight curls. And, most importantly, she had never coloured her hair before.”

A poorly executed perm will result in breakage of the disulfide bonds through chemical reduction because it fails to fix the newly formed bonds.

This results in hair that is no longer elastic, but brittle and fragile.

That said, Hayes reckons the perms are no longer quite as devastating to hair condition as they once were.

“The solution is much softer, meaning that the hair doesn’t take as much of a hit, and the rods used are softer and bigger, giving a more natural wave while

still adding volume,” she explains.

“There are some caveats: bleached hair is a no-no but if you are unsure, have a consultation with a stylist. Personally, I’m loving L’Oreal Professional Perming Lotion or Maxi Perm (Beach Waves). The Natulique range is also good for those clients who want to get away from using too many chemicals.”

The good news is that as well as looking carefree and low-maintenance, upkeep for the modern perm is relatively straightforward once you observe a handful of golden rules.

You’ll need to wait three days before getting it wet — only wash sooner if you want to break up the curls to achieve more of a beachy waves style.

Because the bonds in the keratin of the hair will have been treated, it’s best to steer clear of styling and brushing for a week, and simply scrunch the hair with your fingers to set the curls in place.

 As with any hair that has been chemically treated, heat styling and straighteners are best avoided as much as possible.

Hair products with alcohol and silicones will dry out the hair, leaving it brittle and fluffy, but a deep cleansing shampoo will remove any build-up from creamy conditioners and masks.

Many protein-rich, curl-enhancing haircare products are available at every price point: your best bet against the dreaded hair-metal look.

Irish Independent

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