Straight Perms Exist And Are Totally Different Than Other Smoothing Treatments

Having naturally wavy or curly hair is beautiful, but for people who prefer a straight, sleek look, it can present a bit of a challenge. Constant blowouts and reliance on a straightener can eat up tons of time after each wash day, and something as simple as a humid day or a few drops of rain can completely reverse the look. For those who embrace their curly hair, daily maintenance in the form of plopping, scrunching, and diffusing can take just as much time — sometimes even more — than heat styling, only to yield mixed results.


Because of this, many people with textured hair choose to undergo treatments that offer a more permanent solution than a one-time style. Keratin treatments promise to smooth hair and sometimes decrease hair's curl, while relaxers are used to either loosen curls or completely straighten natural hair to make it easier to style. What many people don't know, however, is that there is a third option — the straight perm. This treatment takes the same solution used in regular perming treatments and uses it to create a semi-permanent straightened look.

What is a straight perm?

Perming treatments are commonly associated with tiny curl formers and the fluffy hair of the '80s, but they've come a long way since then. These treatments are still available if you're looking to bring some texture to straight or flat hair, but it's also possible to use them to create the opposite effect. Every type of perm uses a combination of chemicals to alter the keratin structure in your hair, usually including ammonium thioglycolate or glyceryl monothiglycolate (via WebMD). After this product is applied, the hair is shaped and allowed to process, essentially creating a "memory" that will hold for the next few months, even after washing.


When it comes to a straight perm, however, there aren't any rollers involved in the process. A perming solution is applied to the hair to break cystine bonds, and then heat is applied with a straightener to activate the chemicals (via Healthline). After being rinsed and straightened again, the hair should keep its shape with proper maintenance.

Who is a candidate for a straight perm?

Unfortunately, straight perms are quite damaging to the hair because they break down its internal structure. Because of this, they're a good idea to avoid if you have damage already, especially from previous straightening treatments, permanent hair color, or bleach, in order to avoid more serious breakage and issues. If your hair is healthy and untreated, however, you'll likely see positive results with the help of a qualified stylist. When you're dealing with heat and chemicals, overprocessing is your worst enemy, so it's important to find someone who knows what they're doing.


Additionally, straight perms are best for those with moderately wavy to curly hair who are looking for a completely straight look. Hair that has just a small amount of wave will likely do better with something like a keratin treatment — there's no need to bring out the big guns and create more damage than necessary.

What do the final results look like?

The final goal with a straight perm is to create a look as though you just ran a flat iron through your hair, even fresh out of the shower. These perming treatments will leave your hair completely straight and flat, so if you're looking for something that gives you the look of a bouncy blowout, this might not be the option for you. Straight perms are also designed to alter the curl pattern and texture of the hair, but they don't do much to combat frizziness. If you just want your hair to look a bit smoother and more manageable, try out a keratin treatment instead.


Despite the name, perms are actually more of a semi-permanent service. After your treatment, you'll have about three months with your straight hair before the curls start to return, meaning you'll have to head back to the salon for routine appointments if you want to maintain the look.

How to care for a straight perm

The most important part of ensuring your straight perm lasts and stays smooth actually comes after you leave the salon. For the first 72 hours after your appointment, your perm is still setting, meaning that something as minor as a crease line from a hair tie could accidentally create kinks in your hair. During this time, you want to take extreme care to keep everything straight, untouched, and away from water — even a bit of sweat from a heavy workout at the gym could impact your results.


After that time, you're free to go about your normal activities, but it's a good idea to focus on healing and moisturizing your hair. Even if you don't see any damage, it's likely that your hair is more dry, brittle, and prone to breakage after your treatment. Cutting back on washing and increasing the number of deep conditioners and moisturizing treatments you use can help revive your strands and ensure they stay long and healthy.

Can this treatment be done at home?

As with just about any hair treatment, straight perms can be completed at home. They don't require any special equipment — just the perming solution, a flat iron, shampoo, and conditioner — but it is highly recommended that you go see a professional for the best results. At-home perming kits are widely available and fairly inexpensive, especially compared to a salon treatment, but they come with the risks of overprocessing, uneven application, and permanent damage.


If you do decide to take the risk and attempt a straight perm at home, it's incredibly important to read and follow the package instructions to a T. It's also a good idea to do a patch test to ensure you're not allergic to any of the ingredients beforehand and a strand test to make sure your hair is healthy enough to withstand potential damage. It may be a bit inconvenient at the moment, but losing a small strand of hair to breakage is much better than accidentally frying your whole head.

How expensive is a straight perm?

While straight perms promise several months of convenience after the fact, they require a bit of an investment, in both cost and time spent at the salon. The exact price of this treatment varies widely depending on your location, the general pricing of the salon, and the experience of your stylist, but you can expect to pay upwards of $150 before tip in the U.S. This might seem like a bit of an extreme charge considering the results, but this treatment can take anywhere from two to four hours to complete, not including the initial consultation and any additional add-on services.


All in all, a straight perm is generally worth it if you find yourself constantly having to style your hair and wanting a lower-maintenance solution. As with any treatment, however, it's important to approach it with caution. The allure of super-sleek locks and a pared-down morning routine can be tempting, but permanent chemical damage will only leave you with more difficulties down the line.