Piggyback Perm: What Is It, And How Is It Different From A Regular One?

If you thought that perms were just something that Chutney Windham got in "Legally Blonde," you'd be wrong. For those who weren't born with naturally curly hair and love the look of cascading tresses, perms have never gone out of style. In fact, they've evolved and now there's more than one type of perm to choose from at the salon. One of the most popular is known as the piggyback perm.


Unlike a regular perm, a piggyback perm can only be done on medium or long hair. This is because instead of just using one curling rod per section of hair, piggyback perms include two rods to get the desired look, with each rod "piggybacking" off the other. It's considered one of the most complicated perms one can get and takes the most time too, via Hair Everyday. But if you have longer hair and covet the look that those with shorter hair can score with a regular perm, then your best bet is to opt for the piggyback perm. Although both perms offer the same thing — curls — how they're executed, maintenance, and the finalized look, are different. 

What's the best hair for a piggyback perm?

When it comes to perms, hair length plays a big role and this is especially the case if you're thinking about getting a piggyback perm. Why? Because if you have a pixie cut, for example, there's no way your stylist can get two rods in two inches of hair — and it's the two rods per section that makes the piggyback perm so unique. Although a regular perm, with its one rod, can pretty much be performed on any length of hair (within reason), the same can't be said for this more elaborate style.


Another thing you want to keep in mind when envisioning yourself with permed hair is that if you're rocking a bleached look, you can't get a piggyback perm (or any perm for that matter). According to Picasso Hair Studio, the part of the hair that's bleached must be removed before you can get a perm. Not only does a perm run the risk of damaging hair that's been bleached, but there's also a good chance that it won't be able to hold the curls for very long. In other words, if you want to get a piggyback perm, your hair should be medium to long in length, and not bleached. Colored is fine, but as your stylist will tell you, there should be two weeks between a perm and a color.

How the piggyback perm look is created

When a stylist gives someone a regular perm, they use what's called a croquignole wrap, in which sections of hair are wrapped around rods and layered all over the head. But when it comes to a piggyback perm, each section of hair doesn't get just one rod, but two. According to Hairfinder.com, the first rod is rolled into hair between the scalp and midway down the strands, while the second rod is wrapped in the same way it would be in a traditional perm — with the croquignole technique. So, you're basically getting two different types of perms, hence the complexity and time it involves.


However, not only is the amount of rods used in the perms different, but so is how the rods are set. In a regular perm, the perming rods are set vertically, whereas with a piggyback perm the rods are set horizontally all over the head, per Academic Algonquin.

Piggyback perms require less maintenance

It goes without saying that having a perm, like having natural curls, requires some maintenance. You can't always just get up and go with either one, and forget about using a brush — unless, of course, you like your curls with a side of frizz. But curly-upkeep when it comes to perms isn't just about what you need to do at home. It's also about how often you need to go back to the salon to have your locks set and processed again.


According to Beauty Epic, if you really take care of your piggyback perm, you can get a good six months out of it. If you opt for a regular perm, you're looking at about three months. Granted, the difference of three months may not seem like a lot to some, but for those who have a jam-packed schedule, being able to space out their perm appointments to once every six months might be a relief.

How the final looks differ

Each perm yields different results, which is definitely something to consider when deciding on what perm is best for you. Do you want your curls blowing in the wind or do you prefer them to be less free? Because of the way each perm is rolled and set, the curls fall differently. A traditional perm with its vertically set curls is going to be a head full of vertical spirals. On the other hand, a piggyback perm is going to have more natural-looking curls that go in all directions, as opposed to just up-and-down. 


These distinctive types of curls will also create a different level of volume in the hair. For example, a piggyback perm will result in more volume and have more bounce, but a regular perm will actually look as though it has a pattern that's more restrained and less bouncy, per Hair Everyday. Only you can decide what look you're going for and which one will suit you best. 

Who's the best candidate for a piggyback perm?

Although you might be thinking curly hair is curly hair, even if you look at those with natural curls you'll see there's no one type of curl. Because of this, some people are better candidates for piggyback perms than others. For example, if you prefer a modern look that doesn't make you feel like you're coming straight from the '80s, then a piggyback perm is for you. If you want curls that are corkscrew in nature, as opposed to those that are loose and easily tousled, then you're probably more of a regular perm person. If your hair is on the longer side and you don't want to deal with maintenance every three months, then guess what? You're a piggyback perm person.


Like anything, there's no "right" perm and the perm you choose is entirely based on the look you're hoping to achieve. Some people want the formulated patterned coils that come with a regular perm, while others want to walk away from the salon feeling like they're Carrie Bradshaw circa 2000. Now that was a look.