US based hairdresser Jules Chan introduces us to the digital perm, a popular technique for adding curl to Asian hair.
Digital Perms are widely popular here in San Francisco and also in other areas where there is a high Asian population. Digital perms are ‘hot perms’ as opposed to the traditional cold perms. They use hot rods where the temperature is regulated by a machine with a digital display – hence the name Digital perms (Digi-perm).
The Difference Between and a Digital Perm and a Regular Perm
The biggest difference between cold perms and digital perms is the shape and texture of the wave created by the digital process. A cold perm makes the wave most prominent when the hair is wet, and loose when it is dry. Hair can be blow dried to look straight. A digital perm makes the wave most prominent when the hair is dry, and loose when it is wet. Therefore, you can create the look of the curling iron. Hair is softer smoother and shinier and is harder to style straight.xxx
Digital Perm Preparation
I discovered it in San Francisco when quite a few clients were coming into the salon with natural looking wavy hair and no frizz. After researching it more I found a few salons that specialised in them. So because my business partner Jodi loves her hair wavy, she decided to try out a Digi-perm and allowed me to record it.
I found hairstylist Same because she had the best reviews and client recommendations. Same works at Zippy’s Hair Studio here in San Francisco. Originally from Osaka, Japan, she’s been hairdressing for 11 years, and has been in the U.S. for over 5 years. After Same finished Jodi’s hair (see the before and after images above) I interviewed her about the perm.
Can you explain how a digital perm works?
Digi-perms have been done in Japan for about 10 years. The solutions and chemical reactions are similar to the Japanese straight perm, with the only difference being that rollers are used instead of straightening irons. First a protector, conditioner and a solution is applied. This softens the hair and breaks down the bonds in the hair. The solution is rinsed off and the hair is wound around the rollers. Heat protection pads are used in between the skin and roller. The codes (connectors from machine) are then attached to the rods and the appropriate temperature and time is set. The codes are then taken off and felt pads removed before applying the second solution, which will fix the hair.
How is it a hot perm will give a looser curl than a cold perm?
The solution is actually stronger than a cold wave but will give a softer curl when wet but a stronger curl when dry.
How much of the hair length is permed?
It depends on the style that is required, but mostly half of the length. Because a Digi-perm uses heat, it cannot be used near the scalp, therefore if you want some bounce at the roots it’s best to go with a cold perm.
Are there different rod sizes available?
There are six main sizes used, ranging between 8mm to 30mm.
If someone wanted to have spiral curls, would you do a Digi-perm or would you recommend something else?
We could do spiral curls but because the machines only have 40 codes, it would mean the perm would have to be done twice, so it would be more expensive and time consuming than doing a cold perm.
How long does the process usually take?
Including a haircut, approximately 3 hours on medium length hair.
Do Digi-perms only work on Asian Hair or can it be done on Caucasian hair too?
I have tried it on Caucasian hair and it does not work as well, and also not on fine or damaged hair. The hair did not bond and it was damaged. Even when I have tried it on half Asian hair, the curls faded quickly.
Where can the machines be purchased?
They are made mainly Japan and Korea. I use one made by Oohiro and there are distributors and importers available online.
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