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Ask a Hairstylist: What You Should Know Before Perming Your Hair

Keep your expectations realistic.
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Welcome to our Hair Consultations column. To request an online hair consultation, follow the instructions here.

Q: Hello Bill, I saw your hair consultations and was super-impressed. I would love to have your insight on my hair. My hair texture is fine but dense, and wavy with random curls and straight pieces. 

Sara's hair has this naturally wavy texture.

I've been growing out a pixie cut. To get more length on top, and to avoid a mullet, I've been getting an undercut. But now I'm having second thoughts about growing out my hair altogether. 

Sara is growing out this pixie cut.

 If I blow-dry, it's straight and smooth, but it looks like "Mom hair." I can wear it naturally wavy/curly, but it's very inconsistent in the outcome—when it's good, I really like it, but there are a lot of days it doesn't work out. I've been considering getting a perm to have a more consistent curly hairstyle, as using a curling iron on bad hair days is a bit time-consuming. 

Sara's "Mom hair" after blow-drying it straight.

Do you think I should I cut my hair or should I suck it up and let it grow out? What type of bangs are best for me? What texture suits me best? If curly, what are your thoughts on perms?

Do you have any recommendations for colour? I'm fairly happy with my medium dark brown; this is my natural colour. I like that there is no upkeep, but I do think it could be improved upon. I thought about lightening the tips to a light brown (baby Ombré) for more depth and texture. 

I have a minimalist style with my clothes and makeup, so hair plays a big part in my overall look. I am a stay-at-home mom, so time can be an issue, but my hair can be as funky as I like. I would like a hairstyle that works with my natural texture, but I don't know if that really exists at this length. Right now, it's just kinda blah and I'm not really sure what to do with it. — Sara

A: Sara, these are my thoughts...

If you grew the nape of your hair, this flirty style would be perfect for you.

Wavy short hairstyle.

You could put a relaxer on your hair to diminish your curl to help create this texture.

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To show off the movement, you could also add slices of colour to add the look of more texture. Not necessarily this colour—I am thinking the opposite and the slices being darker, using your own natural shade as the lightest. This will be an easy grow-out and does not damage the hair as much as going lighter.

My opinion about perms is from years of experience: perms for roller sets, stack perms, piggy back perms, root perms, square curls using popsicle sticks... 

Before I knew anything about the reality of them, I took a picture of an idea I had for my hair. I drew a picture and showed it to the hairstylist and she said, "Oh for sure," she could do what I wanted. 

Perms do reconstruct the hair, but unfortunately, not like the curls we dream of and see in pictures.

Here are a couple of realistic examples of what a perm would be like at best, unless styled into something more uniform.

Permed light brown short hairstyle.

Permed blonde short hairstyle.

Here are a couple examples of styled perms.

Anika Noni Rose at the 2011 premiere of 'Bag of Bones'.

Short brunette curly hair.

The work you don't want to do, but still an option.

As far a what type of bang will suit you, try them all… you have great bone structure, so you can wear any bang.

PS: If you decide to perm or relax your hair, add colour after that process has been done (if you feel the need to).


Bill Angst is one of Canada’s top celebrity hairstylists and the owner of Angst Hair at 240 Queen Street East in Toronto. Call 416-360-5942 to book an appointment.