Before we were obsessed with lobs, lace-front wigs, and rainbow-coloured hair, there were perms. Curly perms, to be precise; the dramatically teased, extra-wavy hair that occupied the heads of your mom, grandma, and celebrities like Cher, and the look of choice for period films like Grease and Flashdance.
Given today's trends, you might think that the curly perm is best reserved for your mom's #TBT photos — but it's actually alive and well, and better-looking than ever before. For straight hair types looking for natural-looking texture without wielding a wave wand every morning, it might even be your best bet. Nunzio Saviano, stylist and owner of Nunzio Saviano Salon, says of the 2019 version of the chemical treatment, "The solutions used to activate the curl are less harsh, and stylists can modify the results to be more modern."
Mallory Granrath, master stylist and perm specialist at Pure Organic Salon in Nashville, says that the frizziness of yesteryear's perms was caused by harsh chemicals like ammonia, mixed with ammonium thioglycolate (Elle Woods taught us). She takes a more holistic approach to the styling method and utilizes formulas free of harsh ingredients. "Times are changing, and you can still achieve great curly texture without all the bad stuff," she tells us.
The results of a curly perm (or body wave) can be the difference between straight hair and beach waves that you don't have to braid, scrunch, or singe with heat to achieve. Ahead, we rounded up everything there is to know about testing out the treatment — along with photo inspiration you'll want to copy.