Perms Are Making A Comeback In 2023 (And They're Better)

Love it or hate it, the perm is back in business.
Katie Holmes sported curls in New York City on Feb. 16, 2023.
Gotham via Getty Images
Katie Holmes sported curls in New York City on Feb. 16, 2023.

Tightly permed curls teased to the highest levels are a quintessential hairstyle of the ’80s. Straight hair and more natural-looking waves have reigned supreme for the past few decades, but typically straight-haired, trendsetting celebs like Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Katie Holmes have been spotted in the past year with curls that are inspiring other people to get modern-day perms, not to mention the slew of celebrities and influencers showcasing their own natural curls.

TikTok has also been pivotal in the resurgence of perms, especially in men, with users documenting their experiences to share with others. While Hadid was seen with the tight spiral curls popular in the ’80s, Holmes wore bigger, bouncier curls and Ratajkowski sported voluminous, brushed-out disco curls. Today, when it comes to taking a plunge into permed hair, all types of curls are welcome.

“Because of the recent trends of people wanting to embrace and enhance their natural hair texture, the perm of 2023 tends to lean towards the ‘my hair but better’ vibe,” explained Sarah Potempa, a celebrity hairstylist and founder of The Beachwaver Co.

Depending on the texture and curl or wave pattern of your natural hair, you have options when it comes to the type of perm you want. But first, let’s start with the basics.

What are the different kinds of perms?

“With a perm you can maximize different textures, curly to wavy, especially if your hair is naturally straight and flat,” said Yvey Valcin, a master stylist and founder Yvey, a gender-neutral and inclusive salon in Seattle. “A perm is the way to add volume and movement to your hair.”

Perms, or permanent hairstyles, are performed in one of two ways: cold perms or digital perms.

When getting a cold perm, or traditional perm, hair is typically wrapped around a rod of various sizes to achieve the curl or wave pattern desired. A liquid chemical solution that reacts with the keratin in the hair is applied, and indirect heat is used to set the style.

With a digital perm, a cream solution is first placed on the hair, then heated curling rods or some other heated tool are put into the hair to set the style. This type of perm can work well with naturally textured hair.

“A digital perm is more extreme in the fact that it restructures your whole hair strand using heat,” said Kimberly Gueldner, a New York City-based celebrity hairstylist and founder of Voel Hair Studio.

Digital perms were first used in Asia, as cold perms don’t last as long for people with coarse or thick hair types. While traditional perms typically last anywhere from three to six months, digital perms can last six months or up to a year. However, due to the heat, digital perms are not an option for people wanting spiral curls, because the heated rods can’t be placed close enough to the scalp to achieve a spiral.

So what kind of perm are most people getting in 2023?

“There are so many perm styles that are on trend right now, spanning from loose, subtle waves, to bouncy, enhanced curls,” Potempa said.

From barely-there curls to the tightest ringlets, a knowledgeable hairstylist can help you achieve the hair pattern of your dreams. In general, you’ll be given a cold perm, unless you go to a salon specializing in digital perms. Below are some of the more popular perming styles used now.

The spiral perm

Spiral perms are what most people are familiar with, and are likely what the majority of people on TikTok are choosing. It’s achieved by taking sections of hair and wrapping them around a long rod. While the spiral perm was the look of the 1980s, there are some differences when comparing it to today’s trend.

“Instead of getting bangs and that huge volume with teasing, the volume is left natural depending on the texture of the hair,” explained Ghanima Abdullah, a Chicago-based hairstylist. “You can get one as tight as you like for complete ringlets, or looser for a more beachy look.”

Spiral curls can also enhance your natural hair.

“To get a natural-looking perm, the hair is set with rods following the natural wave pattern of the hair,” Potempa said. “This will give your natural wave pattern more definition.”

The Korean perm

“In Korea, having straight hair is very common, however, with textured hair being very trendy right now, it makes sense to not want to spend so much time curling your hair to get a desired style every day when you can just perm it,” Valcin explained.

Korean perms result in soft, natural-looking waves that provide added volume to hair. They are typically performed with larger rollers and can be done as digital perms.

There are two popular styles, the S-curl and the C-curl perm. Both resemble the shape of the letter they are named after. The S-curl provides a beachy wave, while the C-curl gives a curled-under appearance and is typically done on bob-length haircuts.

The biggest benefit of this type of perm is that it offers loose waves, so when hair starts growing out the style can still look good, especially compared to curlier perms.

French braid perms

Have you ever gone to bed with damp hair French-braided, untwisting it in the morning to find overnight waves? French braid perms use this same method: A hairstylist braids three to six rows of hair and then applies the perming solution to achieve those same waves, but ones that will last much longer.

The pros and cons of getting a perm

Perms bestow curls and waves without the daily use of curling irons or hot rollers. While maintenance on perms is required, like using gentle shampoos and applying mousse after you wash your hair, there is much less hassle when getting ready each day.

But there are a few more cons.

“Although the perming process has evolved over time to be gentler on the hair, any chemical treatments will cause some damage to the hair, no matter the intensity or subtlety of the actual wave,” Potempa said.

Those with bleached hair can typically not get their hair permed at all, because the chemical solution will cause too much damage.

Hair growth is another factor to consider. Although perms fade over time, hair will begin to grow. Wavy perms should look OK growing out, but spiral perms are a different story. You need to either re-perm your hair, embrace the inch of straight hair growing out of your scalp or sport a ponytail until the perm finally fizzles out.

Perms last for several months, so if the style isn’t what was expected, your options are to hope your feelings change after a few days or to straighten your hair back with a second perm, which isn’t the healthiest option for your hair. If you do go for a perm, be sure to take example pictures to show the stylist the exact look you want to achieve.

If you’re ready to take the plunge into perms, there’s one more step.

I recommend asking your stylist about the different solutions they use and what they would recommend for your hair type and how it may affect your hair now and over time with repetitive perming,” Potempa said.

Want to up your hair game? These 24 hair products are basically bottles of pure magic.

HuffPost and its publishing partners may receive a commission from some purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently curated by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

A bottle of TikTok-famous protein hair treatment
Promising reviews: "Not gonna lie I was skeptical that this could help me. A few months ago I decided I could bleach my hair. I burnt it to such a crisp that I’ve literally been wearing it up under a cap. That worked when it was winter but now it’s warm so I needed a solution. I saw this product highly recommended on other sites and the reviews were good. So I ordered a tube. Used it twice now and OH. MY. LANTA. For months my hair has felt like crunchy noodles ready to snap at a moment's notice. After one treatment (left in about 15 minutes after shampoo, before conditioner) my ends feel soft!! After the second time washing with it, it actually moves like it’s not damaged and it is visibly SO much healthier. Like seriously idk how they bottled witchcraft but I’m going to continue to use this product even when my hair grows out. An absolute magical miracle potion! I seriously prepared myself to explain to the world that it doesn’t work. But instead, I have the healthiest hair I’ve had since being a home hairdresser. 10/10 for less then $10. Picture from left to right (blonde above): my hair before using this, my hair after first treatment, my hair after second treatment. — Beth
Arctic Fox semi-permanent hair dye
It's available in three sizes and 23 colors.

Promising review:
"Love it! The product smells fantastic and is easy to apply. I have fairly long hair and one bottle was more than enough. I had previously balayaged my hair about six months ago and the color took very well to the highlights we put in. It came out darker where my natural brown is and much brighter (pinkish burgundy) where it was previously bleached." — Rebecca
A Kristin Ess rose gold temporary hair tint
For more intense color, you can towel dry your hair before you spray.

Promising review: "I absolutely love this stuff. There's no commitment and no staining the hair. It is literally a put-in-and-wash-out product. I have platinum-blonde hair and there was no tint of pink left behind or anything. I love this stuff! It gives you rose-gold pink hair, so beautiful." — Lee
An Ogx leave-in conditioning cream
Promising review: "Absolutely love this stuff! It's the one hair product I have to have. I rotate shampoos and conditioners but have never found anything to put on damp hair that I like as much as this. It says it's for curls, but works great on straight hair, too." — Bunco Queen of the Universe
A curling cream made with shea butter and a blend of oils
Promising review: "You have to try it! I've been looking for something like this for a long time! I put it in my hair while it's still wet and go to bed with it in. In the morning, I literally don't have to touch my hair… It's already perfect as is! Wow!" — Amazon customer
An 8-second reparative hair treatment
Promising review: "I don’t usually do reviews on products, but for this one, I absolutely have to. I have 3c-type hair and struggle with a lot a breakage, unmanageability, and moisture. When my mom mentioned this product to me, I didn’t take her seriously because of the simple fact that we have two completely different hair textures. I never would have thought this brand would work on my hair...I have never in my 22 years felt my hair like this. I feel like I have a completely different head of hair. This product is so amazing and I will FOREVER be using this product in my hair regimen." — Theressa Hailey
An 8-second in-shower hair detangler
This detangling formula will work best for long, straight hair, though it will still add shine to shorter, thicker hair types, too.

Promising review: "I was shocked with how amazing this product made my hair feel and look. I got compliments several times after using. It reduced the time it takes for me to dry, straighten and curl. Amazing." — Tami M.
A soft and lightweight styling mousse
Thank God It's Natural is a Black woman-owned small biz based in Chicago, Illinois, that specializes in hair products.

Promising review: "This is my favorite for my curly, 3a–3c, medium-coarse, very dry hair. This mousse makes my hair soft and bouncy and it holds the curl well. My hair does not get as dry and frizzy as it used to. This gets reactivated easily with the Curl Refresher Spray, and my curls last for days." — ShaniAZ
A fluffy and flexible styling mousse
Promising review: "I have permed hair with 3b curls, and this is the best mousse I have found! It does not leave my hair sticky or stiff, it’s very moisturizing, and the foam is a great consistency. The scent is light and pleasant, and this is my new go-to for both freshly washed hair or the day after re-boost. So glad I found this!" —Tonii
John Frieda Brilliant Brunette shampoo to add gloss and vibrancy
Reviewers with thin-to-wavy hair types seem to have the best results.

Promising review: "I purchased this shampoo, and my hair looks golden brown instead of brown with a lot of gray underneath. I didn't want the mess of coloring my own hair nor did I think I could do as good a job as my hairdresser, so I was so pleased that Frieda's Shampoo did the job. I definitely recommend this shampoo along with the Brilliant Brunette conditioner." — Dan Cremeans
A frizz-managing leave-in conditioning spray
This spray is designed for all hair types, but reviewers with straight, fine hair say that a little goes a long way. Briogeo is a Black-owned, woman-owned business that specializes in haircare.

Promising reviews: "I'm a dude with long hair and didn't know about leave-in conditioner. Since buying this product, I would have to consider myself an idiot for all the years that I didn't know it existed." — Kyle

"I have lived in Florida for the past 19 years and pretty much tried every anti-frizz product on the market to no avail. I really gave up entirely until my friend recommended I try this product. WOW, it actually works. I can't believe under Florida's 90% humidity conditions my hair is not frizzy for the first time in in 19 years. I no longer look like I was dragged through a rainforest. THIS PRODUCT IS A MIRACLE. Simply amazed." — The Shrike
Orlando Pita Play
A heat protectant spray
Promising review: "Favorite heat protectant spray. I received this item in a sample box. When I ran out, I had to order it. A little pricey but one of the best heat protectant sprays I’ve tried and leaves my hair feeling soft and smooth. Also, curls last for two days." — Mary Ann Garcia
A well-loved hair refreshing spray
Uncle Funky's Daughter is a Black woman-owned biz founded by Renee Morris in 2014. She has used her own 20-plus-year natural hair journey to expand the natural haircare line.

Promising review: "Smells so good and is not overbearing at all. I've tried a lot on my locks and this is the best I've found in five years!" — Loe55
A hydrating leave-in conditioner
Eden BodyWorks is a Black woman-owned business that specializes in natural products to nurture, restore, and maintain hair. Reviewers with 2a through 4c hair say it works well for them!

Promising review: "This product is soooo moisturizing! I have type 4b/4c hair with some 4a in the front and I’m low porosity, and my hair loves this product! The consistency is really nice and it smells good too. You don’t need a lot either." — Shanteshia
A wildly popular Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo
The brand recommends using it every three to four days for up to eight weeks for best results.

Promising review: "This shampoo is the real deal. I’ve struggled with a flaky, itchy scalp since I was a kid. I’d shower/wash my hair and by the next day I’d have itchiness, and by day two I’d have visible flakes. Over the years I’ve tried washing my hair more often and less often, I’ve tried the apple cider vinegar washing, different scalp masks, and essentially any low costing remedy I could find online, but nothing ever helped. I started using this about two weeks ago. I’ve been using it just as the instructions say — wash once, rinse thoroughly, and wash a second time, every three to four days, and let me tell you just from the first wash, the effect was immediate. There’s no itchiness, even though I sweat a lot through my eight-hour shifts at work. I haven’t seen a single dandruff flake since I first used it. Maybe it won’t work so quickly or effectively for everyone, but this genuinely feels like a miracle product for me. I don’t think I can ever use another shampoo after this. The shampoo has a gentle soapy smell and it keeps my hair smelling nice until the next wash. For anyone looking for relief, THIS IS YOUR SIGN TO BUY IT !!!" — Gaby G.
A conditioning and detangling smoothing oil
Promising reviews: "This brand of oil is by far the best I’ve used. The fragrance, drying power, and moisturizing is just what my curly hair needs. It protects hair when using hair dryers, curlers etc. without weighing it down. It’s a great finishing product too. Use just a small amount… it goes a long way!" — Tonytex

"After years of damage my hair is at a point of no return. I started using this product nightly and after a few days I could already see a big difference. I highly recommend it." — Mom2
A biotin-containing leave-in conditioning spray
Promising review: "I’ve noticed the texture of my hair has been changing with age (*tear*). I have thick hair and usually wash it every 3rd day. This spray makes my hair soooooo soft ad brings your back to the texture! Best thing, even after 2-3 days of not washing my hair, it doesn’t add any grease to my hair!! Highly recommend! Can’t beat the price when you compare brand name products with similar quality." — Bravissimo
A deep-conditioning hair mask with castor oil
Promising review: "My scalp felt invigorated after applying. I left the masque on overnight and when I rinsed the next morning my scalp felt refreshed and clean. I actually think this product also aided in elongating my curls. Hair looks hydrated as well! I plan to use every two weeks." — Dawn M.
An all-natural dry shampoo
It's also vegan and cruelty-free. Just lightly dispense the powder onto your hair roots and gently rub it in.

Promising review: "Words can’t even describe how incredible this stuff is! When my bottle arrived, I was on day five of not washing my hair, and day three of wearing it in a ponytail. Just for fun and to experiment before I showered and washed my hair, I thought I’d test it out. WOW!!! It completely, miraculously made my hair look like I had just washed it! I seriously started laughing because I was so shocked! I didn’t even end up washing my hair in the shower! You would seriously never know that my hair was not freshly washed and blow-dried.I don’t know how they make this magic stuff, but this will be my new go-to for life! Don’t even hesitate, just buy it! I got the grapefruit scent and it smells so good too!" — Karen Grow
A detangling conditioning spray
Promising reviews: "Ok. I’ve tried a plethora of hair detanglers for both of my daughters type 4c African American hair. I was very skeptical at first being that this is not marketed for such hair, but after seeing a YouTuber's success with it, I decided to give it a shot. I am amazed. I sprayed a little bit on my daughter's washed and dried hair; took the tangles and knots right out!!!!!! With ease. I will now stock up on these. This left her hair moisturized, but not too greasy and smelling great. I’m very impressed!" —Tiffany F.

"This stuff is a holy grail product for me for a reason I wasn’t expecting! I bought this to keep in my beach bag for days out on the boat. My hair is always a tangled mess by the end of the day, so I thought this would help. It definitely helps with tangles, but it also has tamed my frizz so well that I use it every day now! I spray it on right out of the shower and comb through. I have also sprayed it on dry hair on days when I didn’t wash my hair. It’s fantastic!" — Chelsea
A super-hydrating anti-frizz curl mousse
Promising review: "This magic foam is epic! I never thought a hair product would change my life, but this one did. It's so incredibly lightweight, you feel like there is nothing in your hair. I get volume and definition without any of the drawbacks of normal products." — Kathy C.
A bestselling argan oil hair mask
Promising review: "My hair is very thin and curly. The ends are damaged from heat and color, causing my hair to look even more unruly. I do oil treatments once a week and only wash my hair two to three times a week but NOTHING has made my hair feel like this product does.There is an immediate difference as soon as this product touches my hair. It leaves my hair feeling so silky, even after I rinse it out and dry my hair." — Melissa

A popular and non-greasy hair-styling serum
Promising review: "Love this serum. I use it on my hair when it’s dry to reduce the frizziness and flyaways. My go-to finishing product on my hair." — Jackie
An air-dry leave-in curl cream
According to reviewers, this cream will also add a little volume to thin, fine hair or enhance the waves in those with thick, curly hair.

Promising review: "I'm so grateful that I found this product. My hair is wavy and frizzy. Every once in a great while my waves resemble curls but the frizz is always there. I've only used this product one time so far and I never want to be without it. I put some on after towel drying (no brushing) my hair, and my waves actually resembled curls! It wasn't instant so I was skeptical but after about 15 minutes I caught a glimpse of my hair in the mirror and I was amazed. It looked styled rather than a ratty mess. I slept on it and it still looked great in the morning!!!" — mich0610

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