I have a confession. I last had a perm when I was 14. It was the year 2000, which is one of the worst years for hair. My mum is a brilliant hairdresser, and with such skill at my disposal I was always asking her to trim a bit here, add a fringe there, or bleach that entire section a bit no actually dye it back I don’t suit blonde.
I loved my very first perm, and although mum went weak with the solution, anticipating my ever-changing style, it make my hair look full of volume and life. I was the envy of all my friends.
Skip forward to now.
Sandra from the life-saving Sophie and Luna (more on that to come) has crafted me a handmade floral crown for tomorrow, which happens to be my wedding day, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for. It wouldn’t work with hair up, so I decided to go for curls. And rather than worry about them dropping during the day, a perm was in order.
Karine Jackson’s salon (I’d visited in 2014 for my pixie cut) was the first port of call, purely because they use organic hair dyes and perms. This means less damage to my hair and no chance of it reacting to my existing dye job and leaving me with green-tinted hair as I walked down the aisle. Plus, they won London Hairdresser of the Year and have been nominated in the London Lifestyle Awards this year. All these accolades mean they’re really at the top of their game.
I have to tell you guys, two days later, perms are definitely the way forward.
A week before…
I met with Claudia (CLOUD-ear) a week before my perm in their Covent Garden salon. She sat me down with a few magazines and asked me what I wanted from my perm. Like an idiot, I muttered something about liking my hair when I curl it with GHDs. Rather than laugh in my face, which she had every right to do, she explained a perm will make my hair curly, but nothing like the result you’d get after GHDs or when it’s run through tongs.
I wanted to go ahead anyway, so we agreed on a plan of action.
She snipped a section of my hair to process in the solution, and showed me a few photos of how my hair will more than likely look. Happy with what we’d discussed, I left the salon full of excitement. My straight locks were on borrowed time…
On the day
I rocked up to Karine’s and was warmly greeted by Sam, who led me to the back mezzanine area and got me a coffee. While waiting for the show to start, I said a quick hello to the friendly American sitting next to me. She’s a KJ regular and was getting her highlights topped up.
“Oh hi there! I love it here,” she said, in a typically American accent. “Usually my hair can’t take going so blonde, but the stuff they use is like a miracle. All the mums from school pop in when they get a second to spare.”
Before we could chat further, Claudia came over and said a warm hello before leading me down the spiral staircase for someone to wash and prep my hair.
As before, this was such a relaxing way to start the two-hour treatment. The guy was great at the massage, and ensured I was comfy throughout (because sometimes those sinks can cause painful neck damage and terrible cricks, let’s be honest). With hair all washed and me feeling suitably sleepy it was time to head back up and for Claudia to get to work.
The perm: part I
As we’d talked about the week before, Claudia used a mix of roller sizes to ensure I got a natural-looking result rather than Shirley Temple style ringlets – not a good look for anyone over seven. My hair was sectioned, rolled and clipped into place. After twenty minutes my whole head was covered and it was time to add the solution.
This was a weird bit. As my was scalp exposed and hair pulled taught, the feeling of dripping water sent shivers down my spine. With a plastic hair-bib draped on my shoulders, I have no idea how she didn’t spill a drop as it felt like it was running down my back. The solution didn’t smell anywhere near as strong as it usually does. Claudia explained this was due to the organic nature of the product. So clients can have a perm and head straight out without worrying they smell a bit like cat wee (my words, not hers).
Once the solution was applied I was wrapped in plastic while a heater was set to work for seven minutes. Once that was done, my hair was blowdried to make sure I was getting a good set. Then it was just a waiting game.
The perm: part II
Once the time was up it was back downstairs for the solution to be rinsed away. My head felt so strange after 45 minutes of being in the rollers, and the hair wash was wasn’t as soothing as the first one. My scalp felt really numb!
Claudia explained the process a bit more to me: the perm will last for about eight weeks as it is, and then it’ll gradually start to drop. Immediately after the treatment, it’ll look very, very curly, but this is normal and I can wash my hair after 48 hours. By the time it gets to needing a retreat, my hair will look like it has a gentle, boho wave to it. Not a problem! The perm is permanent, as its name suggests, but as it’s organic, it’s not going to ever be as harsh as people would think.
In fact, I can book in for a dye just ten days after treatment, something not possible with peroxide and ammonia.
The perm: part III
Once the solution was rinsed away I was led back upstairs to the styling chair where the towel containing my new curls was removed and I experienced the big reveal. I was shocked. There were actual curls there, and although more ringlet than soft, bouncy waves I was thrilled. It was so strange (as you can see from the odd face I’m pulling there).
Claudia used organic mousse, which is more water-based than anything else and won’t make my hair look sticky, and asked me to shift my head so the back of the neck was resting on the chair. Gravity is needed to make sure the curls don’t turn to frizz and she expertly softened the look using a diffuser and her hands.
After I was done she assured me it looks better once left to dry naturally, that all of her clients feel they get a better result at home with natural curls than the made-up look I had at that time – a new experience from a stylist as usually I can never quite get the same look once at home.
I left the salon with a spring in my step and in my hair. The entire process took just under two hours, and on more than once occasion I nearly drifted to sleep, it was that relaxing.
Two days later…
Immediately after I felt like a totally different person. I couldn’t believe how different my hair felt bouncing around, and when I showed David he said he absolutely loved it.
I still haven’t washed my hair yet, being about 35 hours after treatment, but I’m sure I’ll update this once the wedding’s over and I’ve perfected my new style. All I know for now is I’ll definitely be back come December to get my hair curled again. I’m definitely a perm convert, and with a system as kind as is used at Karine’s I can do so without feeling like it’s going to damage my hair.
Home maintenance for permed hair
Use an organic shampoo and conditioner, or a gentle solution for coloured hair
Only comb hair when it's wet to run conditioner through it
Use organic mousse for best results, and twist it through hair before giving it a good zhuzh
Let curls hang to the ground and dry hair upside down if using a blow dryer
A diffuser will help, but can make hair frizzy
If you need to blow dry, use a medium heat and speed, and leave it 90% damp
Ideally, zhuzh hair with mousse and leave to dry naturally. It's the best and easiest way
Karine Jackson // 24 Litchfield St, London, WC2H 9NJ // 020 7836 0300 // web
The volumising perm starts from £70.