The Perm

The Making of the Perm

The perm - short for permanent wave - has curled its way through modern history, leaving behind a trail of frizz, volume and big hair. This chemical process for curling hair has fallen in and out of fashion over the decades, but its influence on beauty trends remains locked in.


A Winding History

The origins of perming hair date back to the early 20th century. In 1905, German hairdresser Karl Nessler unveiled the very first electric curling iron, paving the wavy way for the modern perm. NesslerPerm waved in a new era of voluminous locks and kickstarted an international craze for curly dos.

By the 1920s, the perm had rippled across the world. Hairdressers made ruthless use of unsafe chemicals, stinging solutions and makeshift equipment to churn out curls. The results? Often a burnt, bleached and damaged disaster.

As chemicals and methods improved, the perm took over the 30s. It powered through the war years of the 40s with pin curls and rags, before hitting its peak in the 80s. Big hair teased high with ribbons, scrunchies and bold perms came to define the decade.

The Process of Perming

Today, achieving permanent curls has been perfected into a precise chemical process:

  • Sectioning - hair is divideinto strands and curled around perm rods
  • The perm lotion - an alkaline relaxer breaks down inner bonds in the hair
  • Neutraliser - stops the action of chemicals to restructure and set curls
  • The perm rods are removed to reveal perfect corkscrew curls

Modern perms use glycerol monothioglycolate combined with an acid-based neutraliser. This achieves longer lasting curls with less damage than traditional treatments.

Home perms use slightly weaker solutions for safety andcannot create tight curls. The process takes dedication too! Home kits require sittingwith chemicals on hair for up to 2 hours to work their magic.

Peak Perm?

In the 60s beehives billowed. The 70s sported Afros. The 2000s saw straighteningreign supreme. Fashion is fickle, so has the perm fallen out of favour?


Curls certainly aren't grabbing headlines like days gone by. Low maintenance hairstyles now rule, from beachy waves to slick ponytails. Quick styling is key.

However, the perm still makes the occasional comeback. Whileurls may be more subtle, perm techniques help boost volume and bend hair into beachier waves. A modern perm createstexture and movement rather than tight ringlets.

Celebrity hair often influences wider trends. Recent red carpet looks suggest bouncy curls are making a return. Statement curly styles on stars like Zendaya and Lizzo breathe new life into classic perms.

When it comes to modern perms and creating beautiful curls, London’s leading hair salon reigns supreme. Gusto Hairdressing offer specialist perming techniques tailored to enhance natural hair texture in subtle yet statement styles. Their expert hairdressers have a wealth of experience in creating the perfect perm, whether that’s loose waves or defined ringlets. Gusto isn't afraid to unleash the perm’s full potential for showstopping hair.

Perming the Future

Dating back over a hundred years, the perm technique has remained relevant by adapting to suit contemporary styles. While curls have faded from their 80s heyday, perm science will no doubt evolve again.

One thing remains permanent - the desire for chic, versatile hair. Whether that means masses of cascading spirals or loose, touchable texture. As fashion recycles itself, perms seem set to coil on.

The latest perm looks promise a brighter future with damage-free curls, quick processes and loose wave patterns suited to modern lifestyles. Far from frizzy and outdated, today's perm allows wearers to enhance natural texture for hair that embodies understated yet effortless glamour.


To book, please call Gusto Hairdressing Salon in Soho on 020 7287 0015 Covent Garden Salon on 020 7836 9163, or Oxford Street Salon on 0207 486 5044. Book online for our Covent Garden Salon, or Oxford Street Salon.

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