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How Long Does A Perm Last For Men?

Professionally curling your hair isn’t cheap, so the big question is, how long does a perm last for men? After all, you want to get your money’s worth out of your stylish new updo.

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Should You Get A Perm As A Man?

Perms were huge in the 80s (literally and figuratively). None of us can forget the iconic curls that celebrities like Cher, Bradley Cooper, Justin Timberlake, and Dolly Parton adopted.

But are perms still popular today? I’d argue they are – they’re just more subtle. 

If you’ve been dying for curly hair but don’t want the 80s mane, a modern perm look might be perfect for you. You can talk to a stylist about how tight you want your curls and how you want to shape them. The results might be more subtle than you’d expect.

You should get a perm as a man if you’ve always wanted to see what curly hair could do for you.

A quick side note: sometimes stylists also use the word “perm” to refer to chemicals that permanently straighten your hair. More often, those are called hair relaxers. For all intents and purposes, “perm” in this article refers to the classic voluminous, curly-hair style.

How Long Does A Perm Last For Men?

Perms last anywhere from 3 to 6 months. In between, you might want to visit your stylist for a touch-up or two to make your perm last as long as possible.

Part of stretching the lifespan of your perm is maintaining it well (which we’ll talk about in a second), but it also boils down to your hair type. If your hair is already slightly curly or wavy and thick, it’ll probably pick up the perm shape much easier than thin or straight hair.

How Do Guys Maintain A Perm?

Maintaining a perm might seem daunting, but as long as you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t take more care than any other hairstyle.

First 72 Hours: DON’T Touch Your Hair

The first 72 hours are crucial for letting your perm set. The chemicals are still kicking in, so you shouldn’t get your hair wet or use any hair product on it.

To loosely quote a famous line from Legally Blonde, “The first cardinal rule of perm maintenance (is that) you’re forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate.” 

Ammonium thioglycolate is the stuff that makes your hair curl. (Watch that movie with your girlfriend for big brownie points.)

Wash Sparingly

You really shouldn’t wash your hair every day, whether or not you have a perm. Shampoo dries out your hair, even if it promises not to – that’s it’s job.

Perms are already drying on your hair, so using shampoo too often can cause frizziness and breakage. When you do wash, use a gentle, hydrating shampoo (like the best coconut oil shampoos for men.

Rinse with water and wash only once or twice a week.

Use A Deep Conditioner

Perms are naturally drying. Your hair and scalp will feel more parched than usual. The easiest way to bring moisture back to your hair is by using a deep conditioner every week.

Deep conditioners go beyond normal conditioners – you leave them in for a few hours, or overnight, so that they have time to really sink in. They’ll enhance your curls and protect you from frizz.

Comb Less

Don’t brush out dry, curly hair. That’s how you end up with an 80s look.

Instead, try using a wide-toothed comb to detangle your hair while you’re conditioning it in the shower. Wet curly hair is easier to work with, and combing it won’t ruin your curls. Once it’s dry, don’t touch it.

Curly hair does not need to be combed as often as straight hair. It’s a mistake that some perm newbies make.

Don’t Forget Regular Haircuts

It’s easy to blow off your regular barber appointments when your hairstyle is supposed to be set for the next 3-6 months. But even if you have a perm, you should still be going in for your regular trims.

As your hair grows out, your perm might start to look messy and wavy rather than curly. Those trips to the salon will help even out the rough edges. Your stylist might even recommend a perm touch-up at the halfway point.

Consider A New Pillowcase

I don’t consider this a vital component of perm maintenance, but consider buying a silk or satin pillowcase. When you sleep on your curls, they can pick up a wonky shape or new tangles. Soft, silky pillowcases do a better job of protecting your curls. It’s a nice life hack for guys with longer hair.

Can Men With Thin Hair Get A Perm?

Men with thin hair can get a perm. Your stylist will use gentler chemicals to suit your hair type, still giving you a great curly-head look.

Though, be warned, if you’re on the verge of going bald, it won’t necessarily give you a full-looking head of hair. (If you’re ready to accept your fate, use a great balding shampoo.)

On the flip side, if you have thin hair, a nice perm can make your hair look fuller. It’s a great way to give yourself permanent volume, rather than having to style it and blow dry it up every day.

Any stylist will admit, thick hair really rocks the perm world. But thin hair can look great with a perm too.

How Much Does A Perm Cost For Guys?

Expect to pay about $120 for a good perm. 

Obviously the price may vary. Some guys claim they’ve found deals as low as $30, while super high-quality salons sometimes charge up to $300. For a middle-ground, nice perm with a strong hold, $120 is just about right.

Don’t forget about the costs of maintenance either. You still need to schedule your regular haircuts when you have a perm – letting your hair get too long can make the perm look messy. Choose a barber who knows how to cut curly hair.

The good news is that when it comes to how long does a perm last for men, perms do last for a while.

Can You Undo A Perm?

You can undo a perm. Lots of guys do it on accident, but if your salon visit was a disaster, you can also unwind your perm on purpose.

The fastest way to undo a perm is to wash it while it’s still fresh, within 48 hours of having it done. I rarely recommend this, but if you have a disaster perm on your hands, wash your hair a few times over the span of those initial 2 days to try to get rid of it. Use a deep conditioner in between so that you don’t damage your hair any more. (The deep conditioner will also help relax your curls.)

If you don’t undo your perm within those 48 hours, it’s going to be very hard to fix it later. You can blow dry and straight iron your hair after washing it every day, or use a hair relaxer. Even if you visit a stylist, they probably won’t recommend treating it – that could do more damage to your hair.

As a last resort, try learning a new non-hair-product-related way to style your hair and beat back the perm. Maybe you’ll help hairbands and man buns make a comeback.

Can A Perm Last Forever?

If you’re still wondering “how long does a perm last for men”, I’ve got bad news…

Perms don’t last forever :(

If you’re eying a coworker, wondering if he has a “forever perm,” he probably gets his curls touched up every three months. Or his hair is just naturally curly.

Most perms last 3-6 months if you maintain your hair well. You should turn and run if a hairstylist is promising that your perm will last longer or forever – either they’re lying, or they’re about to give your hair chemical burns.

How Often Do You Get A Perm?

You can get temporary or long-term perms. Both take one salon appointment that will last anywhere from 1 to 5 hours.

As we said above, your typical perm will last 3-6 months depending on how readily your hair takes to it, so you should plan to touch up your perm around the 4-month mark if you decide that you want to keep the curls. 

A “temporary” perm is a good way to try out the perm without committing. It lasts about a week.

How Do You Tell If A Guy Has A Perm?

It’s harder than you think – most perms look like natural, gently styled curls. Unless your coworker who has stick-straight hair shows up with goldilocks curls, you probably can’t tell if a guy has a perm.

Some clues you can look for:

• The curls look more uniform than normal. Natural curls are often sporadic. Perm curls are orderly and even.

• His hair looks dry or frizzy. The perm might need a touch-up.

• If his hair is long – the curls hold their shape really, really well. Natural long curls without much styling can lose tightness throughout the day.

Those are pretty subtle! If you’re worried about strangers noticing that you have a perm, don’t be. It’s nothing to be embarrassed of, and it’s highly unlikely that anyone is going to point it out. And the few people who do notice will probably drop compliments.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.