I’m not one of those adventurous people when it comes to my hair. It’s always been brown, it’s always been straight, and it’s always been practically the same style (apart from the mullet of ’89 – thanks a lot, mum).
My cool older sister let me borrow her crimper once or twice in the early 90s and I used to beg mum to put ringlets in my hair when she was doing it for my sister for a dance concert. But apart from these isolated incidents, you could always count on my brown, straight hair.
So when my workmate casually hinted to me earlier this year that we might be getting perms, my initial reaction was “NO WAY!!!” But, when you work in radio, nothing is off limits when it comes to getting content for the show. Hair included. I did some googling to see what I was in for. When I came across some pictures of beautiful, loose, barrel-curl perms, my reaction shifted. The hair in the pictures looked shiny, natural & bouncy – yep, I could handle that!
So I got on board for “Febru-DARE-y“, a cause supporting Cerebral Palsy. Basically, the three of us as a team were dared to all get our hair permed. I was right on board by this stage, imagining how much I’d fall in love with my loosely-permed hair. I was ready for the biggest hair change of my life!
We went along one sunny day in March to Earth Hair & Body at St Lucia – the salon that had kindly agreed to pull out the perming equipment from the back of the cupboard (surely it hadn’t been used since the 90s?!) and work their magic on our hair.
Liam & Robbie got started first. They both have short hair, but hadn’t had a trim in a while. Even so, they only required about a dozen curlers on the tops of their heads. It was a pretty fast process. Then they got started on me. Not only is my hair quite long, but it’s also very thick. They used the biggest rollers available at the salon, but to my nervous realisation, these would not great big, barrel curls. Tiny strands of my thick hair got wrapped around the curlers, one by one, until I was weighed down with about 200 of them.
Once done, a solution was poured over them all, which smelt absolutely revolting. It was foul. I began to realise why they say too many perms will do permanent damage to your air. This got washed out and another solution was put on. This was also left for some time, before being washed out. Before long, it was time to take out the rollers. Out came all 200 of them, and they took me back to the chair in front of the mirror. By this time, Liam & Robbie had well and truly finished – and were looking pretty dapper! The whole process for me took about 3.5 hours.
My first reaction was nervous laughter mixed with instant regret. What had I done?! The curls seems so tight and it was just so…different! I had never changed my hair before and I understood why. Maybe they could chemically straighten it for me right away?! But I soon adjusted to it and told myself to embrace the change – after all, it’s only hair!
So I went home with a positive attitude. The kids told me they quite liked it, but my husband would need some convincing – he admitted he was not really a fan of it. I woke up the next morning and went to work, and within a couple of hours, it was a frizz disaster. The perm was all over the place! The curls were not at all defined and my hair was really bouffant – it was NOT a good look.
I jumped on trusty Facebook to seek the advice of curly-haired friends. I was given lots of help, but it was a couple of days before I could get to the shops to stock up on the correct product. For the first week, I just wore my hair in a bun. I was not confident enough to wear it out – I was self-conscious and was not ready to embrace the curls.
Once I got the curly-haired shampoo, conditioner, treatment & product, I felt ready to show my perm to the world! I got lots of positive comments and realised this was something I could get used to – and I began to actually like it!
Once I got the hang of handling curly hair, I realised it was actually easier to maintain than straight! I seem to need to wash it less, and in the mornings I actually can just take it out of the hair tie, give it a little scrunch with my fingers, and it’s good to go! How easy is that?!
When I had straight hair, I could never understand people who say they never brush their hair. How was that even possible? Now I get it! I comb my hair after I wash it, and that’s it – no other brushing required. I’ve also picked up some other tips along the way, like putting it in two pigtail plaits at night when it’s damp, then the curls are really well defined the next day.
Another big confident boost was colouring my hair. The perm had stripped some of my existing colour away and it was very patchy with major mousy brown regrowth coming through. But once I put a dark brown colour through, it looked heaps better and I reached a new level in actually liking the perm.
The icing on the cake was my 2-year-old boy a couple of weeks ago. I was kissing him goodnight and he said to me “mummy, your perm is soooo pretty”. It just melted my heart!
After just a few weeks, Liam & Robbie both decided they needed haircuts, which basically got rid of their perms. I, however, am doing it for the team, and I know mine will be around for a lot longer. Now, several weeks on, I can say I actually do like it! It’s very low maintenance, I get lots of positive compliments, and I like stepping outside the comfort zone every now & then. The one person who still is not really a fan, is my husband Dean. He’s just not keen on the curly hair on me. In fact, the only time he’s actually complimented me on my hair since having it permed, is when I had bed hair the other day! Will he come around before the perm grows out? I can’t say.
I’m happy I can now say I’ve tried a new hairstyle. Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I almost feel like asking them if I look like a naturally curly-haired person! Or if they’d be surprised to know the curls aren’t my own. Or I’ll spot someone with similar curls and wonder if theirs is natural, or permed. Perhaps the perm will come back into fashion! It’s certainly been a learning curve, but one I’m happy to be on. It’s only hair, after all.