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My Secret to Effortless Hair: Digital Perm

Like other women, I am always on the look-out for the latest beauty and hair trends and innovations. Some work really well and other under-deliver on the promise. Digital perm is one of those findings that I am truly in love with and have recommended to all of my friends and acquaintances, and even published an article on it. ‘Digital what?’ you probably think to yourself but let me tell you the story of discovering one of the best inventions in the history of hair care!

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I was getting my haircut at one of the Japanese salons in London when I noticed a woman sitting in a corner in hair rollers connected by wires to a funky bright yellow machine. Curious me had to ask what it was and my stylist told me it was digital perm. Originated in Japan, digital perm revolutionized hair styling for stubbornly straight Asian hair. It’s already hugely popular in Japan, South Korea and other countries of the region. It was only a matter of time until this cool technology found its way to London. After my first encounter with the digital perm, I investigated it even more and found ‘Eleven’ hair salon in Mayfair that is one of the leading salons in the UK specializing in digital perm. 

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I booked an appointment with Christian B. Toth, digital perm maverick, who trained in Japan in thermal hair treatments and launched digital perm at Eleven in 2011. I was so impressed with the results that I got hooked on my luscious curls and the ease of care digital perm brought into my life. Now every year I look forward early fall and what has become my annual beauty tradition for the last four years – getting a digital perm.

So how does the digital perm work and how is it different from a traditional perm?

After my hair was washed, it was pre-treated with a solution to break proteins and make hair nice, soft and stretchy. Individual hair strands felt like elastic that could be easily stretched, something I’ve never seen my hair do! Once the solution was rinsed out, my hair was ready for some magic! Strands of hair were wrapped around medium size rollers that were then secured with insulated clips to trap the heat and were individually connected via wires to the digital perm machine.

The unit, which has different settings for time, style and temperature, uses infra-red heat to help ‘set’ the curl memory for a long-lasting effect.

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After 30 minutes of sitting with heavy rollers on my head, clips were removed and neutralizing sigma solution was applied twice over the rollers to fix the shape. Then they were removed and hair was washed so it could finally be styled.

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It took Christian and one of his colleagues to dry and style my hair, which looked so va-va-voom I could stop London traffic!

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So what are advantages and disadvantages of the digital perm?

Well, first of all, digital perm thermally reconditions hair and locks moisture, leaving it soft and shiny. There is also a control over the type curls (from tight to beach wave) and works for both short and long hair. It’s even suitable for frizz prone curls, which it promises to relax into more manageable and smooth waves. I no longer have to curl or style it with a hair dryer, preventing it from over drying.

Every morning I have a super easy 5 min hair routine. I no longer have to curl it or style my hair with hair dryer, preventing its dehydration. I also love that it’s so much more manageable now – I can easily put it in a bun without worrying it will fall apart, which usually happens with my naturally dead-straight and unruly hair.

The only ‘disadvantage’ of the digital perm is learning a new hair care and styling routine in the beginning. I bought a hair dryer with diffuser to style for tighter bouncy curls (especially for special occasions!). However, I got the hang of it very quickly (see my styling tips below) and it now takes me no time.

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Things to know

  • Digital perm is not suitable for everyone. It may not work on very fine, over processed and hair with highlights. That’s why initial consultation with the technician carrying out the treatment is key.
  • Typical digital perm lasts up to 6 months. However, mine lasts for a year with curls dropping slightly and becoming more loose over time. And even after a trim, curls still maintain their shape.
  • For best results digital perm should be styled the right way and with the right products. Digitally permed hair should be washed with protein-based shampoo made for curly or coloured hair and towel dried (by patting gently rather than rubbing).
  • To style, you can either divide it into smaller sections, simply rolling the curls with fingers and allowing them to dry naturally or use a hair dryer with diffuser twisting and scrunching curls as they dry. I wash my hair at night and let it dry while I sleep. To keep hair ends moisturized, I condition them with hair oil, like Moroccan Oil Light Treatment.
  • In the morning I spray it with water and use a bit of Aussie Dual Personality Styling Curl Definition & Soft Feel Serum or Pantene Pro-V Defined Curls to activate the curls.
  • You can colour hair after perming, but it is advisable to wait two weeks after the treatment and it is best to avoid highlights, as all over colour preferable.

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