How Much Does a Perm Cost in the US?
Published September 29, 2021
The cost of getting a perm in the US can vary widely. It depends on a lot of factors like what type of perm you’re getting, your hairstylist’s reputation, and the state you’re in. But in general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100. Some places even charge as much as $200.
Obviously, if you want to make sure your perm comes out great, you must be prepared to shell out money. A hair perming treatment is one of those things you shouldn’t skimp on unless you want to look like Bradley Cooper in Hit and Run or Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands.
You see, getting the perfect perm requires skills – like serious skills. Each of us has different hair types. As such, they’ll have different reactions to hair-perming chemicals. If the person doing your perm doesn’t know what they’re doing, you could end up with a really bad perm at best and burnt hair at worst.
Understanding The Hair Perming Process
If there’s one hair trend that never goes old, it’s the perm. Since Roman times up until the age of social media, women (and men) have always sought ways to get gorgeous curls. We’ve also used everything from castor oils to beef fat and even boiled lizards (true story) to perm our hair. Thankfully, we’re past the lizard boiling part and are now using chemicals for hair perming. Not that it’s an improvement really but at least we get to save those poor lizards.
So, how exactly does hair perming works?
The hair perming process involves altering the fibers of your straight hair through chemical processes to create permanent curls and more voluminous hair. But people with naturally curly hair may also get a perm if they want to give their curls more structure and definition.
The most common chemicals used in perming are ammonium thioglycolate and glycerol monothioglycolate. But aside from chemicals, the hairstylist also uses tools like curling rods, curlers, or curling iron to achieve your desired curl shape and volume.
As mentioned, each of us has different hair types, hair color, texture, density, and length. Some hair types are easier to perm than others. Or if you’ve just colored your hair, you may need a special type of perming chemicals or methods. This is the success (or failure) of any hair perming treatment largely depends on the skill and experience of the hairstylist.
Factors Affecting Perm Cost
As I’ve said, the cost of perming your hair varies depending on many factors like:
- Hair Length. Obviously, the longer your hair, the more hair-perming chemicals will be needed. The hairstylist will also have to spend more hours on it. That’s why long hair perms tend to cost more.
- Hair Perm Type. The type of hair perm you’re going for will also factor into the total perming cost. Simple perms are much easier to do than elaborate and complex ones. Thus, they take up less time and, more often than not, require less chemicals.
- Your Town/City. Getting a perm in areas like Manhattan or Beverly Hills will obviously cost more than getting the same service in less urbanized areas.
- Your Hairstylist. Famous hairstylists will obviously charge higher than most, especially if they have had considerable experience in the industry.
- The Hair Products Used. Organic hair products tend to cost more than chemical-based ones. But, of course, they tend to cause less damage to your hair.
- The Salon. Hair perming services in high-end salons and parlors are typically more expensive than most.
To give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay based on the factors above, here’s the average cost of hair perming services depending on the type of perm, the style of curls, and hair length:
Types of Perms
- Acid Perm or Hot Perm
As its name suggests, acid perms use acidic chemicals to create permanent curls. The most common substance used in this type of perm is glycerol monothioglycolate. Acid perm solutions typically have a pH between 4.5 to 7. Heat is also necessary to activate the chemicals and the hairstylist may use a hair curling iron.
Depending on the length, acid perms can cost anywhere from $40 to $150.
- Alkaline Perm or Cold Perm
As opposed to acid perm, alkaline perms don’t require heat for the chemicals to activate. That’s why it’s also known as a “cold perm”. It uses ammonium thioglycolate to create permanent curls. This method creates more voluminous curls that last longer.
Alkaline perms cost up to $160 depending on the hair length and the brand of the perm solution used.
- Digital Perm
This is one of the newest trends in hair perming. It uses hot rods with temperatures regulated by a machine. Compared with alkaline and acid perms, they typically take less time and creates more defined curls when the hair is dry. It also makes the hair feel smoother and shinier.
Since digital perms use machines, they’re typically more expensive. You can expect to pay around $150 up to $300.
- Exothermic Perm
Exothermic perms are used in hairs that are resistant to other hair chemicals. They can be alkaline or acidic but the only difference is that the perm solution itself creates the heat that activates the chemicals. So it uses heat but doesn’t really need heating equipment.
Exothermic perms are typically cheaper with prices ranging from $40 to $80.
Types of Perm Curls
The regular perm is termed such because its curls are all the same shape and size. It’s great of you just want volume and don’t really care much about the depth of your curls.
Plain curl perms usually cost about $50 and up.
A waved perm is exactly what it sounds like, a wavy-textured hair perm. Hair perms make dull hair come to life by adding volume and shape to it. Getting this type of perm, you will surely get a volumizing perm and subtly shape your hair.
Wavy perms are usually more suitable for hair colors with a touch of brown to enhance the curves of each lock. This modern perm style also works well with curtain bangs as it compliments the hair and the face shape well. Wavy perms usually cost around $69. This type of perm is usually the most affordable as the curls are not as defined as the other type.
Body Wave Perm
Body wave perms have more loose curls than the typical waved perm. It’s perfect for people with naturally straight hair as it creates more natural-looking waves. Plus, they’re wash and wear so you don’t have to use a styling tool every day just to maintain the curls. This type of perm curl can cost anywhere from $60 to $200.
Are you looking to create a bolder and more prominent look? Spiral perms are perfect for more vibrant and bouncy curly hair. Loosely permed hair gives off bouncy beach waves that are noticeable from afar.
Since this type of hair perm is more defined than the wavy perm, loose spiral perms costs range from $80 to $200. No doubt it is more expensive than the wavy textured perm as it will require more chemical altering to make sure that you get the perfect bouncy natural curls.
Long hair is no doubt easier to style. There are more hair styling opportunities with long hair as it gives you more length to use and decorate. For obvious reasons, the longer your hair, the more expensive a perm will be. When you compare it to short permed hair, they take more time and require more hair products, making it more costly than shorter hair lengths.
Since you will be working with more hair, you will have to pay attention to each strand and secure all the hair needed to be curly permed to ensure that no single strand gets left behind. Nonetheless, the starting rates of perms for long hair start at $49 and work their way up depending on the type and prominence of the curls you want to achieve.
On the other hand, the short hair perm, which may be shoulder length, is easier as it requires less product and time. Nonetheless, the short hair look can still receive perming treatments despite what most people believe.
When you look at it, short curly hair is more adorable and easier to wear as you won’t have to worry too much about maintaining its health and styling it too much in the morning. A simple clip or even just leaving it on its own to sit on your head makes short hair easy to wear on any occasion. Perming short hair can cost up to $100 at most.
Can You Perm Your Own Hair?
Well, technically you can. But unless you are a professional hairstylist, we strongly advise against it. As I mentioned, hair perming requires skills especially since you’ll be working with chemicals. If your only qualification is having watched a Youtube video, have mercy on your hair and just go to a professional hairstylist.
(Related: What Is An American Wave Perm?)
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is the lead writer for the Salon Suites of Palm Beach website and blog. Her many years of blogging experience and passions for beauty trends helps her create content that has helped millions of people worldwide.