Digital Perm Review: How To Get Beachy Curls

digital perm

I have always had thick, straight hair. A few years ago I decided to change my hair. I found out about this process for permanently curly hair that gives beachy waves rather than tight coils. It’s surprisingly unknown in the US though it’s extremely popular in Asia. It’s called a Digital Perm. Also called the body wave perm or spiral perm. It’s a process developed in Japan to transform thick, straight hair into beautiful beachy waves. My digital perm stays curly until it grows out, which means it usually lasts for over 18 months. I often receive compliments on my curly hair and asked about the process so I decided to share my experience.

Find the Right Salon

Living in NYC, I was able to find the top Japanese digital perm salon called T-Gardens. The process cost me around $350 to get a haircut, wash, and digital perm. It’s a hefty price but considering that the process lasts me 18+ months, is less damaging than highlights, takes less time at the salon, and does not need touch ups I believe it’s totally worth it! I loved my results so I always go back to the same salon. The great thing about a digital perm is that your salon can keep the settings on file and use the same settings or adjust if needed. There’s a lot of flexibility for getting the perfect curls, you can have larger curls depending on the barrel size. You can also have your whole head permed to add a ton of volume or you can have bangs permed so they don’t fall flat on your forehead. Or you have the bottom half of your hair curled so it looks like perfect curling wand curls.

digital perm review

Digital Perm Consultation

Your stylist will do a consultation and let you know if you are a good candidate for a digital perm. It works best for people with thick hair. If your hair holds a curl with a curling iron well, it’s usually a good indicator your hair will hold the curls. *If you are evaluating whether you should do a digital perm, check out our article on the pros and cons of digital perms.

Digital Perm Process

Now to the process. My salon gives a haircut with the digital perm which I think is quite important. I have thick hair so they thin out my hair so my hair is not too heavy and fluffy after the perm. Nothing wrong with Diana Ross hair, just not the look I want everyday! It’s helpful if you bring a photo of the type of curls you want so your stylist can determine the size of the barrel rollers to use. They can also tell you if it’s possible to achieve that look. Afterwards, they will douse your hair in a perming and protecting solution which softens the hair so it can take the new curl shape. Once it’s rinsed, the temperature controlled rollers will be put in your hair. Once they put the rollers in all of your hair, they will connect the each roller to a machine that controls the temperature. After a set amount of time (which varies based on the style), they’ll remove the rollers and douse your hair in solution to restrengthen the hair and set the curls. On to the wash and dry process. Your stylist will probably twirl your hair while drying to help achieve the perfect head of beach curls. 

Digital Perm Post-Care

It’s important to know that there is a certain amount of work that goes into managing a digital perm. There are all sorts of blogs and vlogs that go through a long list of rituals required each day to make your hair look good. Tips like not combing your hair, twirling hair while blow drying, or sleeping with rollers in (seems like a lot of work!). DO NOT FEAR THOUGH! My biggest takeaway from having 3 digital perms is that your hair products make the biggest difference. The shampoo and conditioner will dictate how your hair dries. Will your hair look like Yoko Ono’s OR Adriana Lima’s? Read our article about the best curly hair products for digital perms.


Update: I’m about to go for my 4th perm and I’m hoping to change the style slightly. Rather than starting at the top of my hairline, I’d like to start the curls 1/4 down from my roots. This way my hair will look more like it does after using a curling iron. Stay tuned!

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