This article originally appears in our May 2016 issue.
WHAT IT IS:
A body wave-a milder, gentler version of the ’80s perm-that creates undone, loose waves via chemical treatment.
$400 to $600 for a full head.
WHAT I EXPECTED:
In the doldrums of midwinter, I wanted a change that could take me mentally where my bank account could not: The Amalfi Coast! The Mediterranean! Anywhere warm! Hence I found myself at Oscar Blandi salon, armed with photos of Grecian-goddess waves-hello, Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia!-and prepping for my first-ever perm. To be clear, I know nothing about hair care. I’ve never owned a blow-dryer, I get the same three-inch trim every time, and my stubborn, pin-straight hair has never successfully held a curl. Consider me an unprepared, overly eager Olivia Newton-John.
I unloaded my laundry list of questions to Mairead Gallagher, the salon’s resident perm expert. Do I need a different shampoo? I attach the recommended diffuser where? Can I bid adieu to flyaways and frizz? Gallagher brought me back to earth, eyeing my head. "It’s still your hair. You’ll have to maintain it like you normally do."
WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY LIKE:
After wrapping my hair in varying-sized rods and circling my hairline in cotton coils, Gallagher applied the chemicals, then a double layer of shower caps, and set me under a heat lamp for 12 minutes. (In the bad old days of permology, you’d have to cook for an hour.) After a quick rinsing process to remove the perm lotion from the hair and close the hair cuticles, my curls were locked in.
Long waves, falling gently (gracefully, even!) from my roots to my shoulders. I spent the rest of that weekend in a chemical-induced bliss: practicing dramatic princess hair flips (easier said than done); stopping, incredulous, to admire my tresses in the reflections of windows; and overanalyzing strangers’ appraisals. Pungent chemical smell aside, this was perfect (until a week-long neck rash appeared-par for the course for my allergy-prone skin-but "Sandy, Sandy, beauty is pain").
Gallagher predicts the body wave will hold for three to four months, and after that, the curls will gradually begin to loosen, retaining some wave for upwards of a year. I’m currently three weeks out and constantly amused by my brand-new bounciness. While it was naïve to think I’d give more time and energy to hair care-I’m still air-drying my hair sans products every morning-I’m tickled to show off the new do. And come June, when my hair’s longer and the curls begin to relax, I’ll be primed for those summer nights.