Nov 21, 2009  •  In Asian, Beauty, Personal, Reviews

Steam Perm

My natural hair is stick straight and has the tendency to hang straight down with no body or movement, as you can see from this photo of myself at 16:


The Asian glamour photos that were so popular in the 90s.

No matter how short I cut my hair, how much layers were cut in, how much products were used, my hair refused to maintain any body and sat plastered to the sides of my face.

When I entered my 20s, I decided that a perm might be the answer. I had heard that the new perms developed by Japan and Korea were different from the frizzy, kinky puffballs of the eighties. The curls were looser, they lasted longer, and were less damaging to the hair.

I took the plunge with a “setting perm.” Soon, the “setting perm” was replaced by a newer, better method called “digital perm” which was then replaced by the “wood perm,” “smooth perm,” “cold perm” (who comes up with these names?), so on and so on.


With various types of perms. Don’t ask which is which because I honestly can’t remember.

Although the perms were a definite improvement over my stick-straight hair, I didn’t like the fact that they were high-maintenance. I usually needed to apply products, then twirl and crunch…and continue to twirl and crunch until dry, to each curl its shape.

So after years and years of searching for the perfect perm (does it even exist?), I am happy to announce that I finally found the closest contender: the steam perm.

Last month I decided to go visit the famous Jay at Hidy II in Fort Lee, NJ. Apparently, he is so good with perms that he has clients flying in from Chicago just to get their hair permed by him.

After discussing and studying my hair, he suggested that I get a steam perm. According to Jay, not only is the steam perm ideal for hair that has already been permed, it also produces the loose, wavy curls that I had been searching for all this time.

See the results for yourself:


Please excuse the noise in these pictures; the texture of my dark hair wouldn’t show well on lower ISO.


I couldn’t find a mirror big enough for a back shot, so here’s one from the side.

What you should know about my hair in these photos is that I didn’t do anything to them. I washed, patted dry with a towel, and let it air dry. THAT’S IT.

The steam perm was pretty pricey at $260, but the convenience is worth it in my opinion!

12 Responses to “Steam Perm”

  1. Hahaha, I thought this was funny because I guess we want the kind of hair we don’t have.

    All my sisters and I have natural wavy-thick hair. We always hated the fact we didn’t have straight hair like most Asians. Even though I haven’t done much to change my natural style, my older sister spends as much as you do at Asian salons to get Magic Straight and various of other products to make her hair plastered to the side of her face.

  2. http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/73772_straight.shtml

    Here is an article on Magic Straight for us naturally curly-thick hair Asians.

  3. Your waves are beautiful! The grass is always greener, no? I spent almost twice that much to get a thermal straightening perm a couple of years ago so that my hair, which is somewhere between wavy and curly naturally, would be stick straight. The perm has been cut out at this point, and I’m trying to accept and embrace my waves, atleast some of the time.

  4. I have thick wavy hair too.. and I always wished for long straight, super easy to brush hair until I realized that my hair was awesome :D

    And it’s wavy and curly when I wake up most days.. and stays like that for most of the day

    I love it!!

  5. mindy:

    OMG that looks so good on you… i want to goooooo tooo!! (but too expensive)… hehe!
    good to see you doing well! i see the little doggy in the background too… =) i miss having a lil furry thing around the house!!

  6. Rachael:

    HAWT! <3 it!

  7. I used to hate my straight Asian hair, but I’ve learned to love it. It tends to curl gently at the ends (ever so slightly under) or pick up a bit of a nice wave when it grows out (which unfortunately only lasts a few hours at a time…) At least straight hair is easy to deal with – I like to brush it and go :)

  8. Jina of JAC:

    you look FAB! LOVE the perm~

  9. naalaokamaile:

    I LOV E IT!!!!!! I have slightly wavy hair but if I brush it it’s gone. I would LOVE for my hair to look like that! I’ll have to look into the steam perm.

  10. sushi01:

    Do you know if the steam perm Jay did is the same thing as a digital perm? I’m having trouble finding a salon that does steam perms in Los Angeles but alot of them offer digital perms. Thanks!

  11. Delilah:

    Really gorgeous (despite the noise :P)
    I want one! Anyone who is even thinking about a digital perm should really check out this blog

    Its the only place with everything I needed to know. Just wanted to share that with you guys.

  12. Charlene:

    You look GREAT! your hair is gorgeous like that~! WOW!

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