Skip to Content

The Different Types of Perms for Thin Hair: Definitive Guide for Short, Medium, and Long Hair

Young girl wearing medium perm hair with subtle highlights and red shirt.

Thin hair can take a toll on your self-esteem, make your hairstyles fall flat, and even age you. But you don’t have to just deal with it – you can get a perm to make thinness less noticeable with added waves, loose curls, and coils.

Different Types of Perms for Thin Hair

To help you get started, we’ll introduce you to several types of perms for thin hair, pros and cons, and more. Let’s get right into it!

What Is a Perm?

A perm is a chemical hair treatment formulated to add permanent curls to straight hair. The main components of a perm are rollers/rods, perm lotion, and a neutralizer.

Perm lotion is a chemical that deconstructs the natural makeup of the hair by breaking its internal bonds. It also makes the hair flexible and ready to be reshaped.

After the perm lotion is rinsed away, a neutralizer is applied to the hair. It rebuilds and fixes the hair in the shape of the rollers/rods your hair is wrapped around. Some perms require heat, while others generate their own heat. 

Also, perm hairstyles can be worn by women with any hair length, including short hair, medium length hair, and long hair.

Note: Sometimes, people refer to perms as relaxers, but relaxers are different. While perms can be used to straighten the hair in some cases, the primary function of perming hair is to add tight curls to straight hair.

Relaxers, on the other hand, are specially formulated to permanently straighten curly hair. Some people mistakenly consider relaxers a “straight hair perm” designed to change your natural curl pattern.

Cute female with a light perm and shoulder-length hair wearing red lipstick and neutral makeup.

What Is a Body Wave Perm? 

The body wave perm (sometimes called a wavy perm) is extremely popular right now because it lends itself well to the boho style that’s all the rage.

The perm transforms your thin hair into beautiful tousled wavy hair that has a bit of a rounded-out appearance but not enough to be considered spirals.

Though the body wave perm creates relatively loose waves, you’ll be surprised at just how much volume it can create.

The waves are created by wrapping your hair around large Flexi rods, Curlformers, perm rods, or rollers and treating them with your chosen perm solution and neutralizer. 

Pretty lady outside in downtown Birmingham wearing an acid perm that fits her face nicely.

What Is a Beach Wave Perm? 

The beach wave perm is similar to the body wave perm in that the curls are created with large rollers. However, the main difference is that the hair is very loosely wrapped before applying the perm solution.

The resulting beach waves will have less of a rounded shape than body wave curls and an effortless quality that is “in” right now.

A beach wave perm (sometimes called soft waves) may not give you as much volume as a body wave perm could. However, if all you need is a slight volume boost, a beach wave perm may be precisely what you need. 

Teenage girl with a loose perm wearing a pink shirt and blue jean shorts.

What Is a Spiral Perm?

The spiral curl perm is more traditional, leaving you with tight, uniform curls. Some shy away from this type of perm because it can cause your hair to look unnatural in some cases.

But if you choose a reputable stylist who knows how to set your hair properly, you could walk away with natural-looking voluminous curls.

Spiral perms give your thin hair an enormous boost – the most dramatic change out of all of the perm types mentioned in this article.

You can personalize your spiral curls by selecting different roller sizes – go for straw-sized curls for the most volume or larger curls (marker to sidewalk chalk-sized) for a more subtle change.

White woman with a body perm wearing a white and blue striped dress.

What Is a Root Perm? 

As its name suggests, a root perm is a type of perm that focuses only on the roots of the hair. Consider this perm type if your hair is a little on the thin side and you want more volume at the roots.

There are two types of root perms you can choose from, including the Korean root perm and a touch-up root perm. The touch-up is a maintenance technique that adds curls to your new growth after you’ve already had a full perm.

With the Korean root perm, you or your stylist will go through the perming process while only applying rollers to your roots (the rest of your hair will remain unpermed).

When you have a root perm, you won’t have to tease your hair, dry your hair upside down, or use any other technique to add volume to your roots. 

Female with very long hair wearing a blue dress while listening to music with white earphones.

What Is a Multi-Textured Perm?

The multi-textured perm is the most versatile and natural perm type out there. It utilizes more than one roller size (small and large rollers) to create curls that mimic layered natural hair.

The majority of naturally curly girls have multiple hair textures, and the multi-textured perm mimics that. 

When you speak with your stylist before getting your perm, you can share with them whether you want the majority of your curls to be small, medium, or large.

You can also opt for beach waves or body waves of different sizes. The choice is yours! 

Cute woman with a medium hair length rocking a modern perm and dark red lipstick.

What Is a Spot Perm?

The spot perm is excellent for thin hair because it doesn’t require you to perm all your hair. It focuses on one or more spots and leaves the rest of your hair untouched.

If you have thin hair (or thinning hair) and are concerned about the effects that a full perm would have on your hair, the spot perm may be your best bet. 

Woman dancing in the street with a tank top and blue jeans with a cute body perm.

Permed Hair: Pros and Cons

Now that you know about some of the most common perms available to those with thin hair, let’s get into some of the pros and cons of perms for thin hair. 

Pros 

  • Volume and body. Perms give you instant curls, semi-permanent waves, or coils that make your thin hair look much thicker with extra body. 
  • Confidence. With better-looking hair, you’ll feel better about yourself, leading to increased confidence and a more positive general outlook. 
  • Easier styling. When your hair is permed, you won’t have to go through the headache of adding volume to your hair manually. You won’t have to prep your hair at night or spend hours on your hair in the morning since your hair will be voluminous when you wake up! 
  • Money savings. Since your hair won’t require much daily styling, you won’t need to use as many styling products and tools. This saves you cash. 
Female wearing a light blue dress with a body perm and a brown leather purse.

Cons

  • Weakened hair. Perms can leave your hair weak due to the process it puts your hair through. The perming process, which often uses harsh chemicals, essentially destroys part of the internal structure of the hair and rebuilds it. When it’s rebuilt, it just isn’t as strong as it was before. Weakened hair is more prone to damage and breakage. Although, perms have improved over time since the acid perms of years ago to the modern perms that we have today that are less damaging.
  • Short longevity. Perms only last from 2 to 6 months. Given the trauma that you put your tresses through when you perm hair, it may be considered a con that perms don’t last very long. If you want to keep your curls intact, you may need to repeat the perming process up to 6 times per year, which could leave your hair in a severely compromised state. Also, since your hair will still be straight as it grows out post-perm, you’ll need to get touch-up perms now and again. So, a traditional perm might not be the best hairstyle for low maintenance girls. Here are some of our favorite hairstyles for white girls, black girls, and women over 50.
  • The dreaded smell. The perming solution has a very distinct smell that binds to the hair. The odor starts to dissipate when you wash your hair, but it’s recommended to refrain from washing your hair for the first couple of days following a perm so that the curls have time to set. So, you’ll have to endure the smell for some time.
Beautiful female with a unique style sitting outside on the street taking a selfie while wearing alkaline perm.

Are Perms Good for Thin Hair?

After reading the cons of perms, you may be wondering whether you should get a perm if you have thin hair. The answer is that it depends.

If your hair is in good condition despite being thin, it should handle the perming process without much of an issue. But if it is dry, shows signs of breakage, or is actively thinning, you should pass on all chemical treatments and nurse your hair back to health first. 

If you decide to perm your thin hair, be sure to choose a mild perm, which will break less of the hair bonds and minimize hair damage. We wish you the best of luck as you search for ways to improve your hair.