Adventures in Curling: Digital Perm

Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, a truth that taunts many straight-haired women wanting curly locks. For many Asian women born with heavy straight hair, like myself, the dream of having permanent curls remained unachievable: until now. A new breakthrough technology combining science and beauty, Digital Perm, is designed to give women those sexy curls. Curious about final results, I went on a mission to test it for myself.

o new developments in hair-curling treatments have been available for some time: that is until now. A state-of-the-art curling technique, originating in Japan and already rampant in East Asia, is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. I discovered Digital Perm by chance: while getting a haircut at a Japanese salon in Soho, London, I saw a sci-fi looking machine with wires connected to a set of rollers on a woman’s head. “Digital perm,” explained the salon stylist, and just like that, the hair gods answered my beauty prayers! After researching Digital Perm thoroughly, I booked an appointment with Christian B Toth, Digital Perm maverick, at swanky Eleven Hair in Mayfair.

How does it work?

Unlike traditional (cold) perm, Digital Perm uses a refined chemical process, along with digitally controlled thermal heating. After my hair was washed, it was pre-treated with a solution to break proteins and make the hair nice and soft. Following rinsing, a second chemical strengthening solution, and a conditioner to retain moisture during the process were applied. After some time, Christian checked the elasticity of my hair, which I was surprised to see stretch like an elastic band! Once it was ready, smaller sections of my hair were wound onto medium size electric rollers, covered with insulated clips to trap the heating, and then individually plugged into the Digital Perm machine. The unit, which has different settings for time, style, and temperature, uses infrared heat to help ‘set’ the curl memory for a long-lasting effect. After 30 minutes, neutralizing sigma solution was applied twice over the rollers to fix the shape, and then they were removed to wash and style my hair.

Advantages of the Digital Perm

The capabilities of this great new technology, as I found out, are endless. Without stretching hair and breaking cuticles, Digital Perm thermally reconditions hair and locks in moisture, leaving it soft and shiny. Since the technician has total control over style, the technology offers a wide range of curl and wave looks. It works on various lengths and types of hair, from fine to thick, and from straight to already curly. Yes, Digital Perm is even suitable for frizz prone curls, which it promises to relax into manageable and smooth waves. Depending on the desired style, Digital Perm can deliver almost any kind of curl and copy the style of relaxed boho waves of Gisele Bündchen, more glamorous curls a-la Julia Roberts, or the large bouncy curls of Kate Middleton. The perm lasts from 3 to 6 month depending on the type of the hair.

Disadvantages of the Digital Perm

Now, having curly hair meant I had to readjust my hair care and styling patterns. In addition to stocking up on shampoo and conditioner for curly hair, I bought a hair dryer with a diffuser to style for tighter bouncy curls. The biggest misconception about Digital Perm is that you wake up with perfect hair every morning. The technology works differently on different types of hair and, just like any other hairstyle, it requires daily upkeep and styling with the right products for best results. Also, as hair grows out, curls will drop out more and become less noticeable.

My final verdict

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Next time I may go for smaller rollers that produce tighter curls. With so many advantages, I’m surprised this beauty wonder hasn’t become more popular in the UK yet. “Many women haven’t heard about it, and there is still some fear towards perms, which traditionally associate with wet looks, damaged hair and poodle-like results. So women are waiting for the Digital Perm to be tested widely before they try on themselves,” Christian explains.[quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]“But those women who don’t to use regular heat styling, or those born with straight hair and want to have curls without much effort, should definitely try it!”[/quote]


Digitally permed hair should be washed with protein-based shampoo for curly hair, such as Redken Fresh Curls, and towel-dried. To style, I divide my hair into smaller sections by simply rolling the curls in my fingers and either allow them to dry naturally or use a diffuser twisting and scrunching curls as they dry. To keep hair ends moistened, I also condition it with hair oil, like Moroccan Oil Light Treatment. You can colour hair after perming, but it is advisable to wait two weeks after the treatment and avoid highlights; full colouring is preferable.

Things to know

Digital Perm is not suitable for everyone. It may not work on very fine, over processed and hair with highlights. That’s why initial consultation with the technician carrying out the treatment is key. Christian advises his clients to discuss the desired look in advance, so the hair may be cut and permed in a way that achieves the best results for each client.

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