Body Wave Style of Perm

Long body wave style hair

If you're looking to add texture, volume and waves to your hair, a body wave may be just what you're looking for. It's important to know what to expect and how to care for your permed hair before you get started, though, to make sure this type of perm is a good fit for your lifestyle.

What to Expect

A body wave is a loose curl that results in a wave pattern rather than a tight roll because the sections of hair are wrapped around larger rollers than the ones used for other types of perms. Rollers are often inserted in varying and natural patterns to create a soft and natural looking wave. While the diameter of the rod may vary, most waves will be loose enough to wear a variety of looks.

Body waves change the texture of the hair in a long-lasting way. However, the waviness and amount of volume you see during the first and second weeks are far different from what you'll have after two to three months since the waves may drastically relax over time. How much time you'll get out of your body wave style will depend on how well you care for your hair (keep it moisturized!) as well as the length and cut. After three months, there may be little evidence that you ever had a body wave, but your hair may feel different to the touch or behave differently than it did prior to the process.

Choosing a Body Wave

There are several reasons you may want to consider a body wave. You may want to add body to a lifeless style, or hope to add some waves to your long locks. Perhaps you are tired of daily styling and feel this will offer a lower-maintenance solution.

Recommended Usage

Consult with your stylist before making the commitment to a body wave. In general, body waves are best for:

  • Men and women who have natural curls that lack definition and shape
  • Those who want to give their natural curls a boost but keep them relaxed, not tight
  • People with fine hair that want more hold and body in their hairstyles
  • Those who are willing to experiment with creams and serums to see which ones work best for their hair, as perms are low-maintenance but still require some product to look their best
  • People with straight hair who want a bit more texture and movement

Damaged Hair Considerations

If you have highlighted or color treated hair, a body wave perm may not be a wise option. Depending on the condition of your hair, a first or follow-up body wave may result in extensive damage. A more acceptable alternative to a perm may be occasionally working with hot rollers or a curling iron to create loose, yet temporary, tendrils.

Work to nurse your hair back to health by using heat styling as infrequently as possible and applying deep conditioning masks once or twice per week. You may also want to speak with a stylist about options for strengthening your hair in order to get it ready for a body wave.

Salon or At-Home

Medium body wave style hair

You can do a body wave at home with a kit like the Rusk CurlSilk Body Wave, but these perms are often performed by a licensed professional. A professional stylist is the only person who can truly determine whether your hair is healthy enough for this type of treatment. If you're inexperienced with DIY body waves or if your hair has been previously treated with color, bleach or relaxants, seeing a professional first is especially important.

If your stylist decides a body wave is an acceptable option for your hair type and condition, then discuss a healthy cut and styling requirements in addition to the perming process. If you're simply going to a stylist because you're intimidated by the DIY kits, you may be able to watch the stylist do the body wave and then mimic the pattern and placement of the rollers at home the next time you need one.

Prepare Your Hair (and Yourself)

Make sure that your hair is in top condition and that you know what to expect before you move forward with getting this type of chemical treatment.

Prep Your Hair

Before committing to a body wave, make sure your hair is in great condition. Using a protein rich conditioner prior to perming will help reconstruct the hair shaft, promoting strength and elasticity. Too much moisture may result in a weak perm result, so focus on adding strength rather than hydration. For the best results possible, consult with your stylist at least one month prior to a scheduled perm service to prepare your hair for the chemical process.

Understand the Process

Whether this is your first perm or one of many, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the process. Most perms require at least a couple of hours in the salon chair. For loose perms, your stylist will first wrap varied sections of your hair into larger rollers. Once the perm solution is applied, the hair begins to break down and disulfide bonds are added to the hair shaft. These bonds create the waves and curl needed to completely change the texture of the hair until it grows out. Expect the results to last six to 12 weeks before you need to do it again or change your style.

Resistant Hair

Perms require care and attention throughout the chemical process to ensure the perm solution is working properly. Some people find their hair is resistant to perms, and a stronger solution may need to be applied to boost the chemical change. If you know you have resistant hair, inform your stylist of prior incidents so he or she can select the proper formula.

Caring for Your Hair

To keep your perm looking as good as possible for as long as possible, proper maintenance is essential. Your post-perm hair care products and routine may need to be a little different than before.

Protect Your Hair

People often opt for body waves right before the heat of the summer because curly hair is much more wash-and-go friendly than heavily styled tresses. However, sun protection is key. Even if you spend a small amount of time outdoors, you'll still want to protect your ends from harsh temperatures, drying sun exposure and excess chlorine or salt from the pool or the ocean. A spray-on sun care product for hair may help minimize the damage of sun and element exposure. Keep a bottle handy whenever your travels take you out into the intensity of the hot sun.

Short body wave style hair

Say No to Heat

Say goodbye to heat styling once you have a body wave. Body waves will require little more than a frequent wash and scrunch with a hydrating cream during the natural air-drying process. If your curls need a slight touch-up for a special event, you can use a medium or large barrel curling iron set on medium to low heat, but do this only on rare occasions. Air-drying is generally enough for day-to-day wear.


Moisture is essential to perm maintenance. For everyday styling, you can use a leave-in moisturizing cream, moisturizing mousse, oil (like argan oil), or anti-frizz serum and then allow the hair to air-dry. If you're in a hurry. you can occasionally use a diffuser attachment on your hair dryer and scrunch your hair to speed up the drying process. Moisturizing shampoo and good daily and deep conditioners are good to use, as well, since the perming process can leave hair dry. Without moisturizing products, permed hair could become brittle over time.

Styling Tips

While it may seem unimportant, many people damage their hair simply by the way they brush it and the tools they use. Once hair is wet, it is very pliable and prone to breakage. Treat your tresses tenderly with a pick or comb rather than a brush. If hair becomes dry, droopy, or frizzy, lightly mist with water and work in a small dollop of grooming cream, like Bumble and bumble's Curl Conscious Defining Cream.

The Cut

Though your stylist can place the curling rods in your hair in a way that works well with your current cut and length, your cut may need a bit of tweaking once the body wave is in place. Bear in mind most perms - even body waves - will create the look of shorter hair as the hair shrinks up into the wave formation. Adding layers to your cut after the body wave is done will help balance and support the weight of your new style while making styling ideas easy and nearly endless.

A Style for Almost Anyone

Body wave perm styles are available for nearly any hair length and texture, and you can easily create flowing curls to match your personality and lifestyle. With healthy hair and an experienced stylist, you can create your perfect look.

Body Wave Style of Perm