The best hair perm kit

Ana Sanchez

The grass is always greener when it comes to your hair type. If you've got stick-straight hair and are gazing over the fence enviously at people with curly or wavy hair, why not consider a perm? You can perm your hair at home using a perm kit that allows you to create a variety of curl types, from corkscrew to spirals to waves. While you'll need some additional hair supplies, a perm kit provides the essential formula to make the magic happen.

Read this brief shopping guide on how to select the right kit. We've also included our top recommendations, like this popular kit from Ogilvie that results in lasting curls.

Considerations when choosing hair perm kits

What's in a Perm Kit?

Perm kits typically come with a perm-waving lotion, a neutralizing solution, and papers. The lotion contains chemicals that break down the hair's internal structure, making it malleable to take the form of a curl. All perms require perm rods to wrap the hair around to define the curl or wave.

Here's a list of items you'll need in addition to the lotion. The items included in a kit may vary from brand to brand.

Perm rods: There are various lengths and circumferences of perm rods offered. If you're looking to make waves, choose a jumbo-sized circumference; for tighter curls, select thinner rods.
Comb and clips: You'll want to divide your hair in sections with a comb before rolling your hair. Clips will keep hair segments out of your way while you roll. 
Paper end wraps: While most perm kits come with papers to wrap and protect the ends of your hair, if you have long or thick hair, you may need to purchase extra papers. 
Drip guard: This long piece of cotton is designed to be wrapped around your hairline after you've put in the rods. This will prevent the chemical solution from dripping into your eyes or face.
Gloves: Because perm solutions contain strong chemicals, protect your hands with latex gloves.
Timer: Overprocessing your hair can cause serious damage. Using a timer to keep track of your desired processing time prevents this from happening.
Neutralizer solution: When your timer goes off, this formula will stop the perm solution from processing.

Features of perm kits to consider

Alkaline vs. acid: Perm kits come in either alkaline or acid formulas.

Alkaline perm kits have a pH of 9 to 9.6 and are best used on healthy, coarse, or hard-to-curl hair. 
Acid perm kits have a pH of 4.5 to 7 and are best for fragile, color-treated, or dry hair.  

Additional solutions: Some perm kits also come with conditioners or activators. Be sure to carefully read the instructions that come with your kit to walk you through the processing steps.

Hair perm kit prices

Perming your hair at home can save you hundreds of dollars from a trip to the salon. Expect to pay between $8 and $20 for a kit.


Q. Should I wash my hair before using a perm kit?

A. Yes. Most kits require hair to be wet, and we recommend using a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup on your hair for a more effective perm. However, don't use a conditioner at least 24 hours before perming your hair.

Q. How permanent is a perm?

A. While perms do fade or grow out, they may last months before that happens. If you're new to home perms, practice wrapping your ends and rolling hair without the perm lotion. You may also want to enlist help from someone who knows what they're doing to avoid mishaps and unhappy results.

Hair perm kits we recommend

Best of the best: Ogilvie Salon Styles Professional Conditioning Perm

Our take: This top-selling perm kit delivers tried-and-trusted results.

What we like: Available in different formulas, including for hard-to-wave and color-treated hair types. Produces body and bounce without the frizz. Popular brand.

What we dislike: Has a chemical odor but it doesn't linger.

Best bang for your buck: Iso Perm Professional Option Perms

Our take: A customizable perm kit that offers three different options.

What we like: Inexpensive. Option levels offer different curl types: body, waves, or tight curls. Doesn't carry strong chemical smell. Results are soft and defined.

What we dislike: If the inappropriate option is selected, it can result in frizzy or undefined curls.

Choice 3: Zotos Acclaim Extra-Body Acid Perm

Our take: Super-strength acid lotion for perming delicate hair.

What we like: Ammonia-free formula won't dry or damage hair. Gentle for all hair types. Includes conditioner for added shine.

What we dislike: May be too gentle to define curls for some users.

Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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