Curious about perm rods? You might think that these little curlers are just for women who like to set their hair in tight waves so that it will stay in place for a few days or more, but the truth is that just about anyone can put a perm rod set to use, even if they’re not planning to use harsh chemicals on their hair. In this complete guide to perm rods, we’ll take a closer look at the basic rod set, plus we’ll uncover some different types of perm rods and talk about how to use these special rollers.
What are Perm Rods?
Sometimes referred to as perm rollers or cold wave rod sets, perm rods are hair curlers that come in a variety of sizes as well as in different colors that make it easier to distinguish one size from the next. Basic perm rods are made with durable plastic. Each rod has a fastener – usually soft but durable elastic – to keep it in place once hair has been wrapped around the plastic portion.
Types of Perm Rods
Visit any beauty supply store or run a quick search online, and you’ll find that there are quite a few kinds of perm rods available.
Concave Perm Rods
If you’ve ever had a perm, you’ve probably seen concave perm rods. These rods are thinner in the middle, with wider ends. As the most common type of perm rod, concave shaped rods are available in sizes to fit long and short hair, and in a variety of sizes designed to create different-sized curls. There is one way in which all concave perm rods are alike: The thinner middle portion of each rod sits very close to the scalp, creating a curl that’s tighter at the center than it is at each end.
Straight Perm Rods
Straight perm rods have the same thickness from end to end. These rods create even curls and they’re available in sizes to suit all hair lengths. As with all rod sets, smaller sizes create tighter curls while larger ones create waves.
Loop Perm Rods
Sometimes called loop tools or circle tools, loop perm rods are about 12 inches long. These rods are primarily used on very long hair, and their most common use is to create spiral curls. Loop rods have ends that snap together, instead of separate fasteners.
Soft Bender Perm Rods
Soft bender perm rods are made with foam-covered wire. As the name suggests, these perm rods are extremely flexible, so they’re easy to form into different shapes. You can achieve a variety of different curl patterns with bendable perm rods, including spiral curls. These rods come in a number of thicknesses, and most are about 12 inches long. The rods are usually folded or bent after hair has been wrapped around. This keeps the hair in place and helps achieve the desired style.
Where most perm rods are designed to be placed horizontally along the scalp, spiral perm rods are positioned vertically. These rods have raised, spiral-shaped ridges all around their sides, similar to a large bolt or screw. Some are designed to attach to one another, end-to-end, so that very long hair can be spiral-permed – or in our case, treated to natural spiral curls. The hair is twisted up or down around the rod, and the rod either stands up or hangs down, depending on the roller’s position on the head. Spiral rods will create a fluffy effect on short hair and deliver lovely spirals when used in hair that’s at least shoulder-length.
What Do Perm Rod Colors Mean?
Perm rods are color coded so that it’s easy for stylists to grab the right size.
Red Perm Rod: Red rods are smallest, and are best for people with short hair that’s no longer than about 2 ½ inches long. The resulting curl pattern is small and very tight.
Blue Perm Rod: Blue rods are a little bigger, and are best for hair that’s no longer than about 3 ½ inches long. The resulting curl pattern is small and tight.
Grey Perm Rod: Gray perm rods are versatile – they can create a fairly tight curl in hair that’s up to about 5 inches long. When used on shorter hair, they create softer waves.
White Perm Rod: White rods have the ability to create tight curls in hair that’s up to about 6 inches long. These perm rods are also used to give shorter hair more body or some very light waves depending on the length.
Purple Perm Rod: Purple rods can create fairly tight curls in hair that’s 8 inches long or longer; when it is used on shorter hair, it simply creates body waves. In fact, these purple-colored perm rods are also known as “body wave rods.”
Using Perm Rods on Natural Hair
Many people enjoy achieving long-lasting styles with chemically based permanents, but this doesn’t mean that you’re limited to using harsh chemicals. You can also do natural hairstyles with rods! Whether you want soft waves, lively curls with tons of bounce, or enviable ringlets, you can easily rod set natural hair and get the look you want – minus any damaging heat or harsh chemicals.
Tips for Using Rod Sets on Natural Hair
You might be in a hurry to get started, but before you do, know that different types of perm rods are going to give you different results. It’s a very good idea to take a look at the curl pattern that’s usually achieved by each type of rod that you’re considering. This way, you’ll have some idea of the outcome before buying perm rods.
Next, decide what size you’d like to use. If your hair is different lengths, i.e. shorter in front and longer in back, then you might need different-sized rods. Once you’ve chosen your rods, it’s time!
Here’s how to use perm rods on natural hair.
Step One: Prep!
Start by detangling your hair completely, and perhaps adding a lightweight leave-in conditioner that will dry fairly quickly, but that won’t weigh your hair down.
Step Two: Section!
The thickness and length of your hair will determine how many sections you should divide it into; most people go for six to eight sections. Use clips to keep the sections separate from one another.
Step Three: Wrap!
If your hair is dry or difficult to work with, you might want to add a little more leave-in conditioner before getting on with the wrapping. Though time-consuming, the less hair you place in each perm roller, the faster you’ll have your desired curl pattern in place, and the better and longer-lasting your results are likely to be.
Start at the top of your head, and at the top of each subsequent section after that. Use the pointed end of a rat-tail comb to separate the amount of hair that you’d like to place in each perm roller, and then wrap the hair around the roller, beginning with the loose end. Be sure that you don’t accidentally fold or kink the hair as you start wrapping since this can make the ends look disheveled when you remove the rollers.
Once you reach your scalp, fasten the perm rod securely and move on to the next small section of hair. If the rods start to feel heavy or uncomfortable, consider using large bobby pins to provide some extra support.
If you’re using spiral rollers, start wrapping the hair closest to the scalp first. Use the corkscrew shape of the roller as your guide, and work your way around and down until you reach the end of your hair.
Step Four: Wait!
Get drinks, snacks, and a great book or set yourself up with a few of your favorite movies! Now is also a great time to binge-watch a show you’ve been meaning to catch up on. If you’ve chosen soft rollers, you might even be able to sleep.
You might find it’s helpful to cover your hair with a bonnet or kerchief – even a simple cotton scarf will do – to hold rod sets on natural hair and prevent individual curls from coming loose before it’s time.
Wait about 8 hours and carefully undo one of your curls to see the results. If you like the way the curl looks, go ahead and carefully remove the rest of the rods, starting at the bottom and working your way to the top of your head. If, on the other hand, you want your curls to be tighter, wait a little longer. Some people find that they get the best results after waiting ten hours or maybe even longer.
Step Five: Add a Little Bit of Styling Product
Since no chemical permanent solution is applied when using perm rods on natural hair, you’ll want to help your style last longer by using some lightweight mousse or a little bit of flexible, touchable hairspray as you unravel the rods and position your curls in place. You might want to use a comb or brush to soften the overall look of your curls or to blend them together, or you may prefer to use your fingers or a pick to achieve the desired profile.
Be sure to check your style all the way around your head to ensure that everything looks the way you want it to. Add a touch of serum to the ends of your hair to impart a little bit of extra shine and help combat damage, and you’re all ready to go!
Keeping your hair natural lets you change your style very easily – especially when you use perm rods on natural hair, but without any damaging heat or chemicals. Curling your hair this way might seem a little bit old-fashioned, but the result is healthier tresses that are less prone to breakage. It’s also a very affordable choice since perm rods are reusable. If you treat them gently, they’re likely to last you many seasons or even many years. Have fun, and enjoy your new hairstyle!