The other day, I stumbled across a picture of a woman with curlers in her hair but what made it scared were the wires running from the hair up to a weird contraption. Its like the Frankenstein of hair salons. It was labelled as a perm machine.
Having grown up with various older aunts, grandmothers, etc who gave themselves the home perm, this was shocking. Totally shocking.
The idea of perms is recent development historically. The first development in this area arrived in 1870 when Marcel Grateau, a French Hairstylist, invented the first long lasting wave using heated curling irons. When the tongs burned a piece of paper, they were ready to use on the hair.
About 35 years later, Karl Nessler, a Swiss Hairdresser, invented a wave machine that melded a chemical process with a thermal process to produce longer lasting results. Karl used Sodium Hydroxide on the hair before heating the rods to 212 degrees. It took 6 hours but when done, the person had a permanent wave. When Karl was developing his machine, he tried it out on his wife. She suffered through burned hair until he got it right.
Over the next few years, inventors discovered a mixture of borax and ammonia worked better on the hair but it was a stinky solution. Women set their hair regularly but got perms once every three months.
In 1928, African American woman, Marjorie Joyner patented her dome shaped machine that used electrical current to heat hair divided into one inch sections. Although it was designed to change tight curls into waves on African American hair, it worked on straight hair to turn it into nice wavy hair. By the 1930's all beauty salons had these type of machines.
In 1931, another male hairdresser, Ralph L. Evens, introduced a heatless method. Women came into their salon, where the stylist set the hair and applied a bisulfate solution to it. They drove home and the next day, they washed it out of their hair.
It wasn't until 1941, the cold wave appeared on the market. This development meant those old electrical perming machines disappeared because they weren't needed. The process used a chemical which was healthier on the hair but still took 6 to 8 hours to work. Its development opened the way for modern perms.
In the 1970's the perms changed from an alkaline mixture to an acid wave which is what is used by most salons when they give perms. It is the preferred choice. Perms have certainly come a long way since their inception.
Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. I've never had a perm because I have naturally curly/wavy hair but my mother still goes in every three months to get her hair done. Its her one expense she find money for in the budget. Have a great day.