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Tight Perm for Men | Complete Style Guide & 10 Trendy Looks

Thinking about trying a tight perm for men? This super-curly look is becoming more and more popular for men of all ages. We’ll show you how to wear and style a tight perm for men and whether one is right for you.

Trend Spotlight: Tight Perms for Men

Image titled style guide Tight Perm Men with a floating image of a man with a perm in a red hoodie

In the spotlight this week is a trend that’s really shaking things up in the world of mens’ hairstyles: Tight perms. Straight and wavy looks have had their time in the sun. Today, the tighter the curl, the better! 

Permed looks for guys have really taken off in the last year, with popular curly looks ranging from loose and bouncy to tight and springy.

Hairstyles featuring a tight perm on men are super versatile. You can rock a perm with other mens’ hairstyle trends, like fades and pompadours. A perm can transform even a basic shag into a trendy masterpiece with tons of texture and volume. 

Guys who want to try a trendy hairstyle that won’t require a ton of extra care and maintenance will love the freedom and built-in styling of a perm. Once you get a perm, your hair will stay curly for 3 to 6 months. 

That’s one of the great things about trying a perm for those afraid of commitment! If you decide a perm isn’t your look, you can rest easy knowing that those “permanent” curls aren’t really permanent. 

In this style guide, we’re going to look at the general perm process so you’ll know what to expect when you visit a salon or barber shop to get one.

We’ll answer some of the most common questions about tight perms for men, from perm aftercare to minimizing chemical damage to your hair. And of course, we’re going to show you our favorite tight perm looks for guys!

Read Next: How Long Does Hair Have to Be to Perm?

The Perm Process, Summarized

Tight perm men's style being applied to an Asian man in a barber shop

metamorworks/Shutterstock

Getting a perm – tight, medium, or loose – will be a big change for your hair. Knowing what to expect before you walk into the salon or barber shop for your appointment is key.

If you can understand the process better, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your needs. Here’s what you can expect when you get a perm. We’ll summarize each step of the perm process below.

Step One: Roll the Perm

Your stylist will determine how tight you want your curls to be first. Then, they’ll choose the correct perm rod color and size to roll your hair for the perm.

They may choose to use more than one perm rod size if you want a multi-textured perm that looks more natural. Your stylist will wet your hair first, then part and section your hair.

Small sections will be rolled onto the rods until all of your hair is rolled up for the perm. This creates the general shape and diameter of the curls, but nothing is permanent until the solution is added next.  

Step Two: Saturate With Perm Solution

Once your hair has been fully rolled up for the perm, your stylist will saturate your hair with the perm solution.

Most perms will use a solution that contains ammonium thioglycolate, a powerful alkaline chemical that breaks the bonds in your hair to make it “forget” the natural hair shape and texture and reprogram it to the curly texture created with the rods. 

After the perm solution is added, your stylist will set a timer for about 10 minutes before checking your hair’s progress. The perm solution shouldn’t sit on your hair for more than about 20 minutes total. 

Step Three: Rinse and Seal the Perm With Neutralizer

After your stylist allows the perm solution to break the bonds in your hair to create the S-curl shape, they will thoroughly rinse the solution out with warm water. The rods will stay in place during this step.

After rinsing for about 3 minutes, the rods will be patted dry with a clean towel. Now, your stylist will apply a special chemical neutralizer that stops the perming process and “seals” the new curls’ shape in place.

The neutralizer should stay on your hair for no more than 5 minutes. They’ll take out the rods and add more neutralizer to your newly permed hair before the final rinse. 

Step Four: Rinse It Out

The final step of your perm is the final rinse. Once the neutralizer has done its job to halt the chemical process, your stylist will thoroughly rinse your hair for about 5 minutes under warm water.

They will finish up with a cool water rinse to help the outermost layer of your hair close back up and appear smooth and shiny. They may allow your hair to air dry (healthiest option) or blow dry it with a diffuser so you can see the finished result faster. 

Tight Perm for Men: 10 Trendy Examples

Think a tight perm is exactly the change you need to shake things up? Take a look at some of our favorite permed looks for guys below. We found a range of hairstyles that are perfectly paired with a tight perm. Check them out – choose any style below to stay on top of the trend. 

1. Tight Perm Crop With Split Bangs

Man with a Tight Perm Crop With Split Bangs

ViChizh/Shutterstock

Tight perms are a bold look, and when you wear your perm with a trendy cropped cut, you can really show off the voluminous texture and curl definition. Long hair on top puts all the focus on your curls, while a split bang opens up the face for a flattering look. 

This is a great option for men who favor a casual, tousled look and it doesn’t require a lot of styling. Just a dab of gel to help define those curls is all you’ll need! 

2. Skin Fade With Tight Perm

Skin Fade With Tight Perm on Man

Edi Libedinsky/Shutterstock

A drop skin fade cut at the mid level (in between a high and low fade) is a trendy look for men all on its own. Add a tight perm to the mix and this is one of the hottest looks right now.

This perm adds tons of volume and definition to the model’s hair, so the skin fade cut is designed to bring a little contrast. 

From the longer, voluminous and curly top to the tight skin fade underneath, this look is trendy and balanced. Wear the longer hair on top swept over to the side with a little medium-hold gel for hold. 

3. Tight Perm Pompadour With Taper Fade

Tight Perm Men's Pompadour Hairstyle With With Taper Fade

Tanya Lara/Shutterstock

Ultra-tight curls just hit different. We love this tightly-permed look with a pompadour vibe. The hair in front isn’t brushed backward (like with a true pompadour), but instead, it’s allowed to freely flow forward. 

The intensely curly texture is highlighted with plenty of moisture and definition for a clean-cut look. The sides and back are cut shorter toward the neckline in a taper fade.

And the best part? The perm does all the work. Just wake up and work a little curl cream with oil or your favorite moisturizing hair product to nail this look. 

4. Long Top Undercut With Tight Perm

Long Top Undercut With Tight Perm Men's Hairstyle

Goofyfoottaka/Shutterstock

Undercuts are a great hairstyle to try with a tight perm. They offer a nice contrast between the two radically different lengths – the longer top and the shaved-short back and sides.

Without any visual “competition” from the sides and back, all the focus lands on the permed and super-curly top. Keep the sides and back very short for the best contrast (you’ll need to trim up every 4 weeks or so). 

5. Permed Two Block Cut

Tight perm men's hairstyle featuring a two block cut on a hispanic man

ViChizh/Shutterstock

Two block haircuts were popularized by K-Pop bands, but they’re on-trend even if you’re not in a Korean boy band. These unique, modern cuts feature long hair on the top half (block #1) and shaved-short hair on the bottom half of the back and sides (block #2).

Curls are our favorite texture for a two block cut because they really bring the focus to the longer hair on top. 

To mimic this trendy look, create a middle part down the center of your curls and use a small amount of gel to help define and hold the curls in place. Split the front open and let a perfectly-defined curly tendril hang down to anchor the style. 

6. Shoulder-Length Tapered Shag With Tight Perm

Shoulder-Length Tapered Shag With Tight Perm men's hairstyle

Yuliia Hurzhos/Shutterstock

Long hair can be a perfect companion for a tight perm. The longer your hair is, the more bends and curves you’ll get from your permed curl pattern. Perming long hair will make it easier to care for and reduce your daily styling time. 

If your hair is already long and you’re thinking about getting a tight perm, consider a tapered shag. This is where the front of the shag is cut in short layers to round out the style and break up the length. Style with a middle part to keep this look on-trend. 

7. Fade With Permed Quiff

Fade With Tight Permed Men's Quiff Hairstyle

Bordovski Yauheni/Shutterstock

Tight perms for men always look great with a quiff – that longer section of hair in the bangs area. When you combine a tightly-permed quiff with a sleek fade, the shorter hair around the back and sides helps direct the eye toward the poppin’ curls on top. 

Style the quiff by scrunching a little curl cream or gel in to avoid frizz and help secure the style longer. The great thing about a short fade with a tight perm is that the only part of your hair you’ll have to style is the longer top! 

8. Tapered Crop With Tight Perm 

Tapered Crop With Tight Perm Men's Hairstyle

Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Tapered cuts and crops are really popular looks to wear with a tight perm. These types of cuts help round out super-curly texture and keep the ends from being too heavy or giving your head the dreaded triangle look.

Tapered cuts also make the ends more lightweight, which helps the perm stay bouncier and more lively without a lot of weight pulling the curls into waves. 

Styling a tapered crop with a tight perm couldn’t be easier. Just scrunch a quarter-sized dollop of medium-hold gel throughout your hair while it’s damp, allow it to air dry or dry with a diffuser, and you’re ready to go! 

9. Tight Permed Ponytail

Tight Permed Men's Ponytail Haircut

Yuliia Hurzhos/Shutterstock

If you’re getting a tight perm and you have long hair, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a range of ways to style it for different looks. Tight perms look great on long hair, especially when it’s pulled back into a low ponytail.

Ponytails gather and concentrate the spring-like curls to create a visually interesting style that also serves to keep your hair contained and out of your face. What’s not to love? 

Just gather your permed hair into a bundle above the nape of your neck, smooth some anti-frizz serum or medium-hold gel onto the sides for better grip, and secure with an elastic for all-day hold. 

10. Permed Two Block Cut

Tight Permed Men's Two Block Haircut

LightField Studios/Shutterstock

This side view of a two block cut offers a better look at what makes this haircut such a great choice for tightly permed hair. Two block cuts need lots of volume on top to avoid letting the hair fall limply over the shorter back and sides.

Tight curls create built-in volume that is just perfect for this cut, while the shorter back and sides offer excellent contrast between the two lengths. Moisture is the key to nailing a high-definition style like this.

Keep your perm hydrated to increase curl definition, volume, shine, and movement. Style the bangs forward onto the forehead to copy this trendy, defined hairstyle.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions about getting a tight perm? You’ll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about tight perms here. 

How long does a tight perm last?

A tight perm can last anywhere from 3 months to 6 months. It all depends on how long your hair is and how often you get it cut. A perm, which is short for “permanent,” will permanently change the structure and texture of your hair.

But new growth won’t be affected. So as your tight perm grows out and loosens up, your roots will grow out with your natural hair texture and lessen the intensity of the perm. 

How long does a tight perm take? 

Expect a tight perm to take about 2.5 hours from start to finish. If your hair is long, it can take up to 5 hours. Why does it take so long?

The perm process involves rolling your hair onto small perm rods (the tighter the curl, the smaller the rod must be) and saturating it with perm solution.

Then, another chemical (the neutralizer) is applied to the hair to halt the chemical perming process. Finally, the solutions are rinsed out to reveal your curls.

How much is a tight perm for men?

Perms cost anywhere from $40 to more than $200 – it all depends on the type of perm you get, where you get it done, how long and thick your hair is, and the tightness of the perm.

Most people pay around $80 for a perm. But if your hair is very short, you could pay as little as $30. Make sure to ask your stylist for a cost estimate first if you’re thinking about getting a perm.

They’ll be able to factor in your hair length, thickness, the number of rods needed, and more to give you an accurate cost assessment.  

How do you do a tight perm?

Tight perms are done by rolling the hair onto very small perm rods, then saturating it with chemicals that keep the hair molded into the newly rolled shape. The smaller the circumference of the rod, the tighter the resulting curls will be.

Perm rods are typically color coded to indicate their size. Your stylist or barber will probably use red (1/8”), blue (1/4”), or pink (3/8”) rods to roll a tight perm, depending on just how tight you want your curls. 

While you can purchase at-home perming kits, we recommend leaving this chemical process to a professional. It’s easy to damage your hair beyond repair when you DIY the perm process.

At-home perms are often left on too long, applied too close to the scalp, or rolled improperly. Don’t take the risk – just visit a professional!  

Things to Consider

Guy getting a tight perm for men

T Mon/Shutterstock

You really can’t go wrong with a tight perm for men – as long as you know what to expect. There are a few things you should think about before getting a perm. After all, it’s a permanent process that’s going to create a big change for your hair!

Find out if a tight perm is really the right style for you below:

  • Perms can damage your hair. Perms weaken then re-fortify the protein bonds in the hair so permanent curls can be molded. The process is hard on even the healthiest hair, so experts recommend using special care afterward (wide toothed combs, lots of moisture, and little to no heat styling) to keep your strands healthy. To avoid frying your hair or ending up with frizzy, fragile strands, make sure to take special care of your mane before and after your perm. 
  • Perms are not DIY material. Just because you can do a perm at home doesn’t mean you should. Perms use a harsh alkaline chemical to break down the bonds in your hair, and it’s powerful enough to really damage your hair if used improperly. Don’t risk damaging your hair by doing a perm at home. For tight perms especially (which require more sectioning and smaller rods), rely on a professional to get it done – it usually won’t cost more than about $80 if you have short hair. 
  • Perms aren’t right for every guy. All hair types and lengths (beyond super-short) can benefit from a perm, but they’re not a good idea for everyone. Perms are best used on healthy, undamaged hair that has never been colored, permed, or otherwise chemically processed. If your hair is very damaged or if you’ve recently had a color or perm done, it’s wise to wait a while before getting a tight perm. Give your hair time to heal before you get one! Perms can damage hair, especially if it’s already fragile or weak when you get it done. 
  • Don’t ignore the after-care instructions. When your stylist tells you to wait at least 48 hours before wetting or washing your hair, they mean it. Washing your hair or even saturating it with water too soon after a perm will loosen your curls, result in uneven texture, and undo your efforts. Avoid getting your hair wet at least 48 hours after a perm to ensure your curls stay tight and perfectly shaped. 
  • Get new styling products for curly hair. If you’re not naturally curly, you probably won’t have the needed products in your arsenal after getting a tight perm for men. But if you want your new curls to look their best, you’ll need to grab a few items! Check out The Best Products for Curly Hair next to see what products you’ll need to pick up post-perm. 

We think the tight perm for men trend is refreshing, unexpected, and super beneficial for guys who hate spending time styling their hair.

If you like the way a tight perm looks, you can pair this look with any trendy haircut – a skin fade, pompadour, or tapered shag – to wear the trend in a modern and stylish way. If you think a tight perm is the look for you, remember that it’ll last up to 6 months.

After that time, you’ll know whether it’s something you want to keep doing or if it was a fun, one-time thing. Recently, we’ve seen vintage styles like mullets and tight perms dominating the hair scene for men. We can’t wait to see what throwback trend is next!

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