If you can't afford a salon perm, home perms are a cost-effective alternative. Although most prefer to use curlers or curling rods for perms, you can use household items to achieve different textures. Women have been setting their hair with rag curlers for centuries, achieving soft, loose curls in the process. If you prefer a tighter curl, stick with curling rods, but if you're feeling adventurous, add this retro technique to your bag of hair styling tricks.
Cut the old sheet into 2-inch by 6-inch strips. You will need at least 30 strips, more if you have thick hair. If your hair is very long, cut longer strips. Test-curl a few hair sections using the following steps to make sure the strips are long enough.
Spritz your hair with the water. It should be damp, but not soaking wet. You may also start you rag curls after washing your hair and allowing it to air-dry. Apply any holding product, except for perm solution, which will be added later.
Part your hair. Separate a 1-inch section of hair with the rat tail comb. Place the end of the hair in the center of a rag strip. Hold in place with your fingers. Roll the rag up to your scalp, guiding the hair with your fingers. Make sure the hair doesn't twist in the process.
Roll the rag up to your scalp, guiding the hair with your fingers. Make sure your hair doesn't twist in the process. Tie the strip under the rag curl.
Proceed to curl the rest of your hair in 1-inch sections. Alternate which side of your head you are working on. For example, if you have just finished a section above your right ear, work on a section above your left ear next.
Dry with a diffuser or sleep in the rag curls. Take out the rag curls slow. Do not brush. Comb gently, if necessary. Examine your results to determine how to place your rag curls in the future. Larger sections of hair will yield looser curls, whereas smaller sections will result in tighter curls. Experiment a few times until you've perfected the skill and are ready to apply the home perm solution.
Apply a cotton headband around the curls to protect your skin from the perm solution. Roll hair up in rag curls as before. Put on latex gloves. Apply perm solution to each curl, working from the back of the head forward.
Leave in according to package instructions. Wash with warm water, leaving the rags in.
Apply the neutralizer and leave in according to instructions. Remove rags. Apply the rest of the neutralizer and leave in according to instructions. Rinse for at least five minutes with hot water, then rinse with cool water.
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Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.