Home Beautygab Piggyback Perm Vs. Spiral Perm

Piggyback Perm Vs. Spiral Perm

by Gabbi

Surprisingly enough, perms are still a popular hair service even among younger generations. Curls are back, but they do have a modern twist. Say goodbye to the 80’s perm.

Nowadays, perms are meant to look natural and help you achieve a voluminous curl pattern. In addition, there is a perm for every length and thickness of hair. Perms can even be customized to achieve your desired look. 

Piggyback and Spiral perms are the most popular modern perms because you don’t have to sacrifice the length of your hair for a beautiful curl. Depending on the rod, these perms can also create a loose curl or wave rather than a tightly coiled curl.

What is the difference between a piggyback perm and a spiral perm? Well, the answer lies in their names. A piggyback perm will have two rods on each hair part piggybacking off of one another. A spiral perm is parted with vertical sections for an elongated curl.

These perms are similar in processing, but their rolling and sectioning technique can be quite different. In addition, they will both offer contrasting curl patterns. Thankfully, they can be customized for your ideal pattern; let’s find out how!

What Is A Piggyback Perm?

The piggyback perm has an amusing name, but it can be more challenging or time-consuming to conduct this perm service. In addition, this perm requires two perm rods per strand or part of the hair (to cater to long hair), while other perms only need one.

Beach Wave Perm defines a piggyback perm as “wrapping two rods per segment of hair. Half of the hair is wrapped spirally around the rods with an overlapping technique. The ends are wrapped in the same way as a standard perm.”

Once the whole head is wrapped in the rods, they will quite literally be piggybacking on top of each other. In addition, because this type of perm is equipped to deal with long hair, each segment needs to be rolled in two opposing directions to avoid curl interruption.

This method will create a natural curl pattern and ensure that your hair doesn’t come out with one curl formed in the same direction. Rolling the two rods in the opposite direction will give your hair support, bounce, and separated curls.

However, piggyback perms can be rolled in various methods, and it will usually depend on the length of the hair. Piggyback perms are usually recommended for medium to long hair (the most popular), but they can be customized to your length.

How To Roll A Piggyback Perm

First, to start wrapping a piggyback perm, the hair is usually sectioned into nine quadrants. This will ensure that the rods will be spaced evenly throughout the hair and each subsection will have the same amount of hair resting on the two rods. 

It’s always recommended to begin at the front and middle section of the hairline. The piggyback perm involves using a larger perm rod and a small perm rod. Use the diameter of the large perm rod to measure how much hair should be on the rod.

Next comes the rolling; this part can get tricky if someone is not used to rolling perms. Your small rod will always sit at the base/scalp while the larger rod will be rolled around your ends. In addition, you will need endpapers for the larger rods.

Take your small perm rod, place it in the middle of the strand, and start rolling downwards. While rolling, take your time and make sure the ends you are leaving out don’t become tangled. Once you reach the base, secure the rod.

Continue to wrap your base sections, leaving the ends out. Finish your mohawk/center panel sections. Now it’s time to wrap those ends; you’ll need your endpapers for this part to ensure the hair lays flat and to protect from unnecessary damage. 

Apply the papers to the ends of the hair and take your larger perm rod. Now, roll the rod in the opposite direction from the base rod. This will ensure that you have an even and uninterrupted curl pattern. 

Continue this process first on the backside panels before moving to the side sections at the front of the head. Then, you’ve officially rolled a piggyback perm. 

What Is A Spiral Perm?

A spiral perm is wrapped very differently from a piggyback perm. In addition, this perm can cater to a wide variety of hair lengths, not just medium to long hair. Spiral perms involve square sectioning, and the perm rod will be wrapped vertically.

The spiral perm is also considered a more traditional one because, unlike the piggyback perm, this perm will only require one rod to wrap the hair around instead of two. As a result, the sectioning is less complicated, and you’ll achieve a corkscrew curl effect.

However, while it may be traditional only to use one rod, the spiral perm is modern and can still help you achieve a fashionable curl pattern. Spiral perms offer variety to all hair lengths, and the diameter of the rod will determine your curl’s size.

Beach Wave Perm defines spiral perms as “a process of perming shoulder-length or longer hair into corkscrew-pattern curls…spiral perms use vertical rolling around the hair, and the result is more volume and subtle texture.”

They also state that this perm is ideal for individuals who are looking for “tight and bouncy curls that will intensify your appearance considerably.” So if you love a tighter curl pattern or you want to add intense volume to your strands, opt for a spiral perm.

In addition, Beach Wave Perm states that different spiral perms exist, including soft, loose, and tight perms. These types of spiral perms are something to take into consideration along with your hair length to find your ideal method. 

How To Roll A Spiral Perm 

Spiral perms are not sectioned off like traditional perms. Instead, you section the hair as you go through the rolling pattern. 

All the hair will be clipped up, then starting from the nape of the neck, horizontal parts are sectioned out to the diameter of the rod. The remaining hair is clipped up and out of the way.

Then use the diameter of the rod to subsection the hair vertically to create a square shape. Next, it’s time to wrap the ends with endpaper to prepare for rolling the subsection of hair on the chosen perm rod. 

Now it’s time to roll the hair on the rod. Using the revolution wind method, you will start from the bottom and vertically roll your rod to the top. Continue your parted horizontal section and, with this exact process, roll in the same direction.

Once you’ve completed your first horizontal section, create another. Then, continue to divide the subsections vertically to create a square shape that’s the diameter of the rod size. Now, roll in the opposite direction of your first horizontal section.

Alternating the direction of how each section is rolled will help you achieve a natural curl pattern. Continue these steps until the entire head has been rolled in the perm rods. 

Spiral Perm For Long Hair 

For long hair, it’s recommended to opt for a larger perm rod to increase volume and body while still creating a tight corkscrew pattern. A larger rod will also hold more hair than smaller rods, but you can still achieve a strong curl pattern. 

Spiral Perm For Medium Hair

The ideal length for any spiral perm is medium/shoulder-length hair. This hair length will help you achieve the most volume and definition without adjusting the service. A bob or shoulder-length cut will suit this perm the most.

Spiral Perm For Short Hair 

The main goal of perming short hair, especially with a spiral perm, is to create as many curls as possible in a small area that won’t damage the integrity of the hair. Short hair can still get a curly and voluminous perm, but the curls may be tighter. 

How Is A Perm Processed?

There are different perms on the market like Acid Perms, Alkaline Perms, and more. A perm should always be done by a licensed and professional hairdresser in a salon setting.

A hairdresser can assess your needs, choose the correct perm, and perform the perm without damaging your hair. You will want to keep the integrity of your hair, and a hairdresser can guide you through how to prep for your perm and the aftercare instructions. 

However, all perms need to break down the chemical makeup of your hair for the strands to take on the shape of the perm rod. In addition, the chemical process of a perm needs to seal your new curl pattern in place before you remove the rods. 

Perm Solution 

A perm solution will vary depending on what perm you and your stylist opt for (acid, alkaline, etc.), but they all have the same goal- to restructure your hair’s natural pattern into your desired curl. 

 According to Leaf, “a perm solution is used to restructure your hair, break the disulfide bonds within your hair shaft by raising the cuticle.” This solution is used to allow the hair to forget its natural shape and take on the shape of the perm rod. 

The perm solution usually sits on the rods for 10-20 minutes depending on the length or thickness of the hair. In addition, the type of perm you’ve chosen will help determine the wait time. The way your hair has been rolled on the rods will determine your new curl pattern. 

When it’s time to rinse the perm solution out, leave the rods in! While your hair has a new shape, the bonds in your hair that were previously broken need to be set back in place; otherwise, your curls won’t last, and they got a blast of chemicals for nothing. 

Once you rinse your hair (while it is still in the rods) for about 7-10 minutes, it’s time to begin using the Neutralizer. 


The hair is then rinsed with the neutralizer solution. Leaf defines a neutralizer as a “solution which sets the new shape of the hair by reinserting the disulfide bonds.” Neutralizer will officially seal the deal and keep your curls lasting for months. 

Again, the methods and processing time may vary depending on the type of perm and your hair, which is why you should always see a pro who can assess the situation. The neutralizer will sit for a few minutes before it’s time to remove the rods.

Once the rods are removed, it’s not uncommon to rinse the hair with a little more neutralizer and let it sit for an extra few minutes. Your hairstylist should make sure the integrity of your hair is intact, and that neutralizer is sealing in your desired curls. 

Now, it’s time to rinse all the neutralizer from the hair. Now, you should be left with the perm of your dreams. The process of a perm is long and stinky, so be prepared to be slightly uncomfortable with the smell of various chemicals. 

What To Know About Perms 

In addition, to ensure your perm will last months on end, avoid washing it for 48 hours because water can weaken the disulfide bonds that were broken and sealed to create your curl pattern. 

Perms can last for around 6 months. In some cases, it can be longer or shorter depending on your hair. A perm can’t be reversed, so it’s a more serious service than a color, for example. The only way (and the healthiest way) to get rid of a perm is to grow it out.

Piggyback Perm

Piggyback perms are the most ideal for long hair lengths to create a modern curl pattern. The thicker or larger the perm rod is, the looser the curl will be. However, it can be tricky to section the hair in nine sections and roll two rods on one hair strand.


  • Create a modern curl/wave
  • It gives your hair volume since they are rolled to the scalp/base of the head
  • Ideal for medium to long hair lengths
  • Modern curl pattern; this perm won’t leave you feeling outdated
  • It can last around six months 


  • Not ideal for short hair
  • Difficult to section and roll two rods on the same strand

Spiral Perm

There is a spiral perm for every hair length, and there are multiple variations of the spiral perm like loose, soft, and tight. In addition, spiral perms are easier to section off than piggyback perms, and rolling the rods vertically will offer a modern update to a perm.


  • Spiral perms can suit a wide variety of hair lengths
  • Gives you voluminous roots and corkscrew curls
  • It has a specific rod shape and is rolled vertically
  • It can last around six months
  • Easy to section and roll


  • Doesn’t create a loose curl or wave
  • It dates back to the 80s and can leave you with a retro feel (not always a con if that’s your style)

Both spiral and piggyback perms go through the same chemical process. So no matter how your hair is rolled, the structure of your hair will first be broken down by a perm solution to take on the shape of the rods.

Then the neutralizer will be applied to seal the bonds that have been broken. The hair is now set in a new shape. The only difference is what kind of perm solution you and your hairdresser will agree upon to use during your perm service.

Whatever curl you decide on, we suggest having this curl activator on hand for the first time you’re styling your brand new look.

Perms don’t have to be outdated. Now they have a modern twist and offer a curl pattern so natural no one will be able to tell that it’s a perm! 

Up Next: How To Know If You Have Curly Hair

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