In the '80s, a perm was supposed to leave your hair a Geena Davis-style froth of curls. But now that pin-straight hair like Gwyneth Paltrow's is the must-do do, the technology is catching up. The Japanese straight perm, a.k.a. "Japanese relaxer" or "super straight," makes hair hang straight for as long as six months and works on every type of hair except African. But if your calendar is full or your pockets aren't, it might be wiser to buy straightener in a box from the store: a Japanese straight perm can take up to eight hours in the salon and cost as much as $700. "Some straight perms are done with a hot iron and are very time consuming, and some are done with chemicals and are less time consuming," explains Karla Newgarden-Takahara, a stylist at the Manhattan salon Space. "For my clients, I usually recommend the milder one. It's a lot less time, and it's a lot less money." She doesn't recommend, however, that most women make their hair straight: "Most people don't look that great with no body and no texture and no movement in their hair." Sounds as if we should aspire to look more like Ozzy Osbourne than Gwyneth (who blow-dries her hair).
--By Benjamin Nugent