But today, there's a new perm in town.
And not only does it smell a whole lot better, it can actually help us get ready for the next generation of hairstyles.
New technology has helped perms come a long way since their 1980s heyday where tight frizz often replaced the soft, sexy waves we envisioned. Perms today have built-in conditioners and more advanced chemicals which are gentler on your hair.
There are also many more options with perms, giving stylists a lot of versatility in matching your length, texture and style.
"Perms are not meant for that tight curl look anymore," Anthony Linzalone, a celebrity hair stylist at Pierre Michel Salon, tells StyleList.
Instead, get one for body and the option to wear it curly or to blow it out and just have soft waves, which are much more in style right now.
If you are considering taking the perm plunge, here are Linzalone's top five tips on how to get the best and most natural-looking waves:
1. Do a pre-perm prep. Treat the hair with porosity shampoos and conditioners. You want to get the hair in the best possible condition before perming.
2. Opt out if your tresses are processed. Do not perm on hair that is colored, bleached, highlighted or damaged.
3. Go for loose waves. Small rods equal tight curls (think poodles). Instead, go for large rods which will produce a softer curl.
4. Do not try this at home. Find the right stylist who uses specializes in perms and uses a Digital perm. It monitors the process, so there are no mistakes, which happened a lot in the past according to Linzalone.
5. Beat the frizz. Look for perms that have a low PH to help fight the frizzies of yesteryear's perms.
When caring for your curly coif, Linzalone advised washing it every other day and using a conditioner each time. In between washes, a spray bottle can be your hair's best friend because a little water will reactivate the curl.
When styling, you can choose to let your curly 'do dry naturally with a bit of curl activating gel. When it's dry, you can use your fingers to "comb" it out and loosen up the strands. For a softer look, blow dry with a diffuser. And for a finished look, use a curling iron which will create smooth curls.
"Let it be loose for that cool and trendy look, and keep the layering long -- it needs to drop," said Linzalone. "Don't get obsessed with height and tightness, that will leave you in another era."
"We don't want to repeat the perms of the '80s."
For more perms in the news, take a look at who else is sporting this look!