I've been doing a bit of research on this whole curly perm thing while I wait for my hair to grow out some. The following is what I have learned so far:
1. The traditional perm/body wave is really no different than the "dry curl" with the exception of the straightening step. Now the straightening step is important. It is not simply just for having smoother/sleeker curls but also helps the second step thio absorb better. Have any of you noticed how long it takes for natural hair to absorb water. The liquid thio would just roll off the hair before it could penetrate enough if you did not "break" the bonds some and make the hair a bit more porous. But I must admit that the silkening effect of the thio is a plus.
2. When procedures do not go right it is always the fault of the stylist not the product. Either the stylist did not take into consideration the quality of your hair (ie. your hair is too damaged for the procedure or not using the correct strength of the rearranger) or the stylist is doing the process wrong(like not rinsing out the thio well enough before neutralizing). It is also the fault of the stylist if he or she lacks on instructing the client from damaging their own hair or even not using fresh enough products. So its not the product but the person using the product. This has been said many times by people under the curl section and from my research this seems to be true.
3. The most damaging part of the curly perm/body wave is the neutralizer. Thio and the neutralizer(either hydrogen peroxide or sodium bromide) are not friends. It is very important that a person thoroughly rinses out all traces of the thio before neutralizing the hair. If not it could cause frizz, dryness, breakage and other bad things to the hair. As others have stated this is probably the reason why WN can cause problems. The gel probably doesn't wash out properly. Also it is important that you get rid of any excess moisture before neutralizing. This is why some stylists will sit you under a dryer after rinsing out the thio but before putting in the neutralizer.
4. If a dry curl and a thio/alkaline based perm are the same then you dont necessarily need a neutralizer. The neutralizer is for convience. When you neutralize the hair it only rehardens the hair to about 85%. The rest of the neutralizing process can only be done by air oxidizing. This is why they advise that you wait atleast 3 days so that your hair can neutralize properly by the air. You can skip the chemical neutralizing process and just do what is know as an air neutralizer. When air neutralizing you would thoroughly rinse out all residue from the hair and wait 24 hours before taking the rollers out. After the 24 hour period the stylist will either use the peroxide neutralizer or just rinse/shampoo the hair. Supposedly doing it the air neutralizing way fully cures the hair in 24 hours rather than waiting 3 days to a week. Also this way causes the least amount of damage. The curls are firmer, more true to size, and have a softer feel. Now the downside is that your head might stink for a full day.
Above is what I am sure of, but there are some things that still do confuse me. I know that you only apply the rearranger to the new growth only, but what about the second step. It seems as though everytime you get a touch up the stylist places the step #2 over all of the hair. So I imagine that every time you retouch you process all of the hair once again. Am I correct about this process or am I mistakened.I want to know if their are a few of you who dont do this if this is what truly happens. I've seen a bit of information about using block-it end papers, covering the ends with heavy conditioners like cholesterol, and even only rolling the new growth while leaving the previously processed ends out. If stylist are constantly redoing the ends then no wonder why the ends tend to go limp/stringy and they recommend getting your hair trimmed so often. That also explains why you can switch all over curl size from touch up to touch up. I cant find hardly any true detailed info talking about how to only do the new growth still have the hair very curly. I find most of the information regarding only processing the new growth for more of a body wave type look.