A perm is a chemical treatment that can make your hair permanently curly or wavy for a period of time. They can last up to six months, depending on how fast your hair grows and how you treat it. Permed hair needs to be treated and cared for differently than non-permed hair. If you want to make a perm last, here are a number of things you can do:

  • Wait to wash your hair until your perm has set in for at least two days.
  • Don’t comb your hair for the first 24 hours.
  • Don’t dye your hair for two weeks before and after you get a perm.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize.
  • Avoid putting your hair in a ponytail before washing your hair.

Young woman with permed hair and black shirt smiling

How Does a Perm Work?

You might be wondering how a perm works. When you go in for a perm, your hair stylist will put your hair into curlers and apply a chemical that breaks down the keratin in your hair. Keratin is a protein that gives your hair the strength and shape it had before. Once it’s gone, your stylist now has complete control of the shape of your hair. A neutralizer, such as hydrogen peroxide, is applied to help the keratin in your hair rebuild around the curlers. This leaves your hair curled. Once the stylist removes the curlers, your hair will now be “permanently” curled (which is where the term “perm” comes from). Unlike hair dyes, perms can’t wash out. It will stay curly even after you’ve washed and dried your hair! Even though your hair is curly, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do any of the hairstyles you used to do before the treatment. You can still straighten, curl, and style permed hair just like you would normally. Here are some ways you can style your curly hair. Keep in mind that going in for a perm is not an “in and out” service. If you go in for a perm, you can expect to be in the salon for a few hours, depending on the length of your hair. When going to the stylist, bring pictures of what you want because you can decide how tight you want your curls to be. Make sure your stylist knows exactly what you want so you can leave the salon excited for your new do.
Young women with brown curly hair laughing

How to Keep Your Perm Frizz-Free

As with any curls, it’s important to maintain your new look to avoid frizz and tangles. Here’s what you can do to make sure your new curls stay frizz-free.

1. Treat Your Hair Like It’s Naturally Curly

A perm makes your hair act as if it was naturally curly, which means that it needs to be treated like curly hair, too. Choose shampoos and conditioners made for treated hair. Not only will this prevent and reverse damage, but it will also help your perm last longer too.

2. Condition and Moisturize

Just like any chemical hair treatment, your hair will most likely be a little damaged after the perm. Make sure to use a conditioner every time you shampoo. If your hair seems a little frizzy, you can get a deep-conditioning treatment to add extra moisture to your locks. Moroccan oil is great to use as a leave-in conditioner.

3. Stay Away From Heat

Straightening and blow drying your hair can not only create frizz and damage, but it can also loosen your curls. Make sure to use plenty of heat protectant so you don’t damage your gorgeous curls. If you need to blow dry your hair, try to wait until it’s mostly dry and use a diffuser to keep the curl without the frizz.
Woman with curly perm looking away

Get a Perm!

Are you looking to get a perm? Check out our student spa and salon! Our students can give you the curls you want under the supervision of licensed professionals. If you are interested in learning how to perm hair, find out how you can become a cosmetologist here at Hair Professionals Career College! The best material to dry your hair with is actually microfiber or the soft weave of a t-shirt. The excess friction caused by the terrycloth will dry and damage your hair.

Use the Right Hair Products

Perm Maintenance Made Easier

Chat with your stylist about their recommendations. They know the treatment best and will give you the best advice on how to take care of your perm for the first 48 hours. You run the risk of deactivating the curling chemicals when you wash your hair too soon after a perm.

Drying Your Hair

Keeping your permed hair safe overnight might be the most difficult task yet. Regular cotton pillowcases can cause friction that damages your hair. Sleep on a satin pillowcase instead to give your hair the freedom to move without damage.

Coloring While Permed

Never brush through your dry hair with a hairbrush. This will displace your entire head of curls and leave you looking more like a poodle than a curly-haired goddess! The perming process strips your hair of the cuticle layer and makes your hair more porous. Your hair will probably start to feel dry and brittle unless you use the right hair products. Use products that will nourish and protect your hair from root to tip.

How to Sleep With a Perm

When you color or perm your hair, you run the risk of damaging it. When you try to color right after perming your hair, you can over-process, over-lighten, or even damage it beyond repair. Don’t rub it, either. Collect the ends of your hair in the towel and squeeze, essentially scrunching it up in your hands a little at a time.

Develop a Style Routine

Once you use your protecting and nourishing shampoo and conditioner, use a leave-in conditioner and comb your hair out with a wide-toothed comb while it’s wet. Then you can do the t-shirt dry and plop method to set your curls without heat, which adds extra damage to your hair. After you get your perm, let your hairstylist work their magic. Be prepared to sit with that style for a day or two, because you shouldn’t wash curled hair for at least 48 hours after your treatment. When moisturizing, apply the product to the ends of your hair. The closer to your scalp that you get, the more natural oils are in your hair. The ends of your hair hold the most damage and require the most treatment. Treat permed hair the same way that you would treat curly hair. Get products that are designed to nourish and lift curly hair for lots of natural shine and bounce. Just like with naturally curly hair, over-styling is your enemy. After your curls dry, they’re essentially stuck in that curl pattern until the next time you wash and condition it. When you mess too much with that curl pattern, your hair is going to look frizzy and out of control.

Avoid Over-Styling

Keep reading to learn how to style a perm, how to sleep with a perm, and everything in between! Taking care of your permed hair is a little more complicated than taking care of naturally straight hair. Curls require a whole host of new products and techniques that can get a little overwhelming if you’re not sure where to start. But when you follow these steps in your perm maintenance routine, you’ll have healthy, gorgeous curls! To plop your hair, use a conditioner and wrap your hair up in a microfiber cloth. Then, plop the excess right on top of your head and secure it there! You could also do oil treatments, hair masks, and anything else that is designed to hydrate and nourish curly hair. perm maintenance Do you dry your hair by rubbing it right after the shower with a terrycloth towel? Curly hair requires a much different approach. Perm maintenance doesn’t have to be a pain! When you opt into having gorgeous curly locks, it takes a little extra work to keep them maintained. When you chemically alter your hair to add more curl and volume, you risk damaging it and causing unwanted frizz. That’s why it’s so important to know how to maintain a perm. You can do the plop-it method to let it air dry overnight or you can let it hang and air dry during the day. Avoid drying with heat and use a diffuser if you have to blow-dry it. The best conditioners for curly hair are the ones that have a light formula. If your curls are tight and kinky after your perm, go with a cream conditioner. Leave the conditioner in for at least five minutes. The longer, the better. When it’s time to rinse, rinse with cool water. The style routine for a head full of curly hair can take a lot of time to develop. Many folks who have had curly hair their whole lives are still trying to find the perfect routine. But styling curly hair starts from the second you get it wet. It’s a good idea to wait at least two weeks after perming your hair to try to color it. Always work with your stylist before trying any chemical process on your permed hair. If you’re looking for the best tools to dry your hair fast and keep it healthy for life, browse our products today!

Post-Perm Conditioning

Use a gel or glaze instead of a mousse to style your hair to avoid the alcohol in the mousse that will dry it out. Use formulas that are designed to restore your hair after a chemical treatment. Many brands have repair and protect formulas that will repair and cleanse, leaving your hair looking moisturized and healthy. You could tie your hair up in a loose bun, braids, or do the plop method.

Don’t Wash Your Hair Right Away

If you don’t have time to air dry, use a diffuser to dry it out to avoid making your hair too frizzy. Perms have come back in a huge way and opting for one can give you the curls, volume and texture you’ve been obsessing over! With perms, instead of spending 20-30 minutes every morning curling and otherwise manipulating your hair to get your desired results, all you really have to do is scrunch a bit of product on them and you are out the door. Though they may make life a bit easier, it is important to remember that it is a chemical proess which can leave your hair a bit more fragile than normal. Perms require a bit of care and specific types of products in order to maintain your hair’s health and the look you want. Virgo Salon Owner and Master Stylist Mateo Jon has a few tips to help you get the best out of your new hair texture!

Immediately After Your Perm

After getting your perm, your hair will need some time to fully set. Make sure you wait 3 days before getting your hair wet as it will take about that amount of time for your the perming chemicals to form new bonds. We recommend that you wait about a week before doing any type of styling. If you must, don’t go any further than simply scrunching the hair with your fingers to set your curls. While your hair is in an adjustment phase, you don’t want to use any sort of hairbrush , but instead finger-comb your curls or if absolutely necessary, use a wide-tooth comb in the shower with lots of conditioner. Remember, you want to avoid disrupting the curl structure which may result in your perm breaking or being set in an unexpected shape.

Nourish + Moisturize Your Hair

Though Modern Perms are certainly healthier than perms of the past, it is still a chemical process which can leave your hair more vulnerable than it was in it’s virgin state. For this reason, it is important to use nourishing, hydrating products that will help restore and rejuvenate your hair. Keep in mind that after a perm, your hair will be drier than I was initially so you’ll want to make sure you have a great Deep Conditioner on hand! Virgo owner Mateo Jon recommend deep conditioning at least twice a week for the first few weeks while your hair is recovering and then once a week from there. *

Shampoo Less

Washing your hair often actually strips your your hair of its natural oils. After a perm, you will want to retain a lot of those natural oils as they will keep your hair healthy and hydrated. For this reason, you will want to wash your hair a lot less often to keep it moisturized, healthy, and looking its very best. When it does come time for wash day, make sure you are using a natural, moisturizing and sulfate-free shampoo and make sure you are always replenishing your hair with a conditioner!

Get the Right Products

Because you are going from Virgin hair to Chemically treated, you may need to make a few changes to your product assortment. You will want to get a good shampoo and conditioner with curl enhancing formulas*. Though you definitely want these to be moisturizing, be sure they are not super-creamy as this can weigh down your hair, causing your curls to change shape. In addition to a good curly shampoo, you will want to also clear your hair of excess product with a clarifying shampoo once a month to do a complete hair and scalp cleanse.* If possible, try to avoid any products that are made with silicone, alcohol or Sodium lauryl/ laureth sulfate (SLS). Silicones weigh down on your hair, leaving it greasy and heavy. Alcohol dries your hair out leaving it brittle and frizzy and SLS deplete the naturally produced sebum that moisturizes your hair.

Dry Your Hair Correctly

For optimal results, its important to make sure not to towel-dry your hair as it can be quite abrasive on your hair shaft which will start to weaken your hair overall. Instead, after combing and detangling your hair with a wide-tooth comb, apply your leave in and styling products and let it air dry if possible (we suggest doing this at night so that your hair is nice and dry by morning)

Get Regular Trims

Regularly removing damaged ends will help keep your hair looking and feeling healthy. Even if you want your hair to grow long, we recommend getting trims every month and a half to two months depending on how fast your hair grows.

Avoid Heat Styling

As much as possible, you want to avoid heat styling so instead of blow-drying, air dry your hair. If you absolutely must blow-dry your hair, do so on low heat and be sure to attach a diffuser — this helps disperse the heat instead of having it concentrated on one area. You also want to avoid straightening tools such as flat irons as it could cause split ends to appear faster than if you hair was un-permed. Make sure that any time you DO decide to use heat on your hear, that you coat your hair with a heat protectant.* You should definitely trim your hair before you have it permed so that the stylist is working with the healthiest hair you have. There is no point in wrapping dry split ends onto tiny rollers and saturating them with chemicals, only to have them break off. If you choose to dye your hair after the waiting period, remember that your hair is now chemically treated and choose products accordingly (or make sure that your stylist is aware so that they can choose the right products).

  • Understand how perms work

This lets the keratin molecules form a new shape (the curl). Then, hydrogen peroxide or another neutralizer is used to reverse the reducing agent, which allows the new disulfide bonds to form and lock the shape into place. When you wash your hair, remember that it’s now chemically treated and curly. Your favorite pre-perm shampoo and conditioner may not be suitable anymore. You need to select products that are engineered for chemically treated, curly hair. Gal with crazy curly hair just read our guide on how to care for permed hair and her hair looks natural and fresh and bouncy Roman Ramborskyi/Shutterstock The best way to care for permed hair is to go into the perm process with your hair as healthy as possible to start with. Perms work best on virgin hair, which is hair that’s never been chemically treated in any way. It’s possible to have success perming hair that has been dyed, but hair that has been bleached or highlighted is not generally suitable for this process. Try to avoid anything that could change it chemically. You should never bleach or highlight permed hair. Both of those chemical processes are very damaging to hair, and combining them will likely break your hair beyond repair. Some people have even reported that their hair broke off in chunks. But there’s no need to panic if you splash a little when you’re washing your face, or even if you have to dampen a curl or two to push them into position. Don’t brush for 24 hours, either. You may use a wide-tooth comb or pick to detangle if needed. Don’t get into a chlorinated swimming pool or hot tub for seven days after your perm. Once you leave the salon with your new curls, you need to leave them alone as much as possible for a few days! Yes, you’re “done” when the stylist rinses out the neutralizer, but your curls actually need some time to finish setting in for good. Don’t take matters into your own hands here. They will relax on their own over the next few days to a week. If you try to relax them by washing or combing now, you may end up with no curls at all – or worse, extremely uneven curls if you interrupt the settling-in process.

1. Understand How Perms Work

Lastly, be sure to have your permed hair trimmed at least once every three months, and every six to eight weeks is preferable if that is possible. Your hair will be drier than it was before, and curly hair tends to tangle more no matter what you do. These together mean that you’ll likely have more dry, split ends that need to be removed to keep your permed hair healthy. After you wash and condition your hair, towel-dry it gently with a microfiber towel. Here, “gently” means that you blot your hair dry. You don’t rub or scrub it, and you don’t wrap it in a tight turban. Microfiber towels are less likely to snag your hair than cotton terry cloth.

  • Prep for your perm
  • You’ll probably need to replace most of your current hair care products. After you leave the salon, your hair will be chemically treated and curly. Both of those designations require specialist products.

Woman getting her split ends trimmed for a piece on how to care for permed hair Alter-ego/Shutterstock This likely means a gentler shampoo and a deeper conditioner than you used previously. As always, you’ll want to be sure to avoid surfactants, parabens, and phthalates for your health and the health of your hair. Pretty ebony woman with naturally curly hair or permed hair looking at the label on a product to ensure she knows how to care for permed hair with the right products Brastock/Shutterstock This doesn’t necessarily *have* to be part of the immediate aftercare – you can do it any time you like – but many people with permed hair prefer sleeping on satin or silk pillowcases. This isn’t as extravagant as it sounds; many places sell them fairly inexpensively and in a wide range of colors. It’s critical to follow each of these steps, as missing one can result in damaged hair, and at a minimum, wasted money. To illustrate how to care for permed hair, a woman using a hair dryer on her hair and styling it gently Rido/Shutterstock Also, remember that long hair is heavier than short hair, and the weight can pull the curl out of your hair. Your curls will be livelier when you keep your hair at an optimal length without any split ends to weigh it down. Apply a light moisturizer or leave-in conditioner, and detangle your hair with a pick or a wide-toothed comb. Never brush your hair when wet. Not only will you brush out the curls, but you’ll also damage or break your hair. Step 1 in the process of how to care for permed hair, a woman getting a perm with rollers in her hair Praiwan Wasanruk/Shutterstock This may feel like overkill since a perm is permanent, but it does need to finish setting. On that note, you may think that the curls look too tight now, and you wouldn’t mind if they softened up a bit. Now that you have charming new curls, you’ll need to take care of them to keep them looking their best. This means a waiting period to let the perm “take,” the use of the appropriate products, and as little heat styling as you can manage.

2. Prep for the Perm

If you do use a blow-dryer, you absolutely need to use a high-quality heat protectant spray. You may also want to use a texturizing spray or curl fixative to define your curls and keep them tight. Your perm should last about six months, depending on your hair and the tightness of the initial curls. Image titled How to Care for Permed Hair in white and green lettering with squigglies next to the title While you can swim in a chlorinated pool or soak in a chlorinated hot tub after the waiting period has passed, moderation is still advised. Too much exposure to chlorine will open up the cuticle of your hair, and this will relax your curls – perhaps permanently, and perhaps unevenly too. Acid perms and digital perms were designed to be gentler than the traditional perm, but all perms change the chemical structure of the hair (otherwise, they wouldn’t be permanent). Permed hair is weaker and more vulnerable, and requires special care so that you don’t damage either the hair or the curls. How does that look in a salon? After washing (and cutting, if desired) the hair, the stylist wraps the hair on curling rods. Smaller rods produce tighter curls, and larger rods make looser waves. A combination of sizes can be used for a more natural look. Longer hair may require several sets of curlers, so it takes quite some time to get all the hair rolled.

So, How Do You Care for Permed Hair?

Strands of hair are about 95% keratin, which is a protein. Cysteine residues on keratin molecules form disulfide bonds. In a typical perm, the reducing agent ammonium thioglycolate is used to break those disulfide bonds. This is something that you’ll need to discuss with your stylist. They may be able to recommend some treatments or masks to get your hair into good enough shape for the perm process.

  • You’ll also need to budget for additional haircuts, since permed hair benefits greatly from regular trims.
  • The curls you have now are permanent, but your new hair will be growing in straight. You’ll have to make some style decisions when this happens.
  • Long-term care

If you choose loose curls and you have hair that’s at least shoulder-length, it should grow out nicely. The waves will relax even more as your new straight hair grows in, and the transition will be natural. However, if you have shorter hair and a tighter perm, you’ll have to decide whether to get your roots permed to match or blow out your permed curls to match the new straight growth. Perm is short for permanent wave, and it’s definitely evolved since the spiral perms for the 1980s. Those weren’t even the first perms! “A New or Improved Process of Waving Natural Hair on the Head” was patented in 1909, which means that it’s been around for well over a century. While the process has been refined and improved, the basic science remains the same.

How to Care for Permed Hair in 5 Easy Steps

Perms may look a lot different now than they did in your mother’s or even grandmother’s day, but they are still a harsh chemical process, and you need to consider a few things.

5. Style Your Permed Hair

Welcome to the world of curls! You’ll certainly enjoy all the new things that you can do with your new curls. There are a few things to keep in mind to keep your hair as healthy as possible, though. If your hair is dry or brittle, you shouldn’t get it permed until you can repair it. You may be able to cut off some of the dry, damaged ends and rejuvenate the rest with a deep conditioning treatment or two. Image of a woman getting a perm with a Dyson hair dryer diffuser Gracielleademonne/Shutterstock If you’re wondering how to care for permed hair, there are quite a few things to keep in mind. After all — perms are investments. But although it may seem overwhelming, it’s not hard. Read on to learn all you need to know.

4. Long-Term Care

  • How Much Does a Perm Cost?

This applies even if you cover your hair or keep it above the water level. The condensation from the pool or hot tub can still get into your hair and do damage. Don’t dye your hair for at least two weeks after your perm.

  • You should touch your hair as little as possible in the 48 hours after your perm, and you definitely shouldn’t wash or brush it. Keep this in mind when you’re scheduling your perm.

This process is mostly invisible, so don’t think that because your new curls look great now, you don’t have to plan for this kind of aftercare. This means that you shouldn’t shampoo your hair for at least two days. You also shouldn’t stand under the shower or soak it for the same two days. If you’ve seen Legally Blonde, you know why. A perm is a significant change for your hair, and you’ll need to take the proper steps to care for it and keep it healthy. After your curls are fully set, and you’ve been able to wash and comb your hair (more on that later), there are still a few things that you need to be aware of to keep your permed hair healthy. In short, you should try to do as little as possible to your permed hair. Your hair is less likely to tangle when you sleep on a satin pillowcase, and curls are notoriously tangly. If you can avoid tangles, you can also avoid some breakage, and brushing will be easier and less traumatic to your hair. You could also wrap your hair in a silk scarf to sleep if you don’t want to change out your bedroom décor. This accomplishes the same thing.

  • Styling your perm

The same applies to washing your hair too much. While everyone’s hair and scalp are different, and personal hygiene is definitely important, you shouldn’t wash your hair any more than you absolutely need to. You may find that this isn’t quite as often as you thought. Permed hair may not show grease and dirt as much as fine, straight hair.

3. Immediate Aftercare

  • Immediate aftercare
  • How to Care for Permed Hair in 5 Easy Steps
  • Things to Consider
  • So, How Do You Care for Permed Hair?

The reducing agent is then applied to the hair and left to sit while the keratin molecules take on their new shape. The agent is rinsed out and the neutralizer added to make the new curls permanent. Modern acid perms and digital perms also use heat to help set the curls. Scrunch your hair as it air-dries to tighten and shape your curls. You can blow-dry your hair with a diffuser if you need to, but it’s best to use as little heat as possible to keep your permed hair healthy.

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