Imagine sitting for six hours, with your hair in 12 brass rollers hung from a chandelier? Then when you’re released, you find that all your hair has been burnt off and some of your scalp too!
This is what Karl Nessler’s wife had to endure. Nessler was a German hairdresser who invented the perm – 100 years ago!
Thankfully, the perms of today have come a long way since then!
Six Tips for the perfect Perm
1. What could a perm do for me?
- Straighten curly hair
- Straighten difficult sections of hair like bangs
- Spot or weave perm – some is permed and some isn’t – for a natural look
- Root perm – adds lift to the roots if your hair tends to be flat
- Stack perm – just the bottom half of the hair is permed
- Spiral perm – the hair is wound around long rods for a botticelli curl
- Body perm – done on larger rollers to give volume
2. Is it safe to perm colored hair?
Yes – perms are now available in special formulas for even the lightest shades of tinted or bleached hair.
However, it’s always best to ask for a strand test to be done first. The stylist will put a few strands of your hair into perming solution and then neutralizer for up to 15 minutes and then check the condition. This is the best way to make sure that your hair isn’t going to fry!
Tip: To see what condition your hair is in is to put a few strands into a glass of water. If they sink, it means that your hair is soaking up water because it is dry from damage. If they float, it’s healthy and in good condition!
3. How long does a perm last?
After about 6-8 weeks new growth may start to affect how the style looks. If your curls start at your scalp, you may need to regularly have a root perm to ‘top-up’ your style.
4. How does a perm work and how long does it take?
Perm is short for permanent wave. In the perming process, chemicals break the hair down and then re-structure it into the desired curls, waves or straightness.
The hair is washed and then wound around rollers, short perming rods or long ones – for a look like the pre-raphaelite one here. These determine what size curls you finish up with. The smaller they are, the tighter your curls.
A perming solution is then soaked over the hair – raising the cuticle layer and breaking the bonds that give the hair its’ usual appearance.
How long a perm takes to do depends on how long or thick your hair is and how fast your stylist works! As a general rule, it will take between one and two hours.
Why is curly hair…curly?
Hair is made of protein and in this protein there are sulfur atoms. These are called sulfides. When two sulfur atoms get together, they make a disulfide (di-anything just means two) bond. The more disulfide bonds your hair has normally, the more naturally curly it will be.
Re-programming your hair
Once the perming solution has had time to work it is washed off and the head is then blotted with a dry towel to get rid of excess water. A neutralizer is then applied. This is what re-makes the new disulfide bonds in the hair and gives it a new pattern. It’s also the part of the perming process when damage is most likely to occur so it needs to be carefully monitored by the stylist.
Once the neutralizer has had time to work, it’s washed off. The rods or rollers are removed and the hair is rinsed again, to make sure all the chemicals are gone. The hair is then styled as desired.
5. How long before I can shampoo?
Some stylists advise 24 hours, others 48 hours and some even say three days! The argument is that you’ll risk de-activating the perming solution if you get your hair wet. That’s shouldn’t be true – the waving solution has worked and then been neutralized so it isn’t active anymore!
The truth is, it depends on your hair. Take your stylists advice – and be patient if necessary!
6. I washed my hair for the first time after a perm and it’s a puffy mess…help!
OK – don’t panic – here’s a step-by-step to glossy, healthy curls!
- Shampoo and condition your hair using specially formulated products for permed hair
- Blot and squeeze the water from your hair using a dry towel. Or just wrap your head in a towel but don’t ever rub it dry
- Spray your hair with a leave-in detangling conditioner and then add some anti-frizz serum
- ‘Comb’ your hair with your fingers and once it gets easier to run them through, start using a wide toothed comb
- Apply your usual favorite styling product and tip your head upside down, combing the hair to maximize lift. If you don’t want your hair too big, stay upright!
- It’s best to dry it naturally but if hair drying, use a diffuser and a cool setting
- Control how much or how little volume you want with tiny mists of scrunching spray