Chemical treatment of hair to create a wavy form is known as perm. It is done mainly to add a fashionable curl to hair. There are many ways in which perm can be created onto your hair. With the development of modern chemical substances, perm has become a safer process. But, how long does a perm last? Knowledge about this can help a lot before opting to perm your hair.

Perm is a term that refers a permanent styling of hair. It is done either though chemical or thermal processes. Straight perm is used for straightening your hair; in this process – instead of curls, hair is made straight. It is a way by which you can change the structure of your hair; say – from being straight, your tresses can be made to become curly. Perm is done by rolling hair on rods and then treating the rolled hair with chemicals. It has multiple steps, and usually consumes a few hours.

How is perm done?

First of all, your hair is prepared. This involves cleaning it with a shampoo. This is essential to ensure that your hair does not have traces of oil or any other residue. It is advised not to use conditioning solutions; they may interfere with the setting process. Your hair is then sectioned by splitting it into zones. Once sectioned, hair is then wrapped around rods. After rolling, perm liquid is applied onto your hair. You are advised to opt for an acidic perm liquid if your hair has high level of elasticity, and is damaged or porous. On the other hand, if your hair scores low on elasticity and is quite coarse, strong or thick it is recommended to choose a solution with an alkaline pH value. Perm liquid that best suits your hair i.e., based on its structure and condition – is then applied onto curling rods. Ensure to use circular and small motions to make the application to work in an effective manner.

If you are unable to apply the perm liquid till the bottom, this need not worry you. This is because gravity will make sure perm liquid reaches till the bottom of each rod. Hair is then rinsed and is dried well before taking the rods out. Soon after, a neutralizing agent is applied. Once your hair is dried, the time is ripe to remove the curling rods. Never wash your hair for at least 3 days after this. But, the lapse of 3 days, you can wash it two times per week. Always remember to use only conditioners and shampoos that suit chemically treated hair. More importantly, never try to brush or style your hair for at least 7 to 10 days. Also, resort to very minimal use of heat to style your hair. This involves thermal styling such as straightening of hair or blow drying with hot air.

If you wish to dye your hair, you may need to wait for a few more days. Coloring is safe only if it is done after 15 days from the time of perming your hair. Never forget that dying your hair before a 15-day window can seriously impair your hair. In fact, a few hairstylists recommend waiting for as high as 30 days before adding highlights or colors to your hair.

The various types of perm

Of the various types of perm, notable ones include alkaline perm and acid perm. Alkaline solutions for perming use salts of ammonium (especially ammonium thioglycolate). pH values of such alkaline solutions may range between 9.1 and 9.5. Acidic perm is done with derivatives of glyceryl; you are however advised to stay aware of the possible allergies this chemical may trigger if you use them often. pH values of acidic perm hovers from 4.6 to 6.9.

Acidic perm may take a longer period of time than alkaline perming. The longer timespan needed for acidic perm is due to the gentler nature of most acid solutions. But, time taken for alkaline perming is as low as 25 minutes; you may need to note that acidic approach to perm may take several hours to get it completed.

Between these two, alkaline way of perm is widely preferred. This is because of the firmness of the curls as well as the ability of your perm to stay longer in its curled form and shape. As mentioned, acidic perm – owing to its gentleness – make less firm curls.
Initially, perm was considered to make hair brittle and thus leading to hair breakage or damage. However, with the introduction of gentler chemicals, both acidic perm and alkaline perm are widely used. These two types remain as popular approaches to shape your hair and produce aesthetic waves and curls.

How long does a perm last?

The altered, wavy structure of your hair – i.e., from being straight to curls – can last between 90 to 180 days (i.e., upto 6 months). In general, the effect of a perm is found to last longer than curling iron or curlers / rolls. However, how long a perm lasts may also depend on the structure of your hair, type of perm chosen as well as on the ways by which you maintain your hair soon after perm.

How long a perm lasts may also vary based on where a perm is done. If it is done at a salon or a professional hair styling studio, its effects are seen to last longer. But, if you have done perm at home, it is unlikely to last longer than those done by professionals. Why? This is because hair styling professionals may have access to stronger variants of chemicals. Above all, if you wish to have effects of perm to last, you need to perm as and when its effects begin to wear off.

Perm is in style again now, but with a lot of improvements. Unlike the earlier forms of perm, several modern day approaches have been introduced to make your curls become soft. These modern techniques also can make them flow in a more natural manner. You may recall that the earlier forms of perm (in the late 70s or early 80s) were done to give a hard and rigid structure to the hair.

In essence, hair styling experts claim that perm can last for as high as 180 days if maintained well. This means you need to keep away from harsh or highly sensitive chemicals (such as sulfates or alcohol) in your hair grooming products. It is mainly because such substances can eliminate natural moisture from your hair. Also, stay away from thermal styling and use hair care products that work well for chemically styled hair.


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