Our mothers and grandmothers used to go to the salon every six weeks to get a perm and set. Each week they’d make the trek to their local beauty salon and have their hair set in rollers and then sit under the dryer. Their hair dresser would then brush, tease and spray their hair into submission. This continued until the mid-70’s when blow dryers became popular.
Perms were still in style, but now women could do more of their hair styling at home. After the big hair of the 80’s perms fell pretty much out of favor, but today they’re making a comeback. We’re not schlepping to the salon every week to get out hair washed and set, but it is still important to have a hair stylist who has the experience and skill to do a perm correctly.
Today’s perms are much gentler on our hair and contain conditioners to keep it strong and healthy. If you’ve ever wondered how a perm works, it is a fairly simple process. Your hair has chemical bonds that determine how it curls. Curly hair has bonds that are like coils while straight hair has straight bonds.
When your stylist applies the perm solution the chemicals in it help to loosen these bonds. It is the size of the roller that determines how tight or lose your curl will be. For example a body perm is rolled on very large rollers to give you waves instead of curls.
After your stylist rolls your hair and lets the perm solution set, she will then rinse it out and apply a neutralizer. Once the neutralizer is left on your hair for a specified time, it is rinsed out completely. The neutralizer stops the chemical reaction and sets your hair’s bonds to the size and curl of the roller. If your hair stylist has rolled your hair correctly you will end up with a beautiful head of curls.
If the perm is too strong it can damage your hair by breaking the bonds that give it strength. Usually this is from using a perm that is too high in ph. If you’ve had your hair bleached or colored it is important to tell your hairstylist so she can use a perm designed for bleached or colored hair. If you don’t tell her you may end up with a head of damaged or broken hair. Also tell her if you’ve been using any silicone based products.
These seal the hair and may not let the perm into your hair shaft. It is important to be honest with your stylist so she can give you the look you want. There are home perms you can use, but these are generally very strong and may not be right for your type of hair. Understanding how the products work that your hair stylist uses helps you to make informed decisions about your hair care.