Hair Perms

Hair Perms

Hair Perms

Hair Perms:   Are combining the mechanical process of wrapping you hair around a perm rod with the chemicals process of moving cross bonds inside the hair to a new position,  to increase or decrease the amount of curl in your hair. When you perm you hair you are really doing several things.
  1. 1- The hair is wrapped around a perm rod. This wrapping (the actual bending of the hair ) creates tension within the hair placing stress on the internal hair structure.
  2. 2- A "perm solution" is applied to the hair. The solution breaks 80% of the chemical cross bonds in the hair itself. The cross bonds, (which are under stress from step #1) move to a new position, to relieve the stress, when the cross bonds are chemically released.
  3. 3- A neutralizer is applied to reform the bonds in their new position, so the hair retains its new shape.
    (for more on hair perming & straightening your hair see the Paul Brown Hair Re-Lacks page)

For those new to perming hair, you should know that the amount of curl and how long it lasts, is dependent upon may factors including, but not  limited to:

  • which home hair care products you use
    (some products help you keep your curl, other products will relax your curl)
  • the condition of the hair (colored, natural, double processed)
  • the diameter of the hair: fine (small in diameter), normal, or course (big in diameter)
  • the diameter of the perm rod
  • the tightness of the hair when wrapped around the perm rod
  • the permanent waving solution used
  • the right processing time
  • the amount of time the perm is rinsed after processing (most perm problems and hair damage happen when the perm is not rinsed long enough before neutralizing). The practice in some European countries is not to rinsed the perm solution at all. We believe, not rinsing ,may causes undesirable side effects for your hair. We feel you get a better perm that is kinder to your hair by rinsing before applying the neutralizer as is the practice in the US.
  • air neutralizing time (the amount of time you give the hair after rinsing and before applying the neutralizer). WE find 15 to 25 minutes works well. This process does several things. First the more rinse water evaporates or is wicked away by towel blotting, so the neutralizer penetrates better, and  second the cross bonds have more time to move to their new position. (Very important if the perm wrap is not tight or the hair has a small diameter with respect to the diameter of rod.
  • the neutralizing time (the neutralizing re-sets about 80 to90% of the broken cross links)
  • the rinsing time (this insures all of the remaining neutralizer is removed from your hair)
  • the mechanics of the person removing the perm rods from the hair. The hair should be un-wrapped without pulling on the hair itself.
  • letting your hair dry naturally  is important as the drying process allows the the water bonds to form in a position to help hold the your hair in a curly position for the 3 days it takes for your hair to "self neutralize" the remaining 10% to20% of cross bonds the chemical neutralizer did not re-form.  
  • how long you go between the air drying your hair for the first time and the first time you get the hair wet and or wash the hair at home, determines how may additional cross links are re-formed. Them more that are re-formed the stronger your curl will be.
  • the hair care products you use at home
  • and finally how fast your hair grows (generally, the healthier you are, the more you work out, the faster your hair grows)
Lets look at the 3 main steps again in a little more detail
 1- hair is wrapped around a perm rod   This is a mechanical process. It is  bending the hair around the rod.
Hair has a thickness so when the hair is bent the "top of the hair shaft"  or that part of your hair shaft farthest from the perm rod has to travel a longer distance than the "bottom of the hair shaft,"or that part of your hair shaft closest to the perm rod.

This mechanical wrapping process causes the cross links farthest from the perm rod to be stretched and the cross links closest to the perm rod to be compressed.

The amount of stress applied depends on

  • the thickness of the hair, (thicker hair produces more stress, thinner hair produces less stress)
  • the diameter of the perm rod (fatter rods cause less bending which means less applied stress) and
  • how tightly the hair is pulled while wrapping (a tighter wrap forces your hair to bend more increasing the internal stress on the cross bonds inside your hair.


 2- a "perm solution"  or a "permanent waving solution" is applied to the hair. The "perm solution" is intended to chemically break 80% of the chemical cross bonds inside the hair itself. (the cross links or bonds are changed from Cystine to Cysteine. Human hair contains approximately 5% cystine by mass.)

The cross bonds are under great stress from being wrapped around a perm rod during step # 1.  So when they are released by the permanent waving chemicals they move to a new position to relieve the stress.  This stops the  pulling for the bonds farthest from the perm rod and also stops the pushing for bonds closest to the perm rod . Relieving the stress.

The natural position of the bonds have been changed so there is no longer any stress when your hair is wrapped around the perm rod. That, by the way, is still in your hair.

 3- The the chemical cross bonds are reformed in their new position.  The neutralizer solution is applied to your hair while it is still wrapped around the perm rod. This solution causes the bonds ( the Cysteine  bonds to return, or re-harden in their original Cystine  form, making the shape of your hair permanently change to conform to the curly shape of the perm rod.

The perm manufacturers tell us that if "we would not have to neutralize" the hair at all if we could sent you home with the perm rods in your hair, and you would leave them there, for 72 hours. It seems that the Cysteine cross bonds would self-neutralize in 3 days from the normal exposure to the air.

When your hair dries the stronger "water bonds"  help hold the weaker  "chemical or perm bonds" in place So if you want the most from your perm  let your hair dry naturally. This allows the water bonds reinforce the new cross-link perm bonds, holding your hair in its new curly shape. Do NOT get it wet again fro 72 hours while nature re-hardens any bonds the chemical neutralizer may have missed.


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