Will My Perm Look Better After I Wash It?

Will my perm look better after I wash it

Will my perm look better after I wash it? This is one of the common questions people tend to ask after styling their hair with perms. Perms are a popular hairstyle treatment for many people, especially when particular curls are in fashion; and people without curls often turn to perms. While perms can really change one’s look, they do need some care. Perhaps one of the biggest questions about perm care is whether or not water helps or hurts the hairstyle and today we’re going to find out.

Will My Hair Get Curlier After I Wash It

Despite some theories flying around online about better defining your curls, getting curlier hair after washing is not only inconsistent in outcome but also highly dependent on your hair’s condition and health. If your chemically permed hair curls more after washing, it’s temporary. The chemicals used to change the structure of your hair have to set and premature contact with water will cause curls to lose definition, if not completely uncoiling your new permed curl pattern.

Since there are so many curl patterns in existence and many ways to activate a hair type’s curls, hair that comes out curlier after washing says a lot about a person’s hair type and what they can do to fix it.  Hair that becomes curlier after washing may actually be a sign of unhealthy hair that may not be ready for a professional perm at all. Curly hair from washing indicates that your hair is responsive to humidity, is likely dehydrated from the stretching and breakage which occurs when you brush your hair when it is wet. The damage is really that the cuticle opens up and the hair subsequently loses moisture.

How Long Should I Wait Before Washing My Hair After I Perm It

As fictional acclaimed lawyer Elle Woods once said in the break-out court case of the decade, “You’re forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate.” Though there are different types of perms that use a variety of chemicals besides the notorious ammonium thioglycolate, these are words to live by as ammonium thioglycolate is the most common active chemical found in perm lotions and treatments.

If the chemicals, mainly the neutralizer in the treatment used to style/treat and literally restructure the hair are not given time to set, the curls will disintegrate in the process of being rinsed. In addition, washing before ready can damage the hair, as the keratin strands are still trying to reconnect and repair themselves after the chemical altering of the structure.

Although the chemical reactions of the perm treatment only last 15 to 20 minutes, the after-effects of the neutralizer are perhaps even more important to preserving the perm. Some stylists even recommend waiting 48 hours before getting your hair wet. Ultimately, your perm will benefit the most if you wait even longer to wash your hair. However, if you must, use a dry shampoo!

Can I Rinse My Hair After I Perm

After the perm has fully set over a 2 to 3 day period, you are fully allowed and in fact, encouraged, to wash/rinse your hair. However, there are certain rules to follow when washing a perm. Whether it is a single-step perm, which uses harsher chemicals for European and Asian hair types, or two-step perms, which typically have a lower chemical content and are used on natural/African hair types, both must use the proper shampoos and conditioners.

Perm-specific shampoos are gentler on the hair so as to not counteract the perm chemicals, as well as not dry the hair out. Lather well and always rinse with warm (not hot) water. Afterward, use a deeply moisturizing conditioner and let it sit in the hair for several minutes before washing to avoid frizz. Additionally, you should use hair care products that do not include sulfates, alcohol, or parabens.

Can a Perm Be Washed Out

Perms can’t technically be washed out. Rather, you can ‘relax’ the perm’s effects over time through two options; you can either use a color-protecting shampoo and conditioner or let the hair grow out, which can take anywhere between 3 to 6 months. Stylists recommend a perm be grown out, but if you need a shorter time frame, use a neutralizing/acid balancing shampoo, thoroughly massage the scalp and curls, and repeat over several regular hair washes.

In general, the color of the shampoo is a good indication of whether or not the perm chemicals are still present in the hair as the neutralizing shampoo will turn a light to medium pink color. It should be noted though, that these methods do not apply to the setting period of the perm, rather, it is supposed to be used on a fully set perm.

How to Care and Maintain Hair After a Perm (After Perm Rules)

1. Continue Regular Hair Maintenance

After getting past the initial salon visit or at-home treatment, perms require the appropriate upkeep and care to sustain the shape and buoyancy of the curls. Maintenance involves everything from shampoo and conditioning, to using specific hair combs.

To start with, you should apply a moisturizing mask once a week. Preferably, the mask should contain macadamia oil and/or Maroccan oil, which are both fantastic at sealing in moisture. However, avoid using too much moisturizer- you only really need about a nickel-sized amount. When the hair has too much product on it, the curls will be weighed down and the hair can become greasy.

Nobody wants bad frizz or UV ray damage, which is why it’s always necessary to use a lightweight leave-in conditioner on permed hair after washing. Using a leave-in conditioner and styling creams (meant for perms, of course) ensures that moisture is locked into each curl.

2. Dry Permed Hair with Care

It is always recommended that you let your permed hair air dry rather than use a hairdryer; pure oxygen is more often than not curly hair’s friend. However, when necessary, you can use a hairdryer as long as you add a diffuser attachment. The diffuser attachment helps to limit intense heat and hard and dry air from directly hitting the hair. In addition, diffusers help keep the hair in place, thus reducing frizz.

Use a microfiber towel on your perm to reduce the harsh fiber effects on the hair such as breaking and tangling. Furthermore, avoid styling your perm in a ponytail or bun, especially within the first 2 days, but overall throughout the entirety of the perm’s lifespan. Both the ponytail and bun diminish the curl’s shape over time and weaken the chemical restructuring.

3. Trim Hair Tips if Necessary

Perm maintenance also requires regular trimming, which will keep the hair light and healthy. You should trim the perm ends once every 3-4 weeks. If the hair is longer, you should only wait 3 weeks to trim.

4. Avoid Coloring or Highlighting Your Permed Hair

For at least the first two weeks after getting a perm, avoid coloring or highlighting your hair; doing so prematurely can stress the hair.

5. Avoid Overwashing of Permed Hair

Even if your perm is manufactured curly, it’s best to act as if you’ve had naturally curly hair from the beginning. A common mistake for perm newbies is overwashing and overcleansing the hair.

Even though scalp moisture and sebum production are crucial signs to an individual’s hair washing schedule, curly hair types shouldn’t be exposed to an excessive number of showers. Overcleansing strips the hair’s natural oils and causes breakage. Thus, you should aim to only wash the hair 1 to 2 times per week.

6. Avoid Brushing Your Permed Hair Immediately After A Shower

Knowing when and how to strategically use your hairbrush is crucial to maintaining your perm. You should never brush out your hair immediately after showering. Using fine-toothed combs on curly hair ruins the curl pattern.

Instead, use a wide-tooth comb to gently detangle the hair while still in the shower. You should also be combing while the conditioner is still in the hair, so the product can work with the comb to moisturize and work through knots. Once completely dry, avoid brushing the hair, even with your fingers since it will break the curl pattern and separate strands.

7. Use Silk Pillowcase At Night

Finally, when it comes to protecting your perm, what you do at night is just as significant as during the day. For textured hair, protecting the hair during sleep has many benefits. Cotton fiber bed sheets are particularly harsh on hair, as the sheets not only serve as a large source of friction for the individual strands but also absorb the hair’s natural oils. To counteract the effects and preserve the curl pattern, use a silk pillowcase or wrap the hair in a silk scarf, resulting in a healthy and smooth perm.


Permed hair is a stylish option for many, but it definitely requires the proper care to maintain healthy, luscious locks. So to answer the original question, yes, your perm will definitely look better after washing, but only if the proper maintenance steps are taken.

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