The Hair Doctor- Perming, waving and generally texturising your hair chemically

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You may think your problem is unique but we find the same basic issues effect everyone. So take a look through some of these previously asked questions. The answers are from professional hairdressers with a wealth of experience, however these are personal opinions and VirtualHairCare cannot be held liable for the results of following this advice.

Question: Answer:

Should a perm be like this:

I had my hair permed two weeks ago. The back of my hair is straight and the top and sides are too curly and frizzy. On top of this a lot of hair has broken off leaving a kind of stubble. This was done at a salon, it's not like it was a home perm!

How soon can I get it straightened back out?

Do you think that I will have to pay for it?

What went wrong?

Your perm is definitely not what it should be, as such anything that is done to it should be at the expense of the salon. Best course of action is to return to the salon that did your hair and get them to have a look at it. Even if your hair was in bad condition before you should have been advised against having a perm, if you insisted you should have been asked to sign away your rights before the process was started. However, your complaints do sound to me like those that are the fault, due to inexperience or incompetence, of the hairdresser. Your only real course of action is a series of treatments before anything further on the chemical side can be done I'm afraid.

To relax it is a chemical process on top of the first and as such can harm the condition especially if your hair was not in good condition before. Therefore, listen if they say your hair is not up to it. Perms will relax, to a degree, on there own given time.

See our section in V, 'Getting the most from your next salon visit'. There are some pages there on making a complaint in the best possible way and getting what you want.

Will fine hair hold a perm:

I'm 16 years old, and I have straight, fine hair that barely ever holds a curl. I can't really do anything with my hair myself, I just seem to lack the hair styling skills. But I am very interested in having curly hair or at least some kind of body to it and considering a perm. But with my cheerleading, I need to be able to slick it straight back into a ponytail and curl the ends. Do you have any advice on whether or not to go through with the perm? Or should I consider something else? Thanks a lot.

Perms do give body and support but not on their own and require your hair to be cut in a certain way and not to be too long. It is a common misconception that a perm is the answer to all life's hair issues.

Read our sections in V in 'Your hair' on 'Fine hair' and ask yourself if you have tried or broken some of the basic rules. Also read the section in 'Salon services and chemical treatments' on 'Perming'. This also discusses the pros and cons of perming and hair types perms don't always work on.

With all this information I then suggest you visit one or more salons for a consultation to get some hands on, one on one, expert advice. There is only so much help I can give over the Internet and someone looking at your hair and asking your more questions about your lifestyle will be able to tell you the best course of action. Armed with all this info, you will be able to pick a good stylist that has considered all the angles and made no promises that can't be kept.

Can you straighten a perm:

I have recently received a perm (grey rods / long hair / rolled piggy back). I have received perms in the past as a little girl, teenager etc. After I got out of college my hair had already become straight. ** To the question - I do not like having a perm!!! Is there anything I can do to have it straight again? (Without becoming a frizz ball)?

Yes, you can have it straightened, but this is a perm on top of the one you just had and can result in poor conditioned hair. Consult your stylist as to whether your hair is up to this. Then look at styles that would utilise your natural movement rather than trying to fight it.

Otherwise, grey rods and the type of perm wind that you had does not sound overly curly and so could straighten easily with a little extra work when you blow-dry. You can buy several different brands now of gel that will help you straighten your hair when blow-drying which you will need for a longer lasting effect. Follow the tips in our 'Blow-drying and styling' section of V, the page is simply titled 'Blow-drying your hair straight'.

The second choice might sound like a lot of work, but is preferable over poor conditioned hair, and the result of continuously straightening your perm in this way, will be that it will 'drop' (relax to a straighter version) more quickly than normal.

Is this really a 'body perm':

I got what was supposed to be a BODY PERM (I was promised no "poodle curls") a week ago. It is totally kinky, and dry and frizzy. Is a perm reversible? My hair is layered and just above my shoulders, and it WAS in fantastic condition (naturally straight) before the disaster.

Best course of action is to return to the salon that did your hair and get them to have a look at it. All treatments and perms should be at the salons cost, not yours, if you are not happy.

To relax it is a chemical process on top of the first and as such can harm the condition especially if your hair was damaged during the first perm. Therefore listen if they say your hair is not up to it and that it would be best to wait a couple of weeks to see if it relaxes on its own, perms do this if not excessively tight.

See our section in V on 'Getting the most from your next salon visit' there are some pages on making a complaint in the best possible way and getting what you want.

What is the difference between a spiral perm and a body wave?

A spiral perm is one that looks like ringlets, personally I see it as definitely curly.

A body perm does not look like a perm at all (or should not) it merely supports the haircut and adds volume to the hair.

The best way to get exactly what you want is not to refer to terms which mean different things to different people, but to take pictures of exactly what you want with you and discuss the possibilities with your stylist.

See our section in V, 'Getting the most from your next salon visit' for the page on 'Consultations' which has some great tips on chatting to your hairdresser.

Can I use a soft wave perm, without rollers, to try to straighten my hair back out?

I got a perm and now it is really frizzy. I have tried everything to get rid of the frizz.

Yes, you can use a perm to straighten hair. However, it is a very specialise process and you really have to know what you are doing as it can cause hair breakage if not done correctly.

You also have a second problem, in that frizz is often a sign of over processing, which means that there could be a chemical damage issue. If that is the case you will not be able to use another perm in this way as more chemicals will mean more damage and possibly even hair loss! I am not trying to scare you here just warn you of the dangers.

I would suggest that your consult an professional stylist and get their opinion. A professional will be able to assess all of your options and come up with a plan to ensure your hair remains in good condition and you get the look you want.

How long between perms:

I had a perm put in my hair and was wondering how long I should wait until I can have another perm?

It is all down to condition with perming, your hair must be in good condition for a perm to work. A second perm, won't take and could possibly make your hair frizzy or at worse, break off, if the condition of your hair is not up to it.

Often a root perm is suggested to match the straighter root area of your hair to the curly ends. This type of perming technique prevents overlapping (perm on top of perm) and so the condition of your hair is not changed.

The average time between perms, when the hair is in good condition, and what is left of the old perm does not have to be worried about is 3 months. Best way to find out where your own hair is at is to pop into a salon for a consultation. These are free at most salons and will really let you know where you stand. See our section 'Getting the Most from Your Next Salon Visit' for info on consultations.

When should I wash my hair:

What happens if you wash your permed hair before the 48 hour waiting period?

It can loosen the curl so making it weaker and less curly. It is all about the fact that a perm is hair glued into a new shape and anything that is freshly glued needs time to set and harden. 48 hours is the general recommendation for this. You should also not brush or tie your hair up during this time for the same reason.

Your hairdresser may offer you an after perm treatment that does the job of hardening your hair or fixing the glue so that you don't have to worry about this.

Should I perm:

I have long hair, past my shoulders and I am considering getting a perm. I have really thick hair so I thought this would look good. However, I'm worried after I get it done I wont like the results and it might not suit me. What do you think?


Whether to perm your hair or not should not is not really the first question you should be asking. The first question is "What style do I want to achieve"? Once you know the answer to this then ask the question "Will a perm help me to achieve this style"?

If the answer is yes, to having a perm, then you need to think about:

Curl will make your hair look thicker and fuller, so if you want this great, if you don't...

If your hair is to remain one length, it will still be flat at the roots, as the weight of your hair will pull even the tightest curl straight without some layers. Layers are a good idea any how as without them hair with curl in it tends to take on a triangular shape as the curl makes it wider at the bottom.


Perming long hair:

I have long hair to my waist, its straightish/wavy. I am planning to perm it soon because I have always wanted permanent curls! I need your advice as to whether I should perm it?

Very long hair like yours has one major disadvantage when permed, the shear weight of the hair means that the roots will remain straight and it will look like a grown our perm from the start. You can prevent this from happening by putting in some layers but the shortest needs to be quite short and will never blend with the extreme length.

Therefore you need to be prepared for this from the start. After that it is all about condition. Permed hair takes a lot of looking after and tends to be very tangled in long hair. Also longer hair simply because it is older is more prone to split ends and lack of shine.

Choose the salon to do the job well as there are many added difficulties with perming such long hair i.e. you will need special rollers and possibly varying strengths of lotion to ensure an even curl.

On a more positive note it is a different look after having the same look for so long.

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