Home Hair Care Perms: is it harmful?

Perms: is it harmful?

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 337 views

Softly wavy, generously curled, cheekily frizzy – many hairstyle wishes can be fulfilled with a perm . Depending on the hair type and texture, a wide variety of methods are available today. Read here how a perm works, what types there are and whether modern perms are harmful!

Is a perm harmful?

Various chemical compounds give the individual hair hold and structure. The main reason for this are so-called sulfur bridges, which connect the individual keratin strands in the hair. In order to reshape the hair, it is necessary to break down these bridges so that the hair becomes soft and malleable. The task then is to fix the new shape by reconnecting the sulfur compounds. This requires chemical permanent wave preparations.

So the question arises: is a perm harmful? The answer is yes. Just like dyeing, perming attacks hair and can make it dry and brittle. However, today’s products are much less harmful than those used in the past.

Nevertheless, the hair needs care after a perm. Treatments, masks and conditioners for damaged hair provide the hair with moisture and help to prevent split ends and hair breakage . Olive oil is also well suited for the care of permed hair. Simply massage into damp hair and, after a few minutes, rinse out with a mild shampoo.

This is how the perm principle works

The perm works according to this principle:

  • Dissolving : the sulfur bridges are opened with a thiol-containing reducing agent. Thiol is an organic compound that donates hydrogen atoms to sulfur bonds in a chemical reaction (reduction), causing them to loosen or dissolve.
  • Shapes : Curlers put the hair into the desired new shape.
  • Oxidation/Fixing : a fixing liquid (hydrogen peroxide or alkaline bromates) rejoins the sulfur bridges so that the hair is stabilized in the new shape.

Perm – Types

Renaissance of the perm – women are currently rediscovering the technique, which was particularly popular during the 1980s and 90s. But not only the female sex decides more and more often for the perm. Men are also increasingly wanting artificial curls – at least since Jon Snow, aka Kit Harington, caused a stir in the cult series Game of Thrones with his casually erotic mane.

There are different types of perms. Which one is best for you depends on several factors: Is your hair thick or thin? Are they healthy or damaged and porous? Which result do you want to achieve with the perm – big curls or small ones?

Do you want soft waves or are you more interested in giving the hair more volume? Then a light perm or a root wave is enough. Hair length is also important. A perm on long hair requires a different approach than on short hair. Basically, the following types of perms are distinguished today:

Cold wave

In the past, you needed heat to permanently shape your hair. Since 1947, however, the much gentler cold wave has been common. Depending on the pH value of the permanent wave agent, a distinction is made between acidic, alkaline and neutral preparations.

The majority of modern perms are in the mildly alkaline pH range of approximately 7.6 to 9.0. It can also be used to permanently wave stronger hair. A highly alkaline perm with a pH value of over 9 is rarely used today because it attacks the hair structure and the skin too much.

A neutral perm is particularly recommended for damaged, sensitive hair such as bleached hair. However, the degree of reshaping is usually somewhat less than with the mildly alkaline permanent wave.

Acid perms have been banned since the 1990s after allergies and sensitization to the waving agent glycerol monothioglycolate occurred several times. Foam perm
A foam perm works on the same principle as a liquid, mildly alkaline preparation. It offers advantages in particular to the user because the foam is easier to handle. You can see immediately which hair sections have already been treated. In addition, no excess perm liquid can run into the face and cause skin irritation there.

2-phase preparations

2-phase preparations combine permanent wave liquid and cream. The cream contains a more intensive combination of active ingredients and is applied to the hairline. The lower dose of liquid is intended for gentle treatment of the often damaged tips. The creamy consistency also prevents the permanent wave preparation from running too long.

Root and volume wave

Only certain areas of the hair are treated. With the root wave, only the hairline is waved to give the hairstyle more stability or to treat areas that have already grown out. The volume wave, which uses very large curlers, gives larger areas more body and shape, giving the hairstyle more volume overall.

water wave

Water can also change the hair structure, but only to a very limited extent. Because the shape of the hair is not only stabilized by sulfur bridges, but also by other chemical compounds, such as hydrogen and salt bridge bonds. These relatively weak bonds can already be broken by pure water. The principle of the water wave is based on this. However, the reshaping that can be achieved with it is only of very limited duration – just a little moisture is enough to dissolve the curls.

How long does a perm last?

After an alkaline perm, you can enjoy your curls or waves for about six months. In the first few weeks after visiting the hairdresser, however, the perm often loses some of its elasticity. Neutral perms last a little shorter, water waves at best a few days. Perm – big curls or small curls?

The type of roller determines what kind of curls end up with the perm. If you want big, soft curls, the barber will twist your hair into thick rollers. For small curls he uses thin ones. In addition, a good hairdresser masters different wrapping techniques, which also affect the overall result.

Perm for long hair

With long hair, hairdressers often use a special winding technique to ensure an even overall result. Because the more hair there is on the curler, the larger its circumference. The curl is less pronounced later at the roots than at the ends of the hair. This is different with spiral winding, in which long hair is twisted spirally onto special rollers.

Perm for short hair

Short hair can also be styled with a perm. The aim is usually to give the hairstyle more volume and stability. Thin rollers are usually used, which correspond to the shorter hair length.

Perm for medium length hair

Medium-length hair, which is typical for the popular bob, can also be spiced up with a perm. A volume wave gives the hairstyle more hold and strength. Soft waves or corkscrew curls with the help of cold waves add new accents to chin-length and shoulder-length hair.

Remove perm

As the name suggests, a perm is a permanent reshaping of the hair. If you don’t like your artificial curls anymore, you can really only wait for them to grow out and hang out over time or cut them off. If this takes too long for you, all you have to do is repeat the chemical hair reshaping process. This time, however, with the aim of straightening the hair.

But that’s not advisable, after all, the hair is already stressed by the perm. A second chemical treatment puts stress on them again and can lead to visible damage to the hair. It is therefore safer to live with the perm, at least temporarily.

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