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Stripping Perms

Q: I am an African American female with a perm. I know everyone says there is no way to get a perm out of your hair. About 25 years ago this old beautician in Mississippi was known for "stripping" perms out of hair. I would go to her about twice a year to do this because I would get tired of the perm and go back to my natural hair. She wouldn't tell me what she used. It didn't have a familiar or a strong odor. She would wash the perm out and my hair would be kinky and she straightened it with a hot iron. My hair never broke out. When I get tired of getting it straightened, I'd get a perm. I want my hair natural again without cutting it. I have been searching the web and asking every beautician, nobody has the answer. I'm sure the old beautician is dead now. I live in a different state also.
 
A: There is seriously no way that she was able to “remove” a perm from the hair – restoring it to a “natural” state. It sounds to me like what she was actually doing was shampooing the hair with a clarifying shampoo and was simply flat-ironing the hair, thereby straightening it.
 
      I assure you, that there is no way to “remove” a permanent wave, simply because a properly performed perm service doesn’t leave anything to be “removed”. Perms work because of two steps in the processing. After the hair is wrapped around perm rods, the waving lotion breaks the chemical side bonds in the hair by replacing the sulfur molecules in them with hydrogen molecules. This allows the hair to reconfigure its wave pattern to match the size of the perm rod around which the hair is wound. The second step on the process uses hydrogen peroxide to pull the hydrogen molecules from the chemical side bonds and restore the disulfide bonds that existed previously, thereby locking the hair into the new wave pattern, or curl.
 
      When properly performed the only lasting effect – apart from the new curl – is that the hair is more porous than before. You can use the same chemicals from a perm kit to straighten curls by simply omitting the use of perm rods and instead combing the waving lotion gently through the hair with a wide-tooth comb.
 
      I’m sorry that I can’t offer you any “secrets”, but I assure you that if the woman you knew had any technique that would truly return the hair to its “natural” condition she would be known by stylists across the continent at the very least.
 
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