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Home Perm & Neutralizer Lotion

Q: I had a home perm (acid perm) done by a neighbor who was a licensed cosmetologist. However, the perm directions said to use some of the neutralizer on your hair after all the rods are out, and I also have very thick, medium long hair. She did not reserve any of the neutralizer lotion so we were not able to do this step. A lot of my bangs broke off and since then (5 months ago) I can still smell the perm on my hair every day when I wash it, and it's very difficult to comb through. I have used L’Oreal deep conditioner from my salon and that helps some, but if I don't use it, I have the same problems. I am wondering if it would be of benefit to go back now and put more neutralizer on my hair to complete whatever step did not get finished by it not being worked through all the hair originally, or is just thick conditioner the answer?
 
A: With permanent wave formulas, the purpose of the neutralizer is to reform the disulfide bonds after the wave pattern has been reorganized on the rods. (The waving lotion is what breaks the disulfide bonds in the process, allowing the wave pattern to be changed.) While most perm kits instruct you to reserve a portion of the neutralizer for use after the rods have been removed to ensure that the hair is saturated by the neutralizer, there are alternate methods of neutralizing a perm that are used in other techniques.
 
      One of these methods is to simply allow the hair to air dry (or to dry under a bonnet dryer on a cool air setting). You see, the neutralizing agent in most perms is hydrogen peroxide whose extra oxygen atom is responsible for restoring the disulfide bonds in the hair through the process of oxidation, but allowing the hair to “air dry” can neutralize the hair and restore the disulfide bonds, too. For this reason, reapplying neutralizer to your hair isn’t needed.
 
      From what you describe, your hair may have been more fragile than thought from the initial inspection. It may also be a matter of having the hair be more porous than anticipated. In either case, the perm process was more harsh on the hair than was expected, resulting in some damage to the hair.
 
      Your best course of action is to continue with a regular program of conditioning and moisturizing treatments. You want to make sure to condition your hair every day. You can use rinse-through conditioner and allow the hair to air-dry when time allows, or use a spray-on, leave-in conditioner to keep your hair moisturized.
 
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