Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Neutralizing Perm

Q: I went to a local salon to get my hair permed. Is it proper to not dry my hair before neutralizing it to set the curl? They washed and conditioned it, rolled it and used the perming lotion, towel-dried my hair so it wasn't dripping, and then neutralized it. That only took about 15 minutes per lotion and neutralizing. The last time I had a perm - late 80's - they washed and all that, rolled, did the lotion, put me under a dryer, and then neutralized it and then washed that out? Why has the practice changed? I am upset that my perm fell out. My hair is very thick and straight and healthy. No drugs problems etc.
A: Well, I can say that of all of the countless perms I have performed, never has there been any specific instruction by the manufacturer of the formulas to dry the hair before neutralizing (apart from the instruction to blot the rods carefully and thoroughly using a clean dry towel). Some perm formulas do have slight variations in their processes - added steps for conditioning treatment in the midst of the perm process, etc. - but all follow a pretty standard routine.
What concerns me more is that you don't mention a rinsing stage after the waving lotion was applied and allowed time to process and before the neutralizer was applied. The importance of rinsing the waving lotion from the hair is that the neutralizer is meant to reform the chemical side bonds (that were broken by the waving lotion) while the hair is still wrapped in the new curl shape. This is what creates the new curl. If the waving lotion is not rinsed, the "neutralizing" action of the neutralizer may be dominated by the excess of waving lotion still present in the hair. This means that less of the neutralizer reaches the chemical side bonds that need to be reformed and the results are a weaker perm.
I have heard of a technique of leaving the hair rolled and un-neutralized after the waving lotion has been rinsed, to allow the waving lotion that has been absorbed by the hair strands to maximize its effectiveness. The time spent allowing the hair to "sit" varies according to whom you ask, although I have heard of salons leaving the hair in this state for as long as 4-6 hours (with clients leaving the salon and returning later to complete the process).
It sounds as though the stylist who performed this latest perm was possibly inexperienced, was unfamiliar with the perm formula being used, or perhaps simply made an honest mistake. (The latter being a double mistake because it seems that your perm was under-processed given the average/normal processing times of 15 to 20 minutes for the waving lotion and 5 minutes for the neutralizer when dealing with normal, healthy hair.)
I suggest you contact the salon/stylist who performed your perm and explain your dissatisfaction with the results. If the stylist cannot or will not offer you some means to rectify the situation, ask to speak with the salon manager or owner and explain very carefully exactly how your perm was performed and what you are dissatisfied with about the results. A good salon will take reasonable measures to make things right and keep your business.
Related posts:
How perms work
Are permanent curls right or you?