How to Remove Perm Smell

Woman who is smelling her own hair
Q: A beautician put a perm in my hair; I have long hair down to my waist. I expected the perm not to take and it did not, BUT the smell is horrible. I am used to a shampoo smelling hair and now it totally sticks with the perm that fell out after the first week. HELP. How do I get the smell out?
A: Well, the odor of permanent waving solutions comes primarily from the ammonia in the ammonium thioglycolate (giving it that vaguely skunk-like smell). Since the perming solution is very alkaline, you can best remove the odor using an acid-based product.
If you have any color of hair other than blonde, you can usually remove the smell using tomato juice. Simply apply it to the hair, and leave it on for 10-20 minutes, then shampoo and rinse the hair. It should cut the odor tremendously.
For blondes, there is some concern that the tomato juice could leave a stain on the hair because of the food dyes contained in some tomato juice products. For these individuals, you should either look for canned diced tomatoes (check the labels carefully for color additives) or simply buy a few tomatoes from the produce section, peel them and puree them in your blender at home.
Be sure to peel the tomatoes, as the natural pigments in the tomatoes' skins can leave a stain as well. Clarifying shampoos and blonde hair "brighteners" will generally remove these types of food stain, but it's always better if you can avoid creating a second problem while treating the initial one.
Again, leave the tomatoes on the hair for 10-20 minutes, and shampoo the hair afterward. The smell should be greatly diminished, though you may have a craving for pasta :-)
Photo: Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock
See also:
Hair deodorizer
Smell after a perm that doesn't go away
How can I get a perm without the awful smell?
Is an acid perm or an alkaline perm more likely to smell burnt after processing?