Radiation, Medications and Perms

Photo: Alexandr Medvedkov/Shutterstock
Q: My mother is a breast cancer survivor. She has had two perms since, and they do not seem to last very long. Can having radiation prevent your hair from accepting curl?
A: According to the research I've done on the effects of radiation therapy, medical professionals say that radiation therapy will only affect the areas that are exposed to the radiation. However, I do wonder if she has undergone any chemotherapy or if she has been taking any other medications related to treating her breast cancer?
We do know that some medications can create changes in the way the hair grows and the way it processes chemical services such as perms and color. Perhaps this would explain the change in the longevity of the perms your mom has been given since her treatment.
I would recommend that your mom make sure that on her next perm that the stylist (or whoever performs the perm service) uses a clarifying shampoo on the hair prior to wrapping the hair on rods for the perm. The clarifying shampoo is designed to strip away all the oils, residues and build-up that can interfere with the perm process. If a clarifying shampoo was not used before, this can definitely help.
Another thing I can recommend - depending on the condition and texture of your mom's hair - is using a perm formula for "resistant" hair. This should ensure deeper penetration and longer-lasting perm results. However, this isn't appropriate for hair that is color treated.
See also:
Can I have my hair permed after conscious sedation?
Can medication or anesthetics cause a perm to drop out?
Should I get my perm done before surgery or afterward?
Medications with side effects that affect our hair