Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Remove Permed Curls

Q: I'm 17 years old and I got a perm about a month ago. I had the straightest hair in the world, and it wouldn't hold curl longer than an hour IF THAT. I'm growing my hair out for Locks of Love, and I wanted a perm so that my hair wasn't boring and stringy while it was growing out. She used smaller rollers, but I have long hair, so it's more of a body wave which is what I wanted. However, I think the perm along with the mousse, spray, and gel products I use to maintain the curls have damaged my hair.
I never used to get split ends, but I'm noticing them a lot now, and my hair used to be SO soft, and now it feels dry and brittle. Is there any way I can wash my perm out faster? If I have longer hair, how long will it take for the perm to come out? And if I stop using shampoos for curly hair and start using shampoos for silky hair, will it make my hair look bad? Thanks!!!

A: One of the things you have to remember is that your hair, when permed, is going to be more porous, since the chemicals used in the perm process are designed to open the cuticle layer so that they can penetrate to the disulfide bonds and break them, then reform them. As a result, permed hair needs to be carefully and regularly conditioned to help compact the cuticle and keep the hair healthy.
In addition, you need to make sure to avoid using styling products that contain alcohol as alcohol will dry the hair out. You should dry the hair using a diffuser attachment and low heat settings as well if you use a dryer on your hair at all. If you do use a dryer, be sure to use a spray-on, leave-in conditioner to prevent damage from heat drying.
As to speeding the perm "grow out", there's really no way to speed it up and it doesn't really "grow out". What happens is that as the hair loses moisture from being so porous, it becomes more damaged and the lack of moisture reduces the hair elasticity and strength. Often times, you can revitalize a perm that is going limp by applying a deep-conditioning treatment.
To treat your hair, I recommend beginning a series of twice-weekly deep conditioning treatments. Apply conditioner to the hair, and cover it with a plastic cap. Wrap the head in towels heated in the clothes dryer or sit under a bonnet hair dryer on low heat for 20 minutes.
You can switch from curly-hair shampoo to those for silky-hair with no issue, since most of the shampoos for curly hair are designed to maximize the curl of naturally curly hair and have lighter conditioning agents than permed hair sometimes requires. You should see your hair respond better to the silky formula shampoos and conditioners, in fact.
Be sure to have your hair trimmed to remove any split ends, since they will only continue to worsen if left in place. Between using the silky formula shampoo and conditioner, leave-in conditioner spray, weekly deep-conditioning and using non-alcohol styling products, you should find that your hair returns to its former health, softness and shine.
If you truly want to remove the permed curls from your hair, your stylist can use a thio-straightening process (think of a perm without the rollers) to re-straighten your hair. Just to clarify something for our readers: when you explained that the stylist used smaller rods for your perm, that doesn't make it a body wave. A body wave uses very large rollers to add more "wave" as opposed to curl to the hair.
I'm sure you have already done so, but for those readers who want to find out more about Locks of Love, you can find their website at They have all the information about donating hair, volunteering and participating salons.
Related post: Perms and perming hair