Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Perm and At-Home Color

Q: I got a body wave on Monday. I color my hair (darker blonde to a lighter blonde) at home, and was planning to color it on Friday or Saturday -- before I thought about getting the body wave.
The stylist recommended that I not use at-home color, since it would "take the curl out too quickly" and I'd be unhappy with the result. Given the cost of the perm, I certainly would be unhappy to lose the curl quickly -- but I don't know if the "don't use at-home color" advice is based on reality of multiple chemical treatments or her preference that I go back to have her color my hair on the salon.
None of the perm or color questions on your site seem to address this specific issue, so I'm hoping you'll find this one worth adding to your list!

A: The question is certainly worth adding to the list, and I will be very candid with you. Before I decided to enter into the field of cosmetology, I used to be very cynical of the people in this profession as a whole. As a talented amateur, I had a lot of experience doing hair services for my friends and family and within school organizations and community theater groups. I knew a few professional stylists growing up. My mother’s hairdresser was a major inspiration for me, and was a wonderful, honest person, but some of the people I knew were less so.
Many salons force their stylists to “upsell” (encourage the client to add services) and push the products the salon carries (retailing), so it’s easy to assume that everything the stylist tells you has a selfish motivation behind it. And for years, I thought that all many salons and stylists were after was to get as much money out of you as possible.
Then I started my own career and training as a cosmetologist. I learned more about the chemistry behind the products and processes, and I learned the true nature of what happens in certain services, why things work, etc. And more importantly, I learned what can go wrong. It isn’t necessarily that it WILL go wrong in some cases, but that it can.
In your case, specifically, you might be able to go and grab the hair color you usually use and do that “touch-up” on your color at home without any noticeable effect on your perm or your hair. I don’t know what perm formula was used, or what hair color you usually use, so I can’t say anything about known problems in compatibility between these products or what specifically might happen.
I can tell you truthfully that all chemical services affect the texture and porosity of the hair, generally making the hair more porous, and that porous hair can react more quickly and more strongly to a further chemical process. Using a lightening hair color on permed hair can cause the hair to lighten further than previous experience has shown and can further dry and potentially damage and weaken the hair structure because the lightening formula acts faster and penetrates more deeply into the hair shaft.
Stylists encourage clients to come back to the salon for professional services just as much to prevent some unfortunate result as to ensure more income. It is a sad truth that if a stylist told a client in your position that it was okay to use an “at-home” lightening hair color and the client experienced some unfortunate result from doing so, then the client is probably going to blame the stylist for not warning her against doing it.
The bottom line is do you trust your stylist to be honest with you. If you think the stylist is lying to you in order to make you come back and spend more money, then why would you go to her? And if you don’t think she is lying, why would you risk damaging your hair? I can’t really tell you whether or not your stylist is trying to gouge you over this, but I can suggest that if there is an issue over trusting the stylist to be honest, you should look for a stylist you can trust.
Related post: Perms and perming hair