Perm and Hair Gel

Permed hair styled with gel
Photo: Ardni/Shutterstock
Q: Hello. I was just wondering if having perms is bad for your hair. And can you use hair gel with a perm? Thank you very much.
A: Well, the hard truth is that ANY chemical service will take a toll on your hair. The type of service, the specific formulation of the products and the skill of the individual performing the service all play a part in how much of an effect will be experienced.
A good stylist knows how to prepare the hair for a service to minimize potential damage, and will advise against or outright refuse to perform a service if he/she thinks there is the likelihood of severe damage to the hair.
The main problem that arises from chemical services is that the hair is left more porous than normal. Most chemical processes use ingredients designed to expand the cuticle layer of the hair shaft to allow the chemicals (whether they are to color or change to wave pattern of the hair) to penetrate more deeply into the hair shaft.
After the processing occurs (color is deposited, waving lotion processes) the services usually have steps to try to restore the cuticle layer to some semblance of its former position, but this rarely results in the same “before service” condition.
With some chemical services, the after effect is minimal (the hair feels a little drier after bleaching or a perm) or can seem beneficial (the hair feels “fuller and thicker” after coloring). Some chemical processes include formulations that are designed to make the hair even better conditioned. In the case of deposit-only color formulas, my experience has been that this can happen. For bleaching, high-lift color or chemical texture services, the added ingredients only serve to mitigate the harshness of the process.
The key is to carefully evaluate the hair BEFORE you have a chemical service. If the hair is a little dry, or is porous, or damaged, treat these conditions before you have the chemical service performed, to prevent unfortunate results. A trained and licensed cosmetologist is qualified to help you make the needed determination of whether you need pre-service treatment and what kind of treatment will help you best.
As for using hair gel with a perm: Of course you can. Hair gels are simply styling products that are used to help the hair hold the shape of its styling. In most cases, permed hair styles require a little product of some type to help it hold clean and defined curls.
Apply the hair gel to towel-dried hair. Be sure when towel-drying permed hair to “pat, blot, and gently squeeze” the hair in the towel and to never “rub” the head. This will help to prevent any roughing of the cuticle and make the hair much easier to manage. Use a wide-toothed comb to evenly distribute the gel through the hair, then style the hair as desired.
You also want to remember that if you plan to dry your hair after a perm, you need to use a diffuser attachment on your hair dryer. This will help prevent heat damage.
See also:
Hair porosity test
How to use hair gel
After-care for colored or chemically treated hair