Reverse Perm

African man
Photo: Wayhome studio/Shutterstock
Q: I'm an 18-year-old male of African decent. I have an afro, but it isn't as thick and tight-curled as the typical black person fro. I wanted to try and straighten my hair. But I was warned about relaxers harming my hair. As my hair is already usually dry, I didn't want to strain it further.
So someone suggested a reverse perm. But then my girlfriend said getting loose curls would just look bad. So is there anyway once I get a reverse perm, if it looks horrendous, I can take it out, like washing my hair right away or something? Thanks.

A: If a perm service is performed correctly - whether it is the standard curl-inducing perm or a thio-straightening service - it will be completely stable once the process is complete.
The primary reason your hairdresser warns against wetting your hair immediately following a service is that the hair is typically left more porous following a chemical service and can therefore very easily lose needed moisture and other protective emollients.
Using a thio-straightener would probably be the better choice for you, since you can reverse the thio-straightener by having a very curly perm re-applied. I recommend that you consult a professional to have this done, rather than doing it yourself at home using a kit. A professional can give you an accurate assessment of the condition of your hair, and can closely monitor the straightening processing to ensure the most effective results with the minimum amount of stress to the hair.
Talk with your stylist about the specific results you want and trust his or her judgement on how to best achieve those results. Keep in mind that you do want to make sure to select a qualified and skilled hair stylist, and that how closely you follow the after-service care instructions will often have a lot of impact on your results.
See also:
Can you suggest a relaxer for African-American hair?
How can I make mixed-race hair a bit smoother?
Can I use a thio straightener to make my hair more manageable and blend in curls?