How to Perm a Hairpiece

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Q: I am reluctant to perm my own hair for fear of damaging it and decided to buy and perm a hairpiece instead. As most human hairpieces are straight, I purchased one that allowed for a perm. I shampooed and set the hairpiece with curlers but the curls fell out within minutes, so I know it is resistant to curl. I suspect the hair is of Asian origin although having read your Q&A page this should not present a problem for achieving a perm?
Can you please recommend a suitable perm and instruct me on how to perm a piece which is essentially 'harvested' hair as it may call for a slightly different approach to perming 'live' hair? To conclude, I would like to say that I love your website. I have learned so much from the Q&A page. Thank you for providing such a fantastic service.

A: With a quality human hairpiece, you may want to consider the additional investment of having the hairpiece permed at a salon. This would present the safest (and for you, the easiest) way to get the amount of curl you want.
Now I assume based on your question above that you did verify that the hairpiece you purchased could be permed. Some human hair wigs – especially straight styles – are made from hair that has been processed to make it completely straight. If this process used a hydroxide-based relaxer to remove the natural wave of the hair, it would have destroyed the chemical side bonds of the hair and made the hair unable to hold a perm. (I include this information so that readers will understand the importance of knowing as much about their wigs as possible.)
With the understanding that your product is permable, here are the general guidelines for perming your wig/hairpiece:
Select a perm formula based on A) the texture and condition of your hair, and B) the kind of results you want. If you simply want soft curls or more “body” as opposed to a head full of firmly defined curls – or if the hair of your wig is fine in texture – choose an acid wave, acid-balanced wave or a low-pH wave. These are the ‘gentlest’ of the formulas available on the market, but are usually more involved in the process since they usually require the application of heat to process the curl.
For medium or coarse hair textures (and for hard to curl hair) you can use an alkaline wave or exothermic wave. These will give firmer curls and generally process at room temperature (or generate their own heat) but they do carry that unpleasant odor associated with perms.
Select a perm formula for color-treated hair. Almost all of the human hair wigs and hairpieces sold these days are color-treated to blend the colors and create a matched, complimentary look. Because of this, you want to use a perm formula for color-treated hair to avoid any unpleasant reactions or harsh results.
Perform a test curl. Purchase a wig-holder (usually an inexpensive, Styrofoam head shape) and secure the wig in place using anchoring pins. Once it is secured, section the hair and secure it with clips, etc. Leave down a single slice of hair in the bottom of the nape area suited to wrapping on a single perm rod. Wrap the slice of hair on the perm rod you intend to use for perming the rest of the hair and perform the perm process according to the package directions. This will have the benefit of allowing you to know precisely the length of time needed for processing the rest of the wig, and will allow you to see how the hair will respond to the perm without risking the whole wig in case the results are bad.
Apart from this, simply remember that the end result depends on the size and type of rod you use: the larger the rod used the softer the curl effect will be. A good rule of thumb to remember is that if the hair winds around the tool less than two full times, the result will be more wave/less curl, and if the hair winds around the tool more than three times you get more curl/less wave. Choose the rod type: standard, spiral, etc. based on the results you are looking for. In addition, remember that by varying the size of rod used throughout the style, you can create a more natural-looking result.
See also: Perms and perming hair