Hairstyles, Hair Care & Fashion

Perm Grow Out or Fall Out

Q: I got my hair permed a week ago and am still in shock as to how curly it is. My stylist told me my hair took the perm really well and I may have it for 4-6 months. Some friends have said a perm has to grow out and others have said it falls out. What exactly happens when a perm "loses" its curls? Does it GROW out or FALL out?
A: Okay. The name “permanent wave” is given to the chemical process to change the wave pattern of the hair because it alters the chemical side bonds in the hair permanently. The chemical side bonds are sometimes also referred to as the ‘permanent bonds’ in the hair because they are the bonds that are not affected by heat and moisture the way the physical side bonds are. There are two types of physical side bonds – salt bonds and hydrogen bonds – and there are the chemical side bonds – disulfide bonds – and these two categories make up equal halves of the strength and shape of the hair strand. (In other words there may be more physical side bonds, but they aren’t as strong, and the physical and chemical bonds each make up half the hair’s strength.)
The perm service alters the chemical side bonds permanently, and as long as the hair is carefully tended and kept healthy, the new curl should last until the hair grows out and the curl is lost to trimming and cutting.
How well a perm “takes” in the hair is largely a factor of the condition of the hair when it receives the perm service and the expertise of the stylist giving the perm. Hair that is in good condition (well moisturized and healthy) with strong elasticity and balanced porosity will often take a perm really well, and the perm may hold up much longer than expected before a new perm service is needed. And a perm that is properly applied, processed and neutralized will result in stronger, longer-lasting curl.
How well a perm “lasts” is largely a matter of how well the hair is tended after the perming service. Permed hair will be more porous than before it was permed, and must be carefully conditioned to keep the hair moisturized and looking healthy. Also, no matter how good the stylist is, some of the chemical bonds in the hair won’t be restored during the perming process. This means that it can weaken more readily without proper care.
If the hair isn’t kept moisturized and conditioned, the permed curls will begin to “fall out”. (However, it has been shown that a good moisturizing protein conditioner can help sagging curls to spring back to life.) Another factor in “sagging curls” is that as the hair continues to grow, the additional weight (often in conjunction with poor conditioning) can cause the curls to sag. This is why some women find that their permed curls have renewed bounce and spring after getting a trim.
So, the answer to your final question is basically “A little of both.” While the hair that was permed will have the configuration it was given by the perm service until it grows out and is cut off (or until it is reconfigured by another perm service) the weight of new growth, and lack of proper tending can result in the curls sagging and seeming to ‘fall out’.
Related posts:
How to maintain a perm
How long will a perm last on average?
The scientific process of perming and relaxing hair