Swim with Newly-Permed Hair

Permed hair
Photo: Sylv1rob1/Shutterstock
Q: Can I swim in a lake with newly permed hair?
A: Yes. Although I don’t recommend jumping into the local watering hole right after leaving the salon.
This is a common question when it comes to perms. There is the traditional 72-hour rule, where an individual is supposed to wait three days before getting their hair wet. The specific restriction may vary (some say wetting the hair is okay, but don’t shampoo the hair) but the basics of the rule are the same: give your hair a break after a perm. This isn’t bad advice and in fact has sensible origins.
The fact is that properly performed perm services leave hair as stable as before the hair was treated. The purpose of the neutralizer in the perm process is to restore the disulfide bonds that give the hair’s wave pattern stability. The neutralizer does this through the use of hydrogen peroxide and a chemical reaction called “oxidation”. But using hydrogen peroxide isn’t the only way to neutralize a perm and restabilize those disulfide bonds.
There are some perm techniques that use “air neutralization” to reset the wave pattern. The hair is rinsed following the processing of the waving solution and blotted to remove excess moisture. Then the client is placed under a cool hair dryer, and air is blown over the head to dry the curls and the air itself neutralizes the perm and resets the disulfide bonds.
The reason for the “waiting period” is to prevent people from doing things that COULD damage the hair soon after a perm. In most cases, the hair is left more porous after a perm than it was before. This means that shampoos can be harsher to the hair, and some styling tools can be more damaging to permed hair. While getting the hair wet in cool, clear spring water might not have an adverse effect, going scuba diving in the ocean the day after perming the hair might be a different story.
It all boils down to common sense and taking care of your hair. If you chemically treat the hair, you need to prepare to care for it properly. Give it a rest on the harsh styling processes for a few days, and pay attention to its needs.
See also:
Perms and perming hair
Can I style and wet newly permed hair?
How soon following a perm can one get hair wet in a spa tub?
How long after getting a perm do I have to wait to swim in a pool?