Bleached permed hair gives us all the 80s vibes, but is it a surefire way to damage your hair? We explore the do’s and don’ts of bleaching and perming your strands without turning your mane into a mushy pile of broken dreams in this guide.
Is Bleached Permed Hair a Bad Idea?
- Bleaching + perming can be a dangerous combo for hair
- Always perm before bleaching for less damage overall
- Choose hot perms over traditional cold perms for less damage
Bleached permed hair has been in the spotlight lately – and it’s an entire vibe. Maybe it’s the way this style reminds us of that wild and free vintage feel. Or maybe it’s the voluminous, sexy look a good perm gives bright blonde strands.
Whatever the reason is, one thing is clear – we’re all digging the bleached permed hair look right now. But there’s a problem with this trend and we need to talk about it.
Bleaching and perming are both chemical processes notorious for damaging hair. And when you combine these processes, it’s a dangerous duo. In your quest to get that 80s babe look, you can put your strands at risk of having a (literal) meltdown.
When this happens, it’s bad. Really bad. Like, gummy-stretchy-strands-breaking-off-when-you-touch-them bad. Bleach and perming can be the hair equivalent of throwing water on the Wicked Witch of the West if you don’t know the proper way to go about it.
The good news is that there are ways to bleach and perm your hair without damaging it beyond repair. We’re going to teach you the do’s and don’ts of going blonde and curly.
We’ll show you photos that will give you great ideas for different types of perm and shades of blonde to try. And we’ll help you navigate the potential minefield that is bleached permed hair with ease!
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The Do’s and Don’ts of Bleached Permed Hair
If you’re thinking about bleaching and perming your hair, you need to learn about the do’s and don’ts first. Going about this the right way is the key to keeping your strands healthy and avoiding irreparable damage that leads to breakage, frizz, and hair loss.
- Do perm before bleaching. The order of these processes is important. Always perm before you bleach! Perms use harsh chemicals that will alter the color of your hair slightly and can ruin your perfectly lifted and toned blonde. Perm first, then bleach (preferably a couple of weeks later) for the best results.
- Do choose a less-damaging hot perm. The type of perm you choose makes all the difference here. Traditional cold perms are the most damaging. Hot perms cause a lot less damage, but take longer to do, don’t last as long, and won’t deliver as tight a curl. But what’s better – mushy, damaged tightly curled strands or a looser curl that lasts 3-4 months? Always opt for a hot perm if you plan to bleach afterward.
- Do try to wait at least 2 weeks before bleaching. We know, we know – you want it all done TODAY. Right now! But if you can hold off on bleaching for a little while – even just 2 weeks – you’ll allow your hair a little time to recover from the perm and dole out a lot less damage in the process.
- Do nourish your strands with extra moisture. After the harsh combo of a perm and bleaching your hair, your strands are going to be extremely dry, brittle, and weak. Offer a little extra TLC in the form of deep conditioning treatments, hair masks for damaged hair, hot oil treatments, and using an additional leave-in conditioning product. Your strands will drink up the moisture and feel much softer and healthier!
- Do choose a darker blonde for less damage. The shade of blonde you choose is more important than you think. Going ultra-light with your blonde will only increase the amount of time the bleach mixture sits on your strands and cause more damage. Going for a medium or dark blonde shade will reduce the processing time and shield your strands from unnecessary damage.
- Don’t bleach before perming. Repeat: Do not bleach your hair before perming! Perms use powerful chemicals (glyceryl monothioglycolate or ammonium thioglycolate) that are harsh enough to alter the color of your hair. Bleaching can be even more damaging than perming, so if you follow a bleach sesh with a perm, your strands may protest by turning gummy/mushy, getting stiff and brittle, breaking off, or falling out.
- Don’t choose a cold perm. Traditional cold perms are the most common type of perm, but they’re also the most damaging. Cold perms use ammonium thioglycolate with a super-high pH level (9.0-9.6). Hot perms are less damaging and use glyceryl monothioglycolate with a lower pH (5.0-6.0) that’s closer to your hair’s natural pH. If you’ll be double processing with a perm and bleach, always opt for the less-damaging hot perm.
- Don’t heat style your hair for a while. Heat styling always causes damage, even if you’re using a heat protectant. After perming and bleaching your hair, avoid heat styling with a hair dryer, straightener, or curling iron for a while. It shouldn’t be a problem, anyway – you’ll love how easy it is to care for a perm that takes care of most of the styling for you!
- Don’t ignore perm aftercare instructions. Perm aftercare is not a suggestion – it’s a must. You need to avoid wetting your hair for at least 48 hours after a perm. Don’t pull it up, don’t tug on the curls, and don’t brush it for those 48 hours. If you can wait 72 hours, that’s even better. Make sure you follow instructions to the letter to avoid causing damage and ending up with flattened or misshapen curls.
- Don’t use shampoo with sulfates. Sulfates are harsh on hair, especially once your hair has been damaged by 2 separate chemical processes. Avoid using any shampoo that contains sulfates with bleached permed hair. Switch to a gentle sulfate-free shampoo for colored hair and stick with it.
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Cute Bleached Permed Hair Examples
This is the fun part: Checking out cute examples of bleached permed hair! Browse the photos below to get some inspiration for your look. You’ll see a range of blonde shades and different perm types in these examples.
Remember: If you’re not currently a light blonde, it’s best to go with a medium or dark blonde to cut down on the damage of doing back-to-back processes.
If you’ve been rocking a light blonde color for a while, it’s okay to perm your already-lightened hair. Just make sure to go with a hot or digital perm instead of a cold perm!
1. Strawberry and White Blonde Perm
Spiral perms are done with vertically-placed rods to achieve this gorgeous corkscrew shape. In warm shades of strawberry blonde and white blonde, this look has a golden glow that will light up your face while the curls add a beautiful texture.
2. Spiral Perm With Money Piece Gradient Highlights
Money piece highlights are done around the face for an extra pop of bright color that stands out. We love how this trend looks with a voluminous perm and deep golden blonde tones! It’s less damaging since only the front pieces are bleached.
3. Cool Ash Blonde Ribbon Balayage
Cool blonde tones are the perfect option for women with cool undertones who want to go lighter. This icy ash blonde looks great with the cool brown base shade and a tight perm accentuates the color. Frizz it up with a few defined curls for an edgy, casual look.
4. White Platinum Loose Spiral Perm
If you’re already a light blonde, loose spiral curls look amazing with a bright, almost-white color! Big, bouncy ringlets have an innocent look a la Shirley Temple, but that platinum blonde paired with a bold red lip screams vixen.
5. Bleached Color Pop Perm
Deep auburn paired with a golden honey blonde pop of color in the front is a gorgeous look for warm-undertoned ladies. A bright strip of color up front creates a pop of blonde that stands out. Keeping the bleached section small prevents unnecessary damage to the rest of your hair, too!
6. Sandy Blonde Ombre Perm
Sandy blonde is a pretty shade with warm and cool attributes, so it can really work for any undertones. This ombre color warms up slightly toward the ends and highlights the bouncy shape of the permed curls.
7. Light Blonde Spiral Perm
With golden blonde color at the roots smoothly transitioning to an ultra-light blonde from the midshaft to the ends, this is a natural-looking color that is so gorgeous with a perm. The rods are situated just off the roots to reduce the volume on top here.
8. Strawberry Blonde Stack Perm
Stack perms use a few different rod sizes for the most natural-looking results. You can mix a few rod sizes to get larger or smaller curls in front, on top, or underneath for big volume. We love how lively and bouncy these curls look in a warm shade of strawberry blonde!
9. Honey and Golden Blonde Tight Perm
If the allure of light blonde is strong but your natural hair color is darker, this is a great way to compromise without causing a ton of damage. Weave a few bright golden blonde highlights in with lots of deeper honey blonde splashed throughout! This will accentuate your perm without exposing all your strands to extended processing time.
10. Silver Ash Blonde Spiral Perm
The cool tones in ash blonde look great with a bold silver overtone like this. If you want to go for a unique look with your bleached permed hair, this is the one to emulate! A voluminous spiral perm done with vertically-placed rods makes this a knockout.
11. Tight Spiral Perm Ombre
Tight spirals are a bold look with tons of curl definition and perfectly-sculpted ringlets. Light and medium golden blonde color smoothly transitions from a rich, medium brown root color to keep these spirals front and center.
12. Pearly Blonde Perm With Bangs
Looser ringlets cascade down like a waterfall with tons of definition and volume. Pearly blonde tones in a light shade make this look shine like a diamond! Remember – the lighter you go, the more damaging the process will be. If you’re not already a platinum or pearly blonde shade, opt for a deeper blonde.
13. Golden Blonde Sombre Tight Perm
Sombre – subtle ombre – color faintly transitions in shade from darker roots to lighter ends. This golden blonde sombre is one of our favorite shades for this technique! Rich, warm golden tones accentuate the shadow and light in a tight perm perfectly.
14. Blonde Spiral Perm Balayage
Another way to reduce the amount of damage caused by bleaching and perming is choosing partial color options like balayage or highlights. Here, golden strawberry blonde tones sweep upward to the midshaft and leave the roots their natural base color for less damage. With a medium spiral perm, the look is beautiful.
15. Pale Golden Blonde Beach Wave Perm
Waking up with pretty waves is possible with a beach wave perm! Make your waves as tight or loose as you want. With a pale golden blonde tone, you’ll look and feel like a nautical goddess.
Tips and Things to Consider With Bleached Permed Hair
Getting 2 damaging chemical processes done can be a little scary, but we’ve got some tips and tricks to keep your mane healthy. If you want bleached permed hair, these are the things you need to know first!
- Don’t get both processes on the same day. Even if your stylist says it’ll be fine, you’ll be better off waiting at least 2 weeks in between your perm and blonding process. Perms break down the chemical bonds in your hair to reset them in a curled shape. That’s stressful and harsh on your hair, and following it up with equally-harsh bleach can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Get your perm and book another appointment 2-4 weeks later to come back for your blonde color.
- Baby your hair as much as possible afterward. You’ll be damaging your strands with both the perm and bleach process, so make plans to baby your hair afterward. Get obsessive about it! Add extra moisture every step of the way – moisturizing shampoo, conditioner, leave-ins, and styling products – and don’t skimp. Try a heated cap to help deep conditioning treatments better penetrate your hair to deliver hydration deep down. And don’t heat style at all if you can avoid it!
- Learn how to manage and style your new curls. Once you get a perm, you’ll have an entirely new styling process and may need some new products. From using a wide-toothed comb and “pineappling” your curls overnight to using mousse/gel and curl creams, things will be a bit different. Check out the best products to use here: The 11 Best Products for Curly Hair in 2022 and learn some new curl styling tips and techniques here: The Curly Girl Method | Step-by-Step Guide & Best Products.
- Get some purple shampoo to maintain your blonde. After bleaching your hair, you’ll soon deal with pesky orange-yellow brassy tones that can alter the shade of your blonde. If you start using a sulfate-free purple shampoo once or twice a week, you’ll be able to neutralize those brassy tones and keep your blonde pure and bright.
- Skip all-over blonde in favor of balayage or highlights. If you really want to keep damage at a minimum and reduce your maintenance, opt for balayage, ombre color, or highlights to get your blonde fix. This results in less bleach applied to your strands and keeps the color off the roots for a lower-maintenance, less damaging color!
So, Is Bleached Permed Hair a Bad Idea?
Bleaching and perming your hair definitely has the potential to damage it. In fact, you’re sure to damage your strands when you get these 2 processes done. But damage occurs on a spectrum, and as long as you keep the do’s and don’ts in this guide in mind, your strands will recover just fine.
Don’t get your hair permed and bleached in one visit. Try to wait at least 2 weeks before you bleach your hair after perming it. And remember, you should always perm your hair before bleaching! This will prevent the perm from altering your new color.
Choose a hot perm (also called an acid perm or digital perm) instead of a traditional cold perm. Hot perms use a gentler chemical that won’t cause as much damage. Since you’ll be bleaching afterward, a less-damaging perm can make a huge difference!
While you can opt for any shade of blonde, it’s safer to go with a medium or dark blonde shade to minimize damage. The brighter the blonde, the longer the bleach has to sit on your hair to lift it. Darker blondes are a little less damaging and can still offer a beautiful brightness.
If you’re loving the sexy, voluminous look of bleached permed hair, we say go for it. If you’re prioritizing the health of your strands and taking steps to minimize damage, a little extra TLC afterward should keep your mane healthy and able to quickly recover from these 2 processes.
You can’t avoid damage completely when you’re perming and bleaching your hair, but you can definitely keep that damage to a minimum.
Now all you need to do is decide what shade of blonde you’re going to choose! Take our quick quiz next to find a few blonde shades that will look flawless with your complexion: What Color Hair Looks Best On Me? Quiz | Only 5 Questions!