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When Can I Wash My Hair After a Perm? | Soon Enough!

When Can I Wash My Hair After a Perm? | Soon Enough!

When Can I Wash My Hair After a Perm?

If this is your first perm or if you’re considering getting one and want to be as prepared as possible, this is a question you need to have the answer to. 

Because a perm is a chemical treatment, there is a step-by-step process you must go through to keep it looking gorgeous, and that includes when to wash it.

In short, you should wait about 48 hours before washing your hair after a perm. Read on to learn what a perm is, how to wash your hair after getting one, and more.

What Is a Perm?

A perm, short for permanent, is a treatment that sets curls into previously straight hair. You can get a perm that lasts for several weeks or months, but most of the time, the treatment will last as long as the treated hair is still there.

Eventually, your permed (permanently curled) hair will grow out, and then you can decide if you’d like to perm your hair again or try something different. Perms come in all shapes and sizes!

You can choose to have close and tight ringlets, perhaps the diameter of your pinky finger, or you can choose large, full curls or anything in between. It also depends on your hair thickness and the length.

Certain types of perms will look different if you’ve got shoulder-length hair versus waist-length hair. You don’t have to go with a curled perm, though. You could also permanently treat your hair so it falls in wavy cascades or loose waves.

Washing Your Hair After a Perm

Follow these key tips for washing your hair after your perm. 

1. Wait

It is best practice to wait at least 48 hours before getting your permed hair wet. Start counting down from the time your treatment is complete.

Even then, if you can wait another day to get your hair wet, be it from swimming or washing, by all means, wait. The longer you wait, the more chance the treatment has to set in.

2. Less Is More

The basic rule is that the less you wash/shampoo your perm, the longer it will last. Just as if you dye your hair wild colors but find they wash out quicker the more often you shampoo, you will lose your perm more quickly if you frequently shampoo it. 

This is a great chance to try out updos with your new perm, as well as new hair products meant to take care of curly hair. Dry shampoos work well for permed hair because you can keep your curls or waves looking chic without worrying about grime or dirt buildup.

3. TLC

Because perm treatments are chemical treatments, your hair is going to need some love after the treatment. When you do wash your hair, be sure to use a hydrating conditioner after you shampoo.

Leave-in conditioners are also great options for permed hair. This will repair the damage made by breaking down what makes hair straight and reshaping your hair into curls, which is what happens during a perm.

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What to Avoid When You Get a Perm

Woman using a hair diffuser on her recently-permed hair

Progressman/Shutterstock

Like every hairstyle, there are a few things you should avoid after getting a perm. 

Water

Right after a perm treatment, if you wash your hair or get it wet in any way, all that sitting and waiting and breathing in ammonia is going to be for nothing—you will undo your perm. However, two to three days after your treatment, you should be fine to wash your hair.

Blow Drying

You can technically use a blow dryer on your curls, but you should keep this practice to a minimum. If you must frequently blow-dry your permed curls or waves, you should use a diffuser attachment.

These are made especially for use with curly hair. You should also use the blow dryer on the lowest heat setting possible. This will increase the longevity of your perm.

Too Much Attention

With a perm, less is more. The less heat, water, and products (including dyes) you expose your curls to, the longer they will last and the healthier they will look. Besides, curly hair does not need to be washed as often as straight hair — that causes frizz. 

It’s important to condition your curls; a leave-in conditioner or hair mask once a week will provide them with much-needed moisture. You should avoid oiling your perm at least until a week after the treatment if this is something you regularly do to your hair.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions about washing your hair after a perm. 

I swim a lot; should I still consider getting a perm?

If you are a competitive swimmer, you can protect your curls with a swimming cap, although these aren’t waterproof—they will simply protect your curls from extreme exposure to chlorinated water and keep them out of your face while you swim.

If you spend a lot of time in the water, you may want to reconsider chemically perming your hair. It may still work for you, but you have to be vigilant so you can get the most out of your perm.

If you swim recreationally and spend time in the ocean, you can always tuck your waves up into a bun to protect them from getting wet. But watch out, because ocean waves don’t care if you have a perm or not!

Can I use a straightener on my perm?

As we mentioned with blow dryers, exposure to any heat can damage hair, and your permed hair has already been through a lot to make it curly. You can use a straightener occasionally.

But if you want your perm to last, you’re better off using it as sparingly as possible. You should also apply a protectant on your curls before you straighten them so that they can have some protection from direct contact with the flat iron.

How often should I wash my permed hair?

Most stylists recommend that you only shampoo your permed hair once a week. You might be thinking, but I have an oily scalp and my hair gets greasy looking faster than others. This is where the miracle of dry shampoo comes in. 

You can supplement your weekly shampooing by using dry shampoo on your curls when you’re feeling a bit grimy. Eventually, your scalp will get used to you not shampooing as often as when you had straight hair and you will adapt to your new curly hair care regimen.

I don’t like my new perm. How can I get rid of it?

The easy answer is that you can wash your hair and then deep condition it several times after your initial treatment, about once or twice a day for three days after the perm. This should make your hair go flat.

It may not return to exactly how it was before the perm, but it should make the curls relax or disappear completely. If you still don’t like the texture of your hair after a few months, you can get another chemical treatment to reverse the curly perm.

How does a perm affect my hair long-term?

On a molecular level, disulfide bonds are what makes up human hair. The more disulfide bonds hair has, the straighter the hair is. Perms work by breaking down those bonds and then reshaping them.

Once the stylist has shaped your hair the way you want, they reapply a bonding agent to make those disulfide bonds build back up so that your hair attains a new shape.

This is an intense chemical process, and you’re exposing your hair and your body to tough chemicals for hours at a time to achieve this.

Because perms, if you’re satisfied with them, last for months, this treatment is not a frequent one. But it does cause your hair to break and weaken, and you can lose hair while undergoing a perm. 

The long-term effects of a perm include weakened hair, frizz, and dry hair. These can be mitigated by using a leave-in conditioner and by using moisturizing treatments.

So, When Can You Wash Your Hair After a Perm?

With all the above information at your disposal, you are now ready to take care of your perm or go out and start the process.

If you wait between 48 and 72 hours after your perm appointment is over to wash your hair, you will keep your curls, and you’ll keep them even longer if you only shampoo once a week. Happy curling!