Should You Perm Your Hair?

Getting a permanent wave in your hair requires chemical processing that can damage or enhance your natural locks. Are you ready to try it?

Before 1900, women used a curling iron, heated over a cook fire or a wood stove, to steam waves into their hair as a beauty enhancement. But with the advent of the twentieth century, hair stylists learned the art of chemically processing human hair to make the curls last for months at a time. Since then, millions of grateful women, envious of their naturally curly friends and relatives, have flocked to beauty parlors and style salons to give their hair the treatment that took them home looking like different women.

Getting a hair permanent is both a simple and a complex process. Available in any beauty salon at mostly affordable prices, you may not even need an appointment to get a permanent; just walk in and sit down for a couple of hours. Children age ten or younger get permanents, as do women into their eighties and beyond. You don't even have to be trained or certified to give someone a home permanent; just follow the directions on the box.

Yet, a permanent, or "perm," is not without risks. Even the highest quality solution or the most experienced salon stylist can run into unexpected problems. Here are a few things to be aware of:


1. Some people are allergic to the perming solution, which can be harsh to sensitive skin. If you experience itching, burning, redness, or a rash, let your stylist know and contact your doctor. Even if you've had dozens of permanents before, anyone can become allergic rather suddenly, so take your symptoms seriously. You may also have problems if the permanent solution remains on your scalp too long, leading to blisters that may require medical treatment.

2. Don't color your hair (with either temporary or permanent dye) just before getting a perm. Perming strips the color and other additives from your hair, so you'll be wasting the color at this point. Wait until you've had the perm about a week and then color your hair.

3. Getting frequent permanents can damage your hair. Some people like to get their hair permed every three to six months. But this can dry your scalp and hair, resulting in coarse, dull locks that appear to be over-processed. Talk to your stylist about conditioning your hair to keep it in tip-top shape.

4. Some permanents don't "take," so that part of the hair has curl and the rest does not. Be sure your stylist uses the proper size rods for the various layers of your hair, and that each rod is wrapped with a comparable amount of hair for a uniform process. Keep an eye on the timer, even though your stylist will do this as well, to be sure the solution stays on the right amount of time and not too long or too little.

Getting a permanent that leads to a new, attractive look is exciting and fun. Take sensible precautions to ensure the best outcome for you or your children who may be considering this procedure. Find a trustworthy stylist and product to ensure optimum results.

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