How to Give a Home Perm

It seems like chemical services at the salon just keep getting more expensive by the day and as a result many women have decided to take matters into their own hands in order to save a substantial amount of money. Unfortunately, this could be a big mistake if you don’t know what you are doing as chemicals can be extremely damaging if you use the wrong product for your hair type. There are basically two types of perms on the market, acid balanced waves and alkaline perms and each has specific uses. Although it might ‘look’ easy as you watch a cosmetologist wind those curls, there is more to the process than meets the eye.

Breakdown of Types of Perms

Actually, to say there are two basic types of perms is a bit misleading as there is another type in between. First of all consider the ‘cold wave’ (alkaline perm) that was invented in the early part of the last century. Prior to the cold wave, getting a perm was a time consuming grueling process. Without getting into the chemistry involved, suffice it to say that the cold wave is a very quick process with a strong chemical that ‘sets’ the wave within as short a time as about 15 minutes. Next there is the acid or acid balanced permanent that is a bit slower, but requires heat. Originally this heat was administered by sitting under a hooded dryer, but in recent times the heat has been provided through a chemical reaction within the formulation, so it is a self heating perm. Finally, there is the exothermic perm which is both self timing and self heating. This is probably the easiest type of perm for the layperson to work with because it literally shuts itself off when it is finished processing.

Some Things to Consider

No matter which type of permanent solution you intend to use, the first thing to know is that a perm is always, always, always applied to clean wet hair. Secondly, it is vital that you understand that the amount and direction of curl is based on the size and positioning of the rods. Also, those nasty little ‘frizzies’ at the end of a curl (referred to as ‘fish hooks’ in the business) are the result of improper winding of the hair around the rod. It is vital to extend the paper perm wrapper to the end of the section you are wrapping, perhaps a bit beyond, in order to make sure the end is wrapped around the rod and not bent at the end. Always follow the instructions on the box because one false step could result in total failure. If you have any cuts or abrasions on the scalp it is highly recommended that you refrain from giving yourself a perm until they heal. And finally, you should never wash or condition your hair any sooner than 48 hours after your perm so that you don’t relax the waves.

Steps to Giving a Basic Home Perm

If you are still brave enough to give it a try, the following steps give you a general guideline to follow. These are just very basic instructions to give you an idea of where to start.

• Gently but thoroughly was hair – do not scrub the scalp

• Leave hair wet – blot excess water only

• Section hair – top, sides, three sections in back

• Begin at crown wrapping curls toward the back

• When you reach the hairline, wrap the curl forward toward the face

• Wrap one side rolling downwards

• Wrap the other side wrapping downwards

• Wrap the center back section wrapping downwards

• Then wrap each of the outer back sections downward

• If hair begins to dry during wrapping, generously spray with water

• Once all rods are in place, place a small amount of Vasoline around the front hairline

• Wrap the cotton roll around perimeter and secure behind hears

• Apply the solution to each curl individually, making sure not to miss any

• Time it per the manufacturer’s instruction

• Rinse with lukewarm to cool water

• Blot dry

• Neutralize

• Gently remove rods without stretching hair

• Add any remaining neutralizer and gently massage into scalp

• Rinse thoroughly (do NOT shampoo)

• Apply leave in conditioner IF recommended by manufacturer

• Do not blow dry or stretch hair in any way

Of course, this is just a basic idea of what you would need to do for a home perm. In salons they use a nine section, seven section or other method of wrapping the head, but this is a simple method for sectioning at home. Keep in mind that the diameter of the rod will determine the tightness of the curl. Consequently, if you want a tighter curl you would need to use smaller rods.

There are other methods of wrapping a perm, most commonly using spiral rods that are ideal for long hair. The above method works best with short to medium length hair while spiral rods make longer hair easier to wrap. Spiral perms usually wrap vertically from a center part, but it is still important to remember than anytime you reach the hairline around the face you should wrap toward the face to avoid breakage. It may look easy to give yourself a perm at home, but there really is a lot involved in the process. Unless you are 100% comfortable that you can wrap a perm without damaging your hair, you might be better advised to spend a few extra dollars and visit the salon. Just remember, the great thing is that perms will eventually loosen and grow out, and if you don’t like your results, a licensed cosmetologist can usually help you correct it!

3 comments

  1. Anonymous Reply
    March 24, 2012 at 8:23 am

    You can include type of product used for perming straight and african hair.

  2. Cher Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    Why is the hair wrapped wet? Does water help the perm solution?

  3. Gail Reply
    January 2, 2016 at 7:56 pm

    Of all the articles I have read on the Internet about giving myself a perm, I find yours the best on explaining exactly what's involved. Thanks.

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