Should I Wash My Hair Before Getting a Perm?

If you’re thinking about getting a perm, one question that may have crossed your mind is, “Should I wash my hair before getting a perm?” The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think. 

While washing the hair will remove oil and dirt that may deter the absorption of perm solution, it can also cause the hair to be porous and break, especially for color-treated hair.

So, to help you make the right choice,  this article will look into the perm process and the importance of hair preparation. We will weigh the pros and cons of washing your hair before a perm and seek expert opinions. 

What is a Perm?

A perm is a chemical hair treatment that is used to create permanent waves or curls in the hair. It is achieved by applying a solution to the hair, which breaks down the hair’s natural protein structure. The hair is then wrapped around rods, and a neutralizer is applied to set the curls in place. 

The result is a long-lasting change in the hair’s texture.

When it comes to changing up your hairstyle, a perm can be a great option. Whether you want to add some volume and bounce to your straight hair or enhance your natural curls, a perm can give you the desired look. But have you ever wondered how exactly a perm works?

Perms have been around for decades and have evolved over time. The process involves applying a chemical solution to the hair, which breaks down the hair’s natural protein structure. This allows the hair to be reshaped into curls or waves.

How Does Perm Work?

Perms work by altering the disulfide bonds in the hair. These bonds are responsible for the hair’s shape and texture. When the hair is exposed to the perm solution, these bonds are broken and then reformed in the desired shape, resulting in curls or waves.

During the perm process, the hair is first washed and then wrapped around rods of various sizes, depending on the desired curl pattern. The perm solution is carefully applied to the hair, ensuring it is evenly distributed. This solution breaks down the disulfide bonds, allowing the hair to be reshaped.

After the hair has been wrapped around the rods and the perm solution has been applied, a neutralizer is used to set the curls in place. The neutralizer helps to reform the disulfide bonds, but this time in the new shape of the rods. This step is crucial to ensure that the curls or waves are long-lasting.

Once the neutralizer has done its job, the hair is rinsed and conditioned. This helps to restore moisture to the hair and keep it healthy. The rods are then carefully removed, revealing the newly permed hair.

It’s important to note that getting a perm is not a one-size-fits-all process. The size of the rods, the type of perm solution used, and the processing time can all be customized to achieve the desired result. A skilled hairstylist will consider factors such as the length and thickness of your hair and your desired outcome to create a perm that suits you.

Should I Wash My Hair Before Getting a Perm?

Before getting a perm, it is essential to prepare your hair properly. This preparation includes ensuring your hair is healthy and free from any product buildup. 

While some people believe that washing the hair before a perm is unnecessary, there are valid reasons why it may be beneficial. So, before deciding whether to wash or not to wash hair before getting a perm, let’s weigh the pros and cons.

 Pros of Washing Hair Before a Perm.

  1. Removes Excess Oils and Dirt in the Hair

Our scalps produce natural oils that are essential for maintaining healthy hair. These oils help to moisturize and protect the hair shaft. However, an excessive buildup of these oils can hinder the perm chemicals’ effectiveness, so it is important to wash the hair.

  1. Improve Perm Absorption

When the natural oils on your scalp mix with dirt, dead skin cells, and styling products, they can create a thick layer of buildup on your hair. This buildup makes your hair look dull and lifeless and can also prevent the perm chemicals from evenly penetrating your hair strands. Washing your hair before a perm can help remove this buildup and improve the absorption of the perm solution.

  1.  Help balance your scalp’s pH level. 

The natural oils on your scalp can sometimes create an imbalance, resulting in an overly acidic or alkaline environment. This imbalance can affect the perm chemicals’ ability to break down the hair’s protein structure, which is necessary for the curls or waves to form. Washing your hair beforehand can restore the pH balance, ensuring optimal perm results.

  1. Reduces Frizzness

Frizzy hair is hard to curl, and you might not get the desired result. Washing your hair will help smooth it and make it easier to perm. Ensure to use a conditioner too.

 Cons of Washing Hair Before a Perm.

  1. Weakens Hair

Washing hair before perm can weaken the hair because the water may strip away the natural oils that protect and moisturize the hair. Lack of these oils makes the hair dry, brittle, and prone to damage.

To Wash or Not to Wash Hair Before a Perm: How Washing Affects Hair Texture

Washing your hair can have an impact on its texture. Depending on the shampoo and conditioner used, washing can dry or moisturize your hair. Dry hair can be more resistant to perm chemicals, making achieving the desired curls or waves harder.

On the other hand, overly moisturized hair can prevent the perm solution from penetrating the hair shaft properly. Finding the right balance is important in preparing your hair for a perm.

Choosing the right shampoo and conditioner is crucial in preparing your hair for a perm. Look for products specifically formulated for chemically treated hair, as they are designed to provide the necessary moisture while maintaining the hair’s integrity. These products often contain ingredients like keratin, which help to strengthen the hair and protect it from damage during the perming process.

In addition to using the right products, the frequency of washing your hair also plays a role in its texture. Overwashing can strip the hair of natural oils, leaving it dry and brittle.

On the other hand, infrequent washing can lead to product buildup and scalp issues. Finding a balance that suits your hair type and lifestyle is key. If you have naturally dry hair, wash it less frequently and use moisturizing products to keep it hydrated before the perm.

Furthermore, the water temperature used for washing can affect the hair’s texture. Hot water opens up the hair cuticles, allowing the perm chemicals to penetrate more easily. However, excessively hot water can also strip away the hair’s natural oils, leaving it vulnerable to damage. Lukewarm water is generally recommended for washing the hair before a perm, as it helps to remove dirt and excess oils without causing excessive dryness.

Overall, proper hair preparation before a perm is crucial for achieving the best results. By washing your hair to remove product buildup and balance its texture, you can ensure that the perm chemicals work effectively and that your hair remains healthy throughout the process.

Expert Opinion on Whether to Wash Hair Before a Perm

We sought expert opinion from Mercy Duckling, a hairstylist with 18 years of experience in perm. She recommends washing hair before getting a perm to ensure it is clean and residue-free.

However, she also emphasizes the importance of not washing the hair on the same day as the perm appointment, as freshly washed hair may be too soft and slippery for the perm rods to grip properly. She suggests washing the hair the day before to strike a balance.

Tips for Pre-Perm Hair Care

Whether you decide to wash your hair before a perm or not, proper hair care is essential for achieving the best results. Here are some tips to help you prepare your hair for the perm process.

  • Choosing the Right Shampoo

When selecting a shampoo for pre-perm hair care, opt for a gentle cleanser free from sulfates and other harsh ingredients. Look for shampoos specifically formulated for chemically treated or dry and damaged hair. These shampoos will help maintain the hair’s moisture balance and prevent excessive dryness or oiliness.

  • The Role of Conditioner

Conditioning your hair is essential for maintaining its health and ensuring it is moisturized. After washing your hair, apply a conditioner suitable for your hair type and leave it on for a few minutes before rinsing. This will help detangle the hair.

frequently Asked Questions about Perm Hair

 How Do You Sleep with Permed Hair?

Maintaining your newly permed hair while you sleep is crucial. Consider sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase to prevent frizz and preserve curls. The smooth surface reduces friction, which can contribute to frizz and tangling.

How Can I Make My Perm Look Good?

Use products specifically designed for curly hair to keep your perm looking its best. These products enhance definition, reduce frizz, and maintain the shape of your curls. Applying these products consistently can help you achieve a polished and put-together look.

How Long Do Perms Last?

The longevity of perms varies depending on several factors, including your hair’s natural growth rate, maintenance, and aftercare. On average, perms can last anywhere from 2 to 6 months. However, with proper care and maintenance, you can extend their lifespan.

How Do You Know if Your Hair is Healthy Enough to Perm?

Healthy hair is essential for successful perms. If your hair is damaged, brittle, or weakened, it might not be the best candidate for a perm. Consult with a professional stylist to assess your hair’s condition before proceeding.

What Should Be Avoided When Newly Permed Hair?

After getting a perm, avoiding practices that can compromise your curls’ longevity and overall hair health is crucial. For the first 48 to 72 hours, refrain from shampooing, standing under a strong shower, or using heated styling tools. These practices can help your curls set properly.

Does Your Hair Go Back to Normal After a Perm?

Contrary to popular belief, perms are not irreversible. As your hair grows, the perm pattern will gradually relax, and your hair will return to its natural state. This means that, over time, your curls will become less prominent as the new hair growth remains straight.

Pros and Cons of Perms

Before you commit to a perm, it’s essential to consider both the advantages and disadvantages.

Pros of Perms:

  • Low-maintenance Styling: One of the main benefits of Perms is that they offer a low-maintenance styling solution. Once your curls are set, you can enjoy your new look without spending hours styling your hair daily.
  • Added Volume and Texture: Perms can add volume and texture to your hair, giving it a fuller and more dynamic appearance.
  • Effortless Styling: If you’re tired of spending time curling or straightening your hair daily, a perm can provide the curls or waves you desire without the daily effort.

Cons of Perms:

  • Risk of Damage: If not done correctly or if your hair is already damaged, perms can potentially cause further damage, leading to dryness, breakage, or split ends.
  • Maintenance and Aftercare: While perms offer low-maintenance styling, they still require proper care and maintenance to keep your curls looking their best.
  • Change in Texture: It’s important to note that once you get a perm, your hair’s texture will change. This can be a pro if you’re seeking curls or waves, but it might not suit those who prefer straight hair.

Should You Condition Your Hair After a Perm?

Conditioning help maintain the health and appearance of your permed hair. After a perm, your hair might feel drier than usual due to the chemical process. Using a high-quality conditioner designed for chemically treated hair can help restore moisture, softness, and manageability to your curls.


So, should I wash my hair before getting a perm? Yes, you should wash your hair to remove dirt and oil buildup to improve the effectiveness o the perm. However, seek professional advice from your hairstylist based on your type of hair and its health. 

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