How to perm long hair

Updated April 17, 2017

A perm, often called a permanent wave, is a chemical process that adds permanent waves or curls to the hair. The entire process consists of two parts. The first part involves wrapping the hair into the desired shape, and the second part involves a chemical bath that alters the shape of each strand from straight to wavy or curly. A perm is extremely harsh to the hair, and therefore, it is imperative to take necessary precautions to prevent serious damage.

Know your hair's condition and texture before you take any steps toward perming it. Very fine hair, Asian hair, resistant hair or very coarse hair is generally less responsive to the perming treatment and requires an alkaline perm. Healthy, highlighted or coloured hair or otherwise damaged hair is best treated with an acid perm. An alkaline perm has a higher pH balance and produces a very tight curl. An acid perm has a lower pH balance and produces a looser, softer curl.

Decide what type of perm you want or need based on your hair type. Remember that some perming kits will give you dense, tightly-packed curls, while others will give you a loose wave. Determine what type of curl you want to achieve with your perm before you buy the perming kit so that you don't get stuck with an unwanted hair style.

Buy an at-home perming kit from a salon or chemist. Note that an at-home kit should only be used if you have healthy hair, are familiar with the perming process and have done it before. Otherwise, shop around for a licensed hair stylist.

Read the instructions on your kit very carefully and thoroughly. Make sure you understand exactly what you're supposed to do. It might be wise to have a friend or family member help you. The perm solution is a harsh chemical that shouldn't come in contact with your skin. Always wear gloves and protect the skin on your face and neck before you begin.

Wash your hair and blot it dry gently. Don't comb it. Wrap your hair with the perming rods after you've decided on a style of curl. Start at the bottom and wrap your hair upwards, curling it around the rod. Apply the perm solution beginning at your scalp and massage it in each strand. Allow the allotted time to pass before you remove the rods and wash out the perm solution completely. Apply a neutraliser to your hair and blot it dry again. Do not attempt to style your hair in any way until 24 hours have passed.


Use heavily moisturising conditioners to keep your hair hydrated and minimise the damage caused by the chemical of the perming solution.


Do not comb, brush, style or aggressively dry your hair until 24 hours after you've applied the perm solution or you will risk ruining your perm.

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About the Author

Maggie Hira has been writing professionally since 2006. She has written for numerous websites and print publications, including "LA.Direct Magazine" and The Budget Fashionista. Hira holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.