How to Get Rid of a Permanent Wave Smell

Updated February 21, 2017

Lingering odour is a problem for manufacturers and customers of permanent waves, whether the perm is administered in a salon or at home. The complex chemical properties of perms produce lasting curl, but also a lasting, recognisable smell that may remain for days or weeks. Getting rid of a permanent wave smell has been a problem since chemical perms were invented in the 1920s.

Shampoo the hair as soon as possible after the perm with a scented shampoo and follow with scented conditioner. Most hairdressers and instructions on home perms recommend waiting as long as possible before shampooing the new perm for best results, but if the odour is unbearable, shampoo immediately and accept the risk that the perm may be damaged or weakened.

Apply a deodoriser for braided hair that cannot be shampooed frequently or a product intended to cleanse the hair of bedridden patients. These products to disguise the chemical smell of the perm, though they cannot actually remove the odour.

Apply an air or fabric odour remover. Many of these products were designed specifically for the reduction of cigarette smoke odour or the odour of mildew or mould. These products, used carefully, may help reduce the unpleasant scent of a permanent wave.


The odour of a perm is not going to be removed easily or quickly, especially if the chemical compound reacts negatively to the hair of the user. Manufacturers of perms are working on products that have far less odour than current products. At least four U.S. and Japanese patents have been recorded for odour-removing products, but none of these products is on the market in 2010.

Things You'll Need

  • Scented shampoo
  • Scented conditioner
  • Deodorising product intended for braids
  • Spray deodoriser
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About the Author

Karen W. Waggoner is a retired teacher and lifetime scribbler. She has published short stories, essays in anthologies and periodicals. Waggoner is the author of the memoir, "On My Honor, A Navy Wife’s Vietnam War." She is a graduate of Stetson University, the University of Connecticut and Christian College for Women.