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How to Do a Root Perm for Hair

Updated April 17, 2017

A root perm is different from a standard chemical hair-curling process, in that only the two to four inches of hair nearest the head are treated. This is done to give volume and thickness to the roots, making hair appear bouncier and fuller. Root perms are not a long-term solution to limp hair, because the effects tend to only last a few weeks. But if you'd like fuller and more shapely roots for a few weeks, then a root perm is a simple chemical process that can do the trick!

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  1. Comb and shampoo your hair, then follow with a protein-rich (but not heavy) conditioner after rinsing out shampoo. Rinse conditioner out after about five minutes.

  2. Carefully blot your hair dry with a towel. Do not rub or twist your hair with the towel, because this will cause unwanted friction.

  3. Put on your protective gloves, and rub a little conditioner around the crown of your head and the base of your neck, in order to protect your skin from the chemicals.

  4. Split hair into four equal sections. Tightly wrap the lower portion of each section with cling film, leaving the three or four inches (the roots) closest to the scalp exposed. This is to prevent everything but the roots from being treated.

  5. Carefully and evenly wrap each section around a perm rod, beginning at the tips and working upward.

  6. Prepare the perming lotion and neutraliser according to the package instructions, and apply evenly throughout the rods and scalp. Make sure every curl is saturated.

  7. Cover your head with the shower/processing cap and let your hair sit. The amount of time you should wait depends on the length and consistency of your hair. Your particular perm kit will have instructions for timing.

  8. Rinse hair very thoroughly with warm water and gently apply the entire neutraliser contents with your hands, as if you're putting in conditioner. Let hair sit for five to eight minutes, and thoroughly rinse with cool water.

  9. Unwrap and remove the rods and plastic, carefully towel dry your hair without rubbing.

  10. Tip

    Afterward, a leave-in conditioner in your roots will keep hair smooth.


    Root perms can potentially be damaging to hair. Frequent perming may cause breakage and hair loss. Do not comb or style your hair for 24 hours, as it will take the perm that long to fully set.

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Things You'll Need

  • Home perm kit (containing cap, rods, lotion and neutraliser)
  • Towels
  • Cling film
  • Plastic or rubber gloves
  • Sink or shower
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner

About the Author

Cam Middour has an M.F.A. in writing from Columbia University, and has worked for "The New Yorker," "Narrative Magazine," and the Poetry Society of America. Her work is forthcoming, or has appeared in "New England Review," "Western Humanities Review," "Sarah Lawrence Review" and others. She has been writing professionally for seven years.

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