You got a perm.
But it just doesn’t look right.
Maybe it didn’t come out the way you wanted it to be. Or maybe the curls are too big or too small. Either way, you’re not happy.
And that’s actually quite common – there are only a handful of times I’ve walked out of a salon truly happy with the result.
You want to get rid of your perm fast and obviously cutting your hair is not the solution you want to hear.
Whether you want to say goodbye to these curls or your perm didn’t turn out as planned – there are several ways to remove it.
Before we dive into the methods, it’s essential to understand what a perm actually is and how it works.
This will help you take the best course of action for your hair.
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What is a perm? Can it be reversed?
A Perm is an irreversible chemical treatment that permanently alters the chemical composition of your hair strands.
This is a service in which the hair is rolled on rods, and a chemical, usually ammonium thioglycolate, is applied to the rolled hair and allowed to sit for some time.
This first chemical breaks the disulfide bonds within the structure of the hair, preparing it to take its new shape. The chemical is then rinsed away thoroughly while the rods are still in because at this point the hair is very fragile and soft. A neutralizer is then applied which locks the keratin into its new shape, rinsed away, and the rods are finally removed.
This quite literally means it’s quite permanent and you can’t remove a perm or reverse it.
However, you can dull it or make it look less curly or less defined.
This means, doing a couple of tasks (in a safe manner) that loosen the curls and make them more malleable.
If you are consistent with these methods, you may even get rid of the curls altogether and end up with wavy hair. So, it’s definitely possible.
I understand your pain because I’ve often ended up with hairstyles I hate and that’s why I’m writing this post – to tell you that there is a way to salvage this situation.
So, although it may seem permanent, let’s look into some ways we can reduce the effects of the perm!
5 Ways to Get Rid of a Perm without Cutting Hair
I’m not going to suggest that you wait out your perm because although this is a method a lot of people use, it’s impractical.
You want some methods that obviously don’t involve waiting for your hair to grow and cutting it out.
So, let’s get into it.
1. Wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo within 72 hours
Now, please note that washing your hair with a clarifying shampoo doesn’t remove a perm entirely – but it is going to reduce its effects somewhat significantly.
Clarifying shampoos are designed to remove excess product build-up, dirt, and extra oils (without drying your hair or removing your natural sebum production).
But what they also do is remove any leftover chemicals from the perm.
A perm usually takes a few days to take hold. So if you wash your hair within the first 3 days with a clarifying shampoo – you’re going to undo a lot of the perm’s work.
When you apply a clarifying shampoo to your permed hair, you are going to strip away some of the chemical bonds that are responsible for creating the curls and waves.
Because clarifying shampoos have a higher pH level, it helps break down the chemical bonds and additionally contain sulfates which help open up the hair cuticle allowing the shampoo to penetrate deeply.
Please do not use it too frequently because it can strip away your hair’s natural oils.
Your hair is probably dry and brittle due to the perm treatment – you don’t want to add additional stress to your hair, otherwise, you can have more frizz and breakage.
So, please make sure that you moisturize your hair thoroughly (like doing a deep conditioning treatment) right after using a clarifying shampoo to counteract the side effects.
I only recommend 2 shampoos – the Pura D’Or Clarifying shampoo because I honestly love how gentle yet effective it is. And if you have a budget, then get the Morrocanoil Clarifying Shampoo – it’s amazing.
Now, how do you use a clarifying shampoo to remove your perm?
Step 1: Just use a nice palm-sized amount of clarifying shampoo after running warm water through your hair. Massage your hair well with the shampoo and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Step 2: I usually finish washing my body while the shampoo works in my hair and then rinse it off.
Step 3: After you’ve rinsed your hair, please condition your hair. You can use a regular conditioner or a deep conditioner if you want more moisture.
You can repeat this process every 1-2 days for the next 10 days to remove as much of the perm as possible.
Note: If you notice that your hair is drying out too much between washes, space out the hair washes so that your hair does not get damaged. Please listen to your hair.
2. Apply oil or conditioner to your hair
Again, you’ll want to do this a lot in the first 72 hours since that’s when the perm is still working in your hair.
Now, applying oil or conditioner to your hair is not going to remove the perm entirely (I’ve already mentioned this) but it is going to make it very easy to straighten because it’s going to loosen the curls.
When you apply an oil or a conditioner to your permed hair – you are softening and hydrating the hair stands – making it more pliable.
It’s like hydrating your face before makeup – it makes the makeup application smoother and easier.
Please note that because your hair will be dry and brittle right after a perm – it is going to be a serious challenge to straighten.
Straightening your permed hair is not going to work well because you could damage your hair and even the roots.
Applying an oil or a conditioner is going to restore the moisture to your hair – and make it more flexible and easy to manipulate.
So, how do we use this method?
Step 1: Saturate your hair with oil and conditioner and use a wide-toothed comb to detangle it.
Step 2: Once the hair is detangled and moisturized, you can either blow-dry your hair using a round brush or a comb attachment, or you can use a flat iron to straighten your hair further. Please use a heat protectant. This is the one I recommend.
This should help your hair look less curly overall.
Also, please note that applying too much oil or conditioner is going to make it slightly greasy and weigh it down – this is good for straightening and loosening the curls. But too much can make it look greasy and give it that wet appearance.
So, focus more on the ends of your hair where it’s the driest.
3. Get a straight perm
Now, this should be your last resort because it is very damaging but effective.
A straight perm is a chemical process that is basically like the perm but without the rods.
This process involves applying a relaxing solution to your permed hair which breaks down the chemical bonds again that hold your hair in its current shape.
Please note that this is a very strong chemical treatment and you should wait for a few months before considering this.
Only use this if you have tried everything else and you’re still not happy with how your hair looks.
Do not even consider getting a straight perm if your hair is:
- Damaged from bleach or coloring treatments
- Damaged from highlights
- Damaged from the heat of chemicals
If you do a straight perm on hair that is trying to recover and heal or hair that is very dried out and damaged, then you are going to end up with hair that is very stretchy, and weak and probably even experience hair loss.
At this point, the only resort will be to cut your hair.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you don’t damage your hair:
- Wait at least 6 months before trying to get a straight perm. Many people have tried getting a straight perm right after a perm and have seen immense hair damage and hair loss.
- Opt for a milder perm solution – it isn’t as effective but you can be certain that it won’t damage your hair – I will talk more about this in a bit.
- Talk to a professional hair stylist – I don’t recommend doing this at home unless you do proper research and make sure your hair will be able to take it. It’s safer to get it done in a good hair salon that understands your hair.
Now, let’s say you want to do this at home – let me guide you step by step.
Step 1: Choose the right type of straight perm: There are 2 types of straight perms – lye and no-lye perms. Lye perms are stronger and more damaging to your hair while no-lye perms are milder but not as effective. Please consider your hair type and the condition of your hair before choosing this. I recommend a no-lye perm like this.
Step 2: Prepare your hair. Before applying the straight perm, wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo to remove any buildup or residue. Towel dry gently and detangle your hair with your fingers – make sure that there are no knots. Apply some vaseline to your forehead and the back of your neck to make sure it doesn’t touch your skin. Wear an old tee shirt.
Step 3: Apply the straight perm: Section your hair into 4 quadrants – two in the front and two at the back. Apply the straight perm to each section starting from the roots and work your way down to the ends using your fingers to distribute the product evenly.
Step 4: Make sure that you saturate every single hair strand and avoid applying the solution to your scalp – it will cause scalp burns.
Step 5: Process your hair. Leave the perm in your hair for the recommended time according to the box. It varies based on the strength of the product. Some products need only 10 minutes whereas others require 30.
Step 6: Rinse and neutralize: After the processing time has passed, you can now remove the perm solution by rinsing your hair thoroughly with warm water. Now apply a neutralizing solution to your hair to stop the chemical reaction and restore your hair’s natural pH balance. I recommend leaving the solution in for only 5-10 minutes in your hair. Rinse it out after that.
Step 7: Condition and style: After rinsing out the neutralizing solution, apply a deep conditioner to your hair to restore moisture and prevent damage. Rinse out the conditioner, towel-dry your hair gently, and style it as required.
I am going to remind you again that a straight perm can be very damaging to your hair especially when you’ve already previously permed your hair.
So, please follow the instructions on the box very carefully when doing this, and do not leave in the solution for more than the recommended time.
More isn’t always good.
Your hair health is so much more important.
Also, continue to get your ends trimmed so that your split ends don’t ride up and damage the rest of your hair.
4. Straighten your hair
Wash and condition your hair with a clarifying shampoo as I’ve mentioned earlier.
Make sure you detangle your hair so that there are no knots.
You should always straighten clean hair. And then use a flat iron or a blow-dryer along with a round brush to straighten your hair.
Here are a few tips you can follow:
- Always work with clean hair – dirty hair with product build-up and oil won’t straighten well.
- Detangle your hair – never work with knots. If you have no knots, it’s easier to section and straighten.
- Apply a heat protectant to your hair – Please note that your hair may already be dry and brittle after getting the perm – so you don’t want further heat damage from straightening.
- Use small sections – if you aren’t happy with how your hair looks after straightening, then please read these tips to avoid stiff and flat hair when straightening. The most common mistake I see is people using large sections. You have to use very tiny sections if you want results.
- One pass is usually more than enough – drag the flat iron downward to your ends and only do a second pass if your hair isn’t as straight as you want it to be.
- Avoid too many wash days and try to wear your straight hair for as many days as you can.
5. Wash your hair
If a clarifying shampoo sounds too harsh for your hair, then wash it with a gentle, hydrating shampoo that won’t be too harsh for your hair and won’t strip your hair off moisture.
Please use this step only if your hair is dry and brittle and you’re trying to wash away the perm solution as much as possible.
Remember to rinse and follow up with a nice and hydrating conditioner.
Do this 2-3 times a week till you’ve dulled and reduce the curl pattern.
Then talk to a hairstylist and see if they can do anything for you.
Can permed hair go back to natural?
No, it doesn’t.
It’s sort of permanent. But if within 72 hours, you use a clarifying shampoo and constantly condition your hair, you can really reduce the effects of the perm.
How long does it take for a perm to go away?
Perms last for a long time since the di-sulfide bonds in the hair are broken down and the texture is changed from the very core of your hair strands.
So, they can last from 4-6 months depending on your hair texture, and the intensity of the perm you have received.
If the solution they used for perming was very strong or they left it in for long, your curls may last for long.
I hope this post helped you understand how to reduce the effects of a perm or how to get rid of a perm without cutting your hair.
As you’ve read by now, the most undoing can be done in the first 72 hours when your hair is still being worked on by the perm solution.
If you feel none of these tips are working for you because too much time has passed, then please see your hair stylist and ask them what can be done.
Based on the texture of your hair and the intensity of the curls, they may be able to suggest something better suited for you.
Here are a few more posts you may find helpful:
- Can I get braids after a perm? How long should I wait?
- Can you get braids with relaxed hair? How to prep for braids
- 9 Easy Ways to Keep Twists from Unraveling
- 5 Steps to Revive Second-Day Curls (Quickly and Easily)
- 9 Surefire Ways to Tell if Someone has a Perm (vs Real Curls)
- Thin Hair After Hair Extensions? How to Recover and Grow It Back
- Bored with Your Hair? 11 Impulsive Things to Do to Your Hair
- 21 Bold and Funky Hair Colors for Short Hair (+Photos)
- 9 Reasons Why Your Curly Hair is Becoming Wavy (+How to Fix it)
- 7 Real Reasons Why Your Hair is Getting Shorter Without Cutting It
- Why Your Hair is Stiff After Flat Ironing – 9 Mistakes to Avoid