Perms and chemical straightening

A permanent wave, commonly called a perms or “permanent”. Involves the use of heat and/or chemicals to break and reform the cross-linking bonds of the hair structure.

Make curly hair: The hair is washed and wrapped on a form and waving lotion or ‘reagent’ is applied. This solution reacts chemically softening the inner structure of the hair by breaking some of the cross links within and between the protein chains of the hair. The hair swells, stretches and softens, then molds around the shape of the form.

To make straight hair: In addition, the process is often used for the chemical hair straightening, or relaxing. This process makes use of the same chemical reactions as that of the permanent wave. But the hair is combed straight rather than wrapped around forms.

How Perm Works:

Hair should be washed prior to perming as this causes the scales on the cuticles to rise gently, allowing the perming lotin to enter the hair shaft more quickly.

The perming lotion alters the keratin and breaks down the sulphur bonds that link the fibre-like cells together in the inner layers of each hair. When these fibres have become loose, they can be formed into a new shape when the hair is stretched over a curler or perming rod.

Once the curlers or rods are in place, more lotion is applied and the perm is left to develop to fix the new shape. The development time varies according to the condition and texture of the hair.

When the development is complete, the changed links in the hair are reformed into their new shape by the application of a second chemical known as the neutralizer. The neutralizer contains an ozidizing agent that is effectively responsible for closing up the broken links and producing the wave or curl – permanently.

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The type of curl that is produced depends on a number of factors. The size of the curler is perhaps the most important as this determines the size of the curl. Generally speaking the smaller the curler the smaller and therefore tighter the curl, whereas medium to large curlers tend to give a much looser effect.

The strength of lotion can also make a difference, as can the texture and type of hair. Hair in good condition takes a perm much better than hair in poor condition. And fine hair curls more easily than coarse hair.

After a perm it takes 48 hours for the keratin in the hair to harden naturally. At this time the hair is vulnerable to damage and must be treated with care.

Perming is such a delicate, and potentially hazardous operation that the majority of women prefer to leave it in the hands of experienced professional hairdressers.

Salon Perms

Professional hairdressers can offer a number of different types of perm that are not available for home use:

• Acid Perms: These produce highly conditioned, flexible curls. Ideally suited to hair that is fine, sensitive, fragile, damaged or tinted. They have a mildly acidic action that minimizes the risk of hair damage.
• Alkaline Perms: These give strong, firm curl results on normal and resistant hair.
• Exothermic Perms: For bouncy, resilient curls, “exothermic” refers to the gentle heat that is produced by the chemical reaction that occurs when the lotion is mixed. The heat allows the lotion to penetrate the hair cuticle, which will have the effect of conditioning and strengthening the hair from inside as the lotion moulds the hair into its new shape.

Chemical Straightening

Your hair is made of keratin, a strong protein, which contains sulfides. When sulfides bond together, they form a disulfide bond that creates a kink or curl in your hair structure. The curliness of your hair depends on how many of these bonds you have.
Chemical relaxers break your hair’s disulfide bonds and reset your ‘kinks’ permanently into a straighter alignment.

Chemical straightening or relaxing treatments work in the same way as a reverse perm. However, instead of using the solution to curl straight hair, it’s used to permanently straighten curly hair.

Hair relaxers are available in two types: lye and no-lye.
Chemical straightening is potentially more damaging than perming. He solution is put on at scalp level, the hair is gradually pulled straight with a special comb and when sufficiently straight is ‘fixed’ in this shape.

It’s most commonly performed on black/Afro-Caribbean hair, and here some of the worst cases of hair breakage occur unless great care is taken.

See also: “Best haircut according to the shape of your face

Straightening is done more often than perming, approximately every 6 to 8 weeks. So the risk of overlapping previous processing is considerable.
Chemical relaxers can cause terrible damage to your hair and scalp if applied in the wrong way. You should always have chemical straightening done by an experienced technician who can carefully monitor the process.

Caring For Relaxed Hair

Chemical straightening leaves your hair more vulnerable to damage and breakage. So it is essential to have consistent and regular intensive conditioning treatments to restore moisture to the hair. Try to deep-condition your hair twice a week for 2 weeks prior to relaxing, and then once a week thereafter.

Keratin Hair Treatments

Keratin hair treatments are the latest in taming frizzy hair. None of the companies which supply keratin hair treatments claim that it ‘straightens’, but it does ‘smooth’ the hair. They are effective for all people who wish to tame frizz and curls.
It’s important to realise that smooth hair always appears to be in better condition, than frizzy hair as it reflects light better and therefore produces more shine. The only reason why your hair might gradually improve its condition is that you are using other damaging styling aids less, such as hair straighteners.

While the application of keratin itself isn’t detrimental to your hair. It’s the heat that needs to be applied afterwards that can be damaging. Keratin treatments do not work without the application of ceramic irons at a minimum temperature of 230˚C (450˚F).

In the long term, this can degrade and break your hair. And there is not yet enough evidence of further potential long-term effects.