Everything You Need to Know: Are Perms Bad for Your Hair?

You may have noticed by the resurgence of beach waves and curly hair styles just about everywhere, that the perm is back. And while the technology behind hair perms has greatly improved over the years, they can still affect your hair health. But are perms bad for your hair? We’re telling you everything you need to know about perms ahead, including the best styling tips, hair hacks and products for your permed hair.

Understanding Perms

So how does the perm process work and what does a perm do to your hair? A perm, short for permanent wave, is a thermal or chemical service that alters the natural structure of the hair. While perms are considered a permanent hair treatment, the new pattern created actually lasts anywhere from a few months to a year. The actual duration of the perm depends on your hair type. Perms allow people to wear their hair very curly or subtly wavy, without daily heat styling. A perm can also be used to add volume and texture to thin, flat, pin-straight hair. 

Types of Perms

Different types of perms offer different results, and there’s a perm for every style you desire. This is a breakdown of some of the most common types of perms.

Traditional Perms

Traditional perms are known for their classic, tightly curled appearance. The process involves using small rods to create uniform, springy curls throughout the hair. These curls tend to be more defined and compact, resulting in a bold and dramatic effect. 

Body Wave Perms

This type of perm produces soft, loose waves that resemble beachy, tousled hair. Body wave perms create a more casual and effortless look, offering volume and texture without the tightness of traditional curls. 

Spot Perms

Spot perms are designed to target specific sections of the hair, adding volume and texture where desired. This type of perm is versatile, allowing you to create a custom look by perming only certain areas, such as the crown or layers. 

Digital Perms

Digital perms bring a modern twist to the world of textured hair. Unlike traditional perms, which involve uniform curling rod sizes, digital perms use digitally controlled rods to create a more natural and irregular curl pattern. This technique aims to replicate the look of naturally wavy hair, offering a harmonious blend of curls and waves that appear less structured.

Permed hair Davines curls

Cold Perms

Cold perms, also known as acid perms, are often considered gentler on the hair compared to traditional heat-based methods. The process uses a milder acidic solution, which is less damaging to the hair's structure.

Spiral Perms

Spiral perms produce elongated, corkscrew-like curls that run from the roots to the ends of the hair. This type of perm is known for its striking and eye-catching appearance, adding a dynamic element to your hairstyle. 

Pros of Perms

When done correctly and by a professional, with your specific hair type in mind, perms are relatively safe for the health of your hair. But those with damaged, dry, chemically processed, and colored hair should proceed with caution when considering a perm. Otherwise, perms are a hairstyling hack for a range of benefits for your hair. From changing hair's texture to styling and adding volume and body, these are the pros of permed hair.

Styling Versatility

One of the biggest advantages of perms is the inherent versatility they bring to your hairstyling routine. Once you get a perm, your hair's texture takes on a different shape for lots of different styles without the need for daily styling tools. 

Time Efficiency

For those with naturally straight hair, perms offer a time-saving advantage with a streamlined morning routine. Just wake up, run your fingers through your curls or waves, tame flyaways and go!

Volume and Body

Perms can be a game-changer if you have fine or limp hair. By adding curls or waves, perms create the illusion of increased volume and body. This added dimension gives your hair a fuller appearance, making it easier to achieve hairstyles that require volume and movement. 

Long-Lasting Results

Compared to using heat styling tools, perms offer long-lasting results that endure beyond a single day. While individual hair growth and maintenance play a role in the duration of the perm's effects.

Low-Maintenance Styling

After a perm, your hair is naturally predisposed to hold its new shape, which means less daily maintenance for you. You'll find that your curls or waves stay in place with minimal effort, reducing the need for constant touch-ups throughout the day.

Cons of Perms

While perms have the power to transform your hair, there are some potential drawbacks to the process, even if your hair is in good condition to start. So do perms damage hair? The answer is, it depends. More specifically, it depends on your hair texture and what you've done to it in the past. That’s why it’s important to consult a professional before committing to a textured transformation. These are some of the cons to perms you should consider.

Damage Potential

The chemicals used in the perm solution, combined with the mechanical manipulation of the hair during the process, can weaken the hair's structure. This makes the hair more susceptible to breakage, split ends, and overall brittleness, particularly if the perm is not executed correctly or if the hair is already compromised. 

Davines hair care products bathroom

Dryness and Frizz

The chemicals used in perms can strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness and increased frizz. Without proper hydration and care, the hair can become more difficult to manage, losing its natural shine and suppleness. 

Permanent Change

While the term "permanent wave" suggests a lasting transformation, it's important to note that the effects of a perm are not truly permanent. As your hair grows, the new texture will gradually move away from the roots, resulting in a noticeable contrast between the treated and untreated sections. 


Perms require specific aftercare to maintain their appearance and health. This might involve using gentle shampoos, avoiding excessive heat styling, and incorporating deep conditioning treatments into your routine.

Allergic Reactions and Sensitivities

Some individuals may be sensitive or allergic to the chemicals used in perm solutions. Allergic reactions can lead to scalp irritation, redness, itching, or even more severe symptoms. It's essential to undergo a patch test before getting a perm to check for any adverse reactions.

Factors Influencing Hair Post-Perm

A perm changes the chemical composition of your hair cuticle, which means you need to be careful if you decide to get one. Your hair’s health afterward should be a top priority. From the experience of your stylist to your individual hair type, keep these hair tips in mind for healthy hair post-perm.

Go to An Experienced Professional

A perm is a chemical treatment that should always be done by an experienced professional. Attempting a DIY perm at home can seriously damage your hair and potentially result in chemical burns.

Consider Your Hair Type

Different hair types react to perms differently, impacting the potential for damage. Most perms work best on healthy hair, but you can perm most hair types as long as the hair is not compromised too much from bleaching and previous chemical treatments.

Aftercare is Important

Your hair health after getting a perm is a priority. Once the service is completed, avoid wetting or washing your hair for at least 48 hours. Your aftercare routine should include a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, as well as a hair mask and bond building treatment. To maintain your style and to keep your permed hair healthy, avoid using heat and sleep with a satin pillowcase. Limit straightening your hair afterward as well, as this will cause the hair to straighten over time. 

Are Perms Bad for Your Hair?

The perm is back, officially. And it’s the perfect hair hack for adding not only curls and waves, but body, texture and movement. Not to mention, an easier day to day styling routine. But while the technology behind hair perms has improved over the years, the chemical process can still affect your hair’s health. So the bottom line, do perms damage your hair? If you’re ready to get a perm, book an appointment with one of our hairstylists to consider your hair type, maintenance, and desired results. Keep our styling tips, hair hacks and product picks in your routine and use only the highest quality hair products on your permed hair, like the ones from Davines. All our formulas are free of harmful toxins, use many natural ingredients, and are made with renewable energy and packaging that minimizes the environmental impact. Our hair care isn’t just good for your hair, it’s good for the planet.

By Jaclyn LaBadia, featured contributor

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