How does a perm affect my hair?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A permanent wave or "perm" uses chemicals to make your normally straight hair curly or wavy. In one type of perm, the hair is put into curlers and a chemical is applied. This chemical breaks the bonds, known as disulfide bonds, that hold together hair's keratin, the protein that makes up hair. The hair is now free to take on the shape of the curl. Another chemical called a neutralizer (sometimes this is hydrogen peroxide) is added to reverse the effects of the first chemical so that the curls stay put.

Perms can be harsh on hair. If you have a perm too often, you risk making your hair especially dry and brittle, which is why dermatologists recommend having hair services such as a perm on a limited basis.

Applying a permanent wave, or "perm ", or straightening one's hair is a chemical process. The chemicals used for this sort of process can be divided into three general groups, but the majority of products are of the thioglycolate variety. The basic method of action of these chemicals consists of breaking the disulfide bonds within the hair fiber, restyling the hair while the bonds are absent, and allowing the bonds to reform after the hair has been restyled. Potential problems with using these chemical treatments include a spectrum of damage to the hair, skin irritation and allergies, and even chemical burns. Obviously, care should be taken when chemical hair treatments are being utilized.

Hair Curlers

Continue Learning about Hair & Beauty

5 Steps to Safer Body Hair Grooming
5 Steps to Safer Body Hair Grooming
In War for Planet of the Apes, Andy Serkis (the ape Ceaser) and Woody Harrelson (the Colonel) sport virtually the same coiffure. It seems both Ceaser ...
Read More
Should I wash my hair every day?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
You should wash your hair as often as your hair type and personal activities require. For exampl...
More Answers
What is the best type of styling product to use on my hair?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
Today's styling products are available in a variety of preparations from an array of manufacturers. ...
More Answers
How to Make Your Own All-Natural Hair Mask
How to Make Your Own All-Natural Hair Mask

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.