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When it comes to black hair, the word "perm" can mean many different things. Unlike relaxers -- which are sometimes referred to as perms -- a body perm adds waves to already relaxed locks or loosens tight curls to make them more manageable. It's a chemical process that can potentially damage your hair. That said, finding the best body perm depends on your hair type as well as its history.
Body Perm 101
Before you decide to get a body perm, it's best to know what exactly you're doing to your hair. A perm is a chemical process that breaks down your hair's disulfide bonds, allowing you to change the shape of the hair strand. For a body perm, the hair is wrapped around large rollers to give your hair lovely, loose waves. Post-wrapping, the perming solution is applied. Once it is done working, it's washed off. A neutralizer is then applied to re-make your hair in the shape of the curlers. Once the neutralizer has done it's job, it's washed out and the curlers are removed.
Best Hair Types
Body wave perms work best on straight hair that isn't prone to dryness and is in need of volume and movement. Perms are also safer on hair that isn't colored or over-styled. Gals with relaxed hair looking for a curly boost should skip the body perm until their hair grows out to avoid further damaging their locks or even causing hair loss. Those with curly hair that tends to be dry and frizzy may want to avoid a body perm, as it will only dry your hair out more. Instead of an all-over body perm, this hair type may want to consider a spot body wave to loosen the curliest areas.
Home Perm vs Salon
There are so many ways a perm could go wrong. You don't want to end up with a head full of damaged hair. Unless you happen to be a licensed professional, the best body perm is one that's done at a salon by a stylist who is familiar with black hair. She'll know exactly how to roll the rods, how long to leave the perming solution in, when it's time for the neutralizer and how to match the pH of the perming solution to your hair type.
The Best Maintenance
Permed hair can't be treated the same way as natural locks. Leave your perm alone for the first two days; this means no washing or styling. After those first two days, permed hair needs to be washed with perm-friendly products. As chemically treated hair tends to be drier, use shampoo and conditioner that adds a boost of moisture. Post-washing, wrap a towel loosely to get the excess water out of your hair. Don't rub rub it dry. Apply styling products to wet hair and use a diffuser when you blow it dry.