It may seem like a good idea to use foam rollers with a home perm, mainly because they don't pinch your wallet and tend to be really gentle on hair. However, ladies who want to rock a perm can't use just any roller -- the roller has to work with the chemicals in the perm. In most cases, that means using foam rollers to perm your tresses at home is a no-no.
Foam rollers are problematic for perming your tresses at home because the chemicals in the perming solution have a tendency to break down the foam. The fact that the roller cannot hold its integrity through the perming process means you have way less control over the results of the perm. Considering that perming at home already needs some caution and skill, this variability isn't something you want. Not only that, but the disintegration means that you're out a roller set once the perm is done.
Foam and Perm Variability
Not all foams in rollers are exactly alike, and not all perming agents are the same, either. Subsequently, it's not possible to say that all perms will trash your foam rollers. The only real way to know whether you can use the foam rollers with the perm kit you've grabbed is to test it out. Hairfinder.com provides an easy method for testing the integrity of your foam rollers when you want to perm your hair. The site recommends saturating one roller with the perming solution and then putting the roller in a sealed plastic bag for about an hour. Once the hour is up, take it out, rinse it off and apply the neutralizer. Pop the roller in another bag for 30 minutes. If the roller shows any signs of disintegrating or being weak at any point, don't use it.
What to Use Instead
In general, your best bet for doing a perm at home is a set of hard plastic perm rods or magnetic rollers. These are especially designed to stand up to the chemical agents in perm kits. Some kits even include them. If your kit doesn't, you can get them inexpensively online or by ordering them through your favorite salon. They are available in lots of different colors, lengths and diameters, so it's not too difficult to find rods and rollers that will deliver the type of curl you want.
What to Use Foam Rollers For
Foam rollers really are not designed to work with perms, but this doesn't mean you can't use them to keep your permed tresses looking chic. Instead of using the foam rollers to do the perm, use them afterward for quick touch-ups as the perm grows out and starts to relax a little. You can wrap the sections of your hair that are a little flat and sleep on the problem for a no-heat, no-chemical curl boost.