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Picking the best perming solution is all about the right ingredients. A perm involves loads of chemicals, and choosing the wrong solution can leave you with dry, brittle hair or even a burned scalp. You want a process with a base step that's both gentle and effective. Before you choose a solution, it's best to know your hair type and whether you have sensitive skin. These two factors are key in figuring out which base is best for you.
The Base Step
Getting a perm is a pretty simple, straightforward process. After your hair is washed, your stylist wraps it around perming rods and applies both a waving lotion and a base. The base breaks down the disulfide bonds in your hair, making the strands soften and swell. This allows the hair to mold into the shape of the perming rod. Your stylist then washes out the base solution and applies a neutralizer to permanently set the curl.
An alkaline perm base is best for ladies with normal or coarse hair. It has an average pH of 9.5, although you can find alkaline solutions that aren't as strong. The higher the pH, the more damaging to your hair. Often an alkaline perm includes a conditioning agent to counteract its harshness. Regardless, this type of solution is bad news for colored, damaged or delicate locks and sensitive skin. Alkaline perms are easy to identify. Just look for ammonium thioglycollate in the list of ingredients.
An acid perm is known as the gentler alternative to the traditional alkaline solution. This base has a pH of 6 or 7 and is made primarily of a chemical called glycerol monothioglycollate. A lower pH makes acid perms suitable for hair that is dry, porous, colored, over styled or just plain delicate. Because an acid perm isn't as strong as its alkaline sister, your stylist must apply heat activators to help it penetrate the cortex of the hair and break the disulfide bonds. If you're using an acid perm at home, know that once you mix the base with the heat activators, you need to use it right away and throw out any leftover solution.
Keep your perm in great condition with the right hair care regimen Use shampoos and conditioners geared toward permed hair. Alternate weekly between a protein and a moisturizing treatment to keep your curls soft and manageable. Minimize damage to your already delicate locks by cutting down on heat styling. If you do decide to blow-dry or flat iron your hair, apply a heat protecting serum or conditioner beforehand.