Why Won't My Hair Take a Perm?

There are a few reasons why your bone straight hair won't hold a perm.

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There are few things more frustrating than sitting through the stinky, dripping perm process only to have no damned curls to show for it in the end. Seriously, what the heck's up with that, anyway? If your last perm let you down, don't give up: Several reasons could explain why your hair refused to play nice and curl.


Sometimes a culprit such as medications will play perm blocker and prevent curls from forming. Medications, especially heart-related drugs, can cause the outer cuticle layer of your hair to become super compact and closed. This prevents the perm solution from opening up the cuticle, breaking the bonds of your hair, and forming curls. If you're on any type of medication, let your hairstylist know. She can perform a test curl or two to see if the perm will take before she perms your whole head to no avail.


Hormones are strange creatures. They can make us fall for the wrong guy, scream bloody murder at Mr. Right or weep at sappy commercials. They can also interfere with how well a perm takes in our hair when we're pregnant. While you can still get your hair permed successfully when pregnant, there's a good chance that those pesky hormones will change the time it takes for your hair to successfully take a perm. So, if you have an inattentive hairstylist, she may just assume your hair is good to go in 15 or 20 minutes, when it's actually going to take 25 minutes to get the job done. If you're not already showing, tell your stylist you're pregnant so she can take those crazy hormones into consideration.

Coarse Hair

If you ended up with lackluster or nonexistent curls, the culprit could be something as simple as the wrong kind of perm. Perms come in two general types -- acid and alkaline. Acid perms are for the normal to fragile types of hair that would otherwise be melted into goo by a stronger perm type. Alkaline is the heavy hitter used to perm stubborn, coarse or gray hair. If you used an acid perm and your hair is either coarse, hard to curl or gray, that's probably why it didn't take.


So you got a perm, but you've seen bendy straws with more wave in them. Well, it is possible to perm over a failed perm, but you're going to have to be careful or you'll trade straight hair for fried hair. If you're hair is dry, give it a deep conditioning treatment once a week for two or three weeks to get some moisture back in there. When it comes time to perm, do a patch test with two or three rods to see how long it'll take for your hair to take the curl. Check those rods every five minutes until you get the curl you want. Rise and neutralize the rods, then make sure to slather those already-curled sections with hair conditioner when perming the rest of your hair, so they don't get a double dose of perm solution -- and fry.

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