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Can You Straighten a Perm Without Ruining It? With a Flat Iron?

A white girl with flat iron permed hair created with normal hair styling techniques looks back at the camera.

Did you get a curly perm and hate it? Or maybe you want to give the curls a break and live the straight hair life for a while. In your mind, the logical course of action may be to straighten your hair.

But is this the right thing to do? Can you straighten a perm without ruining it?

We’ll answer this question in detail in this article. By the end, you’ll know whether you can straighten a perm, the effects it may have on your hair, and much more. Let’s get right into it!

Can You Straighten a Perm?

Yes, you can straighten permed hair, but it’s not the best idea. And you definitely shouldn’t do so right after getting the perm. Straightening a fresh perm can ruin your curls, leaving them limp and lifeless.

If you want to keep your curls (and your hair, for that matter), wait until your permed curls have had a moment to recover. In most cases, that will take about a month.

A cute white lady poses after straightening permed hair and having her wavy hair return after washing her hair.

The Problems with Straightening a Perm

Several issues come along with straightening a perm, and we’ll take you through each of them in the sections below. 

Perms Put Your Hair Through the Wringer

Perms may give you the curly or wavy look you desire, but they come with a price. Perms put your hair through the wringer, damaging it in the process.

The chemicals in the perm solution break down the hair’s inner structure – making them considerably weaker and more prone to dryness, brittleness, and breakage. 

That’s why you need to give your hair some time to recover before you subject it to heat or chemicals. That way, it’ll have a fighting chance of survival.

And even then, there’s no guarantee that your hair won’t end up badly damaged.

A Caucasian female poses after getting a perm kit installed in her thick hair and shows off her beautiful curly locks.

Heat Tools Are a Danger in Themselves

When you use a heat tool on your hair – a curling iron, flat iron, or hair dryer – you’re exposing it to high temperatures. This can spell trouble even for healthy hair.

Now imagine using a heat tool on hair that’s already weak and vulnerable.

It’s a recipe for disaster! Depending on how high you crank up the heat, you could end up frying your hair cuticles and causing irreparable damage.

You Could Lose Your Curls Forever

Straightening a perm may not seem like a big deal. But even if you only do it once, it could lead to some degree of curl loss. Unless that’s what you want, you should really consider avoiding heat tools on your permed hair.

A woman that had straight permed hair is now wearing a beautiful curly hairstyle after using moisture-rich shampoo.

Your Hair Won’t Stay Straight

Even if you do manage to straighten your perm without damaging it (chances are slim), your hair will only stay straight until it gets wet. Once moisture hits your hair, the curls will come back. For many, that’ll feel like a waste of effort. 

How to Minimize Damage While Straightening a Perm

If you’re really set on straightening your hair, you can do a few things to minimize the damage. Here’s how to reduce your chances of ruining your hair:

  • Use a heat protectant. A heat protectant will help create a barrier between your hair and the heat from the flat iron. 
  • Start with lower temperatures. Turn your flat iron to the lowest temperature setting that gets your hair straight. We advise against cranking your flat iron up to the highest setting if your hair is permed. 
  • Use a ceramic flat iron. A ceramic flat iron is one of the best options for straightening hair – permed or not. They are the least likely to snag and pull your hair or get too hot. That’s exactly what you need if you’re trying to minimize damage.
  • Pay attention to the condition of your hair. If your hair is dry, brittle, or damaged, it will not stand up well to heat styling – no matter what you do. In that case, it’s probably best to give your hair a break and let it recover before you subject it to more damage. Ideally, you’ll grow your perm out entirely before putting heat on your hair.
  • Only do one pass per section.  When you’re flat ironing permed hair, only go over each section once. Going over any section multiple times will only increase the chances of burning your hair. 
A young white girl wearing curls after wearing a straightened hairstyle without experiencing hair breakage.

Is it Better to Get a Relaxer Instead?

No way should you put a relaxer over a perm. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. A relaxer is a lot stronger than perm solution, and it can cause serious damage to your hair if it’s already been through a chemical process (i.e., a perm).

Your best bet is to let your perm grow out and get a relaxer if you want bone straight strands.

Can You Unperm Hair?

There’s no such thing as “unperming” your hair, but you can loosen up your permed curls a bit. If it’s been less than 72 hours since you got your perm, you can wash your hair with a clarifying shampoo.

It will help remove some of the perm solution from your hair, resulting in looser, less-defined curls.

A happy woman after leaving a local hair salon to receive a keratin blow dry treatment.

Re-Perm Your Hair to Straighten It

If you want to permanently loosen your curls, you’ll need to get a new perm (it can be the same kind you used initially). The perm solution will again break down the disulfide bonds in your hair, but this time it will leave your strands in a straighter formation.

You’ll only get this effect, however, if you take the following steps:

  1. Wash and towel-dry your hair.
  2. Apply the perm solution to your hair and saturate each strand completely.
  3. Use a wide-tooth comb to distribute the perm solution evenly throughout your hair.
  4. The straighter your hair is while the perm solution is on your hair, the straighter your hair will end up.
  5. Set a timer for 10 minutes and gently comb your hair downwards the whole time.
  6. Use hot water to rinse the solution from your hair and then towel dry.
  7. Apply the neutralizer, let it process for the amount of time indicated on the packaging, and then rinse once more.

Your hair should be significantly straighter after this second perm. If it’s not, we recommend waiting for your hair to grow out before putting it through any more chemical processing. 

Note: We advise against doing a second perm on damaged hair. It will only further damage your strands.

A lady that's laughing after learning how to create beautiful straight hairstyles following straightening her curls.

Deep Condition

After you re-perm your hair, we strongly suggest you use a deep conditioning treatment to help replenish moisture. Choose one that has protein in it – it’ll help to rebuild your hair’s structure.

Also, if you can afford it and you have time, you should see a professional for an intense professional moisturizing treatment.

Prioritize Moisture

You will notice that your hair is drier after a second perm treatment than it was before. So, you’ll need to prioritize moisture at every turn.

You can give your hair the care it needs by applying a leave-in conditioner and deep conditioning at least once a week. And always keep an eye on your hair’s health – you may need to adjust your routine as you go.

Related Articles

To sum things up – you can straighten a perm, but we advise against it. But if you absolutely must, you can do so with the instructions we’ve given you in this article.

And if you want long-term straightness, re-perm your hair using the steps above. We hope this article was helpful to you, and we wish you the best of luck with your hair!