When Can I Wash My Hair After a Perm? Bust Permed Hair Myths

A cute white lady wearing a red shirt with curly permed hair curled with perm rods to alter her natural texture.

You just got your hair permed, and you’re planning on washing it. Although this seems like a routine thing to do, you should always think twice before washing your freshly permed hair.

Experts have come up with defined guidelines for how long you should wait to wash your hair after a perm, and sticking to this guidance is in your curls’ best interest. In this article, we will reveal when you can wash your newly permed tresses, why you should wait, and more.

When Can I Wash My Hair After a Perm?

Wait at least 48 hours before washing your hair after getting a perm. But if you can manage, you should wait 72 hours for the best results. Professional stylists have determined this time frame to be essential for the preservation of your new curls.

Key Takeaways

  • Post-Perm Washing: You should wait 48 hours before washing your hair following a new perm. Although, waiting 72 hours is preferred.
  • Why You Shouldn’t Wash Your Hair Too Soon: Washing your hair too soon interrupts the perm’s setting process. Interrupting the chemical treatment can lead to uneven curls.
  • Showering Tips: Use a shower cap to prevent your hair from getting wet. The shower cap will also mitigate moisture absorption. Opt for lukewarm water or cool showers. Avoid steamy showers with hot water during the waiting period.
  • Fixing a Premature Wash: Temporary fixes like roller sets, flexi rods, or curling wands can bring life back to your curls.
  • General Care: When you wash your hair, use a sulfate-free shampoo and moisturizing leave-in conditioner.

Keep reading to learn more about how to keep your curly hair healthy following a perm treatment.

Pretty woman with chemically treated hair that's been curled with rollers to maintain her weakly formed curls.

What Happens When You Wash Permed Hair Too Soon?

When you wash your hair too soon after getting a perm, several things can happen that are detrimental to the longevity of your new texture. This section will discuss how premature washing can affect your newly permed hair.

The Perm Solution Stops Working

You may think after you’ve left the salon or finished your DIY perm treatment at home that the perming process is over after the chemicals are out of your hair. But the perm continues to work hours after it is washed out.

And as harmless as water may seem, it disrupts the last stage in the hair perming process. To understand how water interferes with your perm, you need to know how the chemical process affects your hair.

When a perm is applied to your hair, the active chemicals break down the main protein surrounding hair strands, called keratin.

This protein forms the overall structure of individual hair strands and gives them their texture. Moreover, while the hair is attached to the curling tools, the keratin is free to adjust to the new curl pattern, resulting in waves and perfect curls.

After the perm chemicals are washed out, at least 2 to 3 days are needed for your strands’ new structure and hair texture to solidify.

Unfortunately, when water is applied to the hair before the new structure of the hair strands is formed, the effects of the perm are neutralized. And the work that you or your stylist has done goes down the drain.

The result? Your hair strands will begin to revert to their original texture. The result is uneven, loose, lackluster curls.

A woman with freshly permed hair gently curled with perm rods and dried with a hair dryer.

Post-Perm Hair Is Severely Frizz

Washing a fresh perm can cause the most intense frizz you’ll ever see. This is because of the delicate state of your hair after a perm. Because of this, we don’t recommend getting your hair wet immediately after getting a perm treatment.

The protective layers of your hair strands, namely the cuticles, are literally rebuilding themselves after a perm. Because the cuticle layers need time to repair, any moisture will cause them to go haywire. 

Since the cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair, its health will determine whether your hair appears neat and smooth or damaged and frizzy.

With that being said, a perm inevitably damages the cuticle layer of the hair shaft due to the harsh chemicals, causing hair strands to swell. Furthermore, water exacerbates the damage to the cuticle layer, making hair strands split and stick up, giving hair a frizzy, untidy appearance.

Can I Shower Immediately After a Perm?

Although washing is off-limits in the first few days after your perm, showering is a much lower-risk activity. However, you still need to take extra care to protect your hair during showers. In this section, you will learn how to shower carefully to preserve your perm.

How to Shower Without Ruining Your Perm

You don’t have to sacrifice good hygiene for your perm. Use the tips below to keep your perm intact (i.e., avoid wet hair) while enjoying a good shower.

Wear a
Shower Cap
Use a vinyl or plastic cap to seal out moisture. Ensure all of your hair fits under the cap.
Avoid Steamy ShowersOpt for shorter, lukewarm to cold showers to minimize heat and steam, especially within the first 48 hours.
A lady with freshly permed hair allow her curls to air dry after washing her hair with warm water.

Wear a Shower Cap to Avoid Getting Your Permed Hair Wet

Wearing a cap while showering is the best line of defense against a failed perm. A shower cap will seal out most of the moisture that would usually seep into your hair strands. Use the tips below to get the most protection from your shower cap.

  • Use a Vinyl or Plastic Cap – Shower caps made with these materials work best to seal out moisture during showering. Vinyl and plastic repel water, which is necessary when exposing yourself to water after a perm. Cloth or silk caps may work in a pinch, but these materials may soak up water, which will seep into your hair, deactivating the perm.
  • Ensure All Hair Fits Under Cap – Since perms increase the volume of your hair, you may have to reevaluate the size of your normal shower cap. Wearing a cap that is too small could cause hair to sneak out during showering and ruin your perm. So, it is paramount that you choose the right cap size and make sure your hair stays under it while you shower.

Avoid Steamy Showers Within the First 48 Hours

A Cute white girl with naturally straight hair that's been permed with a chemical treatment.

Everyone loves a hot, steamy shower now and then. But a scalding hot shower may not be the best option if you have a perm. The combination of heat and moisture can instantly zap your curls or waves that you worked so hard to attain. 

If you prefer hotter showers, try to make them as short as possible to keep the heat and steam to a minimum. In addition, you can leave your bathroom door open to allow any heat to escape. Opting for a lukewarm to a cold shower is another way to limit steam accumulation.

How to Wash Your Hair After a Perm

How to Wash Hair After a Perm : Hair Styling & Care

What to Do About a Ruined Perm After Washing Hair Too Soon

If you’ve jumped the gun and washed your hair before allowing the proper time for it to set, don’t panic. There are simple techniques you can use to revive your curls.

Roller Sets (No Heat)

A heat-free roller set can redefine your curls within the first three days of your perm. All you need to complete a roller set is a light moisturizing cream and your desired rollers. This method may need to be repeated every so often to maintain the curl pattern. 

Flexi Rods (No Heat)

Flexi rods can curl your hair just as easily as roller sets, and they are soft to protect your hair from damage (e.g., hair breakage, split ends, etc.). Like roller sets, they work best with moisturizers and can be repeated multiple times a week to bring curls back to life.

Adult female leaving her hair stylist with color treated hair and permanent wave pattern after a new hairdo.

Curling Wand

A curling wand (see example) is a great way to curl your hair instantly. But this technique can further relax your curls in the long run.

But if you have an emergency and desperately need your curls back for a day, you can wand curl your hair. Just be sure to use heat sparingly with a perm to avoid irreparable damage to your hair.

Note: These methods are designed to temporarily maintain your curls until it is safe to re-perm your hair. They will not permanently alter your curls. Also, be sure to wait at least 72 hours before trying any heat-free techniques and at least 2 weeks for heat styling.

Other Permed Hair Care Tips

Build your curly hair care routine using this step-by-step guide - moisturizing shampoo, leave-in conditioner, and heat-styling

Other than minimizing washing, you should try not to over-manipulate your hair during the first few days after your perm. When detangling your hair, do not use a comb or brush. Instead, use your fingers to gently separate the curls.

Additionally, when the time comes for you to wash your hair for the first time, use moisturizing products that won’t leave buildup on your hair. Doing so will aid in rebuilding the structure of your hair strands. For example, wash your hair with a shampoo that’s moisturizing and use a good leave-in conditioner.

Be Careful If You Blow Dry Your Hair After a Perm

Blow drying permed hair isn’t strictly off-limits, but taking precautions is vital. The heat from blow drying can exacerbate hair fragility, leading to dry hair and split ends.

If the urge to blow dry your curls is compelling, ensuring your hair is protected is essential. Utilize a high-quality leave-in conditioner and a heat protectant after shampooing to mitigate heat damage.

Caucasian female with a wavy hair type wearing a red dress a subtle smile on her face.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Soon Can You Get Your Hair Wet After a Perm?

You should wait at least 48 hours after getting a perm before you get your hair wet. Waiting allows the chemicals in the perm to shape and solidify your curl pattern.

Do I Have to Wait 72 Hours to Wash My Hair After a Perm?

Waiting at least 48 hours is needed, but 72 hours is preferred before washing your hair post-perm. Waiting 48-72 hours is recommended for optimal results in preserving the curls.

What Should You Not Do After a Perm?

Post-perm, avoid washing your hair within the initial 48-72 hours. Steer clear of steamy showers, which might straighten your curl pattern. Also, don’t manipulate your hair. Also, when detangling, refrain from using combs or brushes. Instead, opt for gentle finger detangling. When you wash your hair after a perm, use moisturizing products that don’t leave a residue. You also want products that help repair and maintain the hair’s structure.

How Do You Relax a Frizzy Perm?

To relax a frizzy perm, apply conditioner to your hair and comb it straight with a wide-tooth comb. Next, wrap your hair in a cellophane bag. Leave the conditioner on and keep it wrapped for up to 30 minutes. Afterward, rinse your curls, and they’ll appear more relaxed after drying.

What Is Hair Perming?

Hair perming involves using a chemical solution containing ammonium thioglycolate to break and reform disulfide bonds in your hair, changing its texture from straight to curly. The process begins when you wash your hair with shampoo, preparing it for the perming solution. It’s crucial not to wash your hair within 48 hours post-perming to allow the bonds to settle. Conditioner is essential post-perm to restore moisture and make styling easier. Although it might be tempting to blow dry your hair, allowing it to air dry helps maintain the integrity of the curls, ensuring your hair will embody the perfect style you desire.

Related Articles

Properly caring for your perm is essential to preserve your curls and avoid a premature return to straight hair. Avoid washing your hair immediately post-perm; instead, opt for dry shampoo to extend the life of your curls.

Every hair type is different – adapt your hair care routine accordingly, minimizing the use of flat irons and blow dryers to maintain curl integrity. Consider utilizing a wide-toothed comb for gentle styling.

Embrace these tips for vibrant, long-lasting curls. We hope this article addressed your concerns about washing your hair after a perm, and we wish you the best with your new curls!

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