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When Can I Wash My Hair After a Perm? What Happens if You Wash It Too Early?

A cute white lady wearing a red shirt with curly permed hair curled with perm rods.

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?

At the very least, you’ll want to 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.

Pretty woman with chemically treated hair that's been curled with rollers.

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 permed hair.

The Perm Stops Working

You may think after you’ve left the salon or finished your DIY perm treatment at home that the 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 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 curls.

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

Severe Frizz

Washing a fresh perm will unleash 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 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.

A lady with freshly permed hair allow her curls to air dry after washing her hair with warm water.

Wear a Shower Cap 

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

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 cold shower is another way to limit steam accumulation.

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. Like roller sets, they work best with moisturizers and can be repeated multiple times 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

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

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.

Related Articles

Washing your hair immediately after a perm is sure to be a significant setback. But you can tend to your curls right at home using the techniques outlined in this article until you’re able to visit a professional stylist for another perm.

We hope this article addressed your concerns about washing your hair after a perm, and we wish you the best with your new curls!