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12 Common Symptoms of Hair Damage During Perming and Their Causes

Updated on August 28, 2018
Sherry H profile image

Sherry Haynes loves to research about hairstyling techniques. She dreams to try every hairstyle she ever learns about.

Permanent hair waving aka perming is a chemical/mechanical treatment that modifies hair protein to give a curly shape that can be retained for about 3 to 6 months.

During the perm waving process, the hair is wound on rods then treated with a reducing agent, typically thioglycolate, followed by an oxidising agent, hydrogen peroxide.

The first reduction step reduces the cysteine inside the hair by breaking the S-S bridge of the cysteine molecule. This weakens the hair fiber, helping it conform to its new shape. The oxidation step then locks the new conformation of the hair proteins by rejoining the S-S bridge.


Using perming products is a little complex. A good experience and care is needed during and after the application to ensure the perming gives you desirable results and as well for the personal safety.

Going to salon for getting the perms done is good for you if you have never done it before or are not sure about your hair type and the instructions are not clear to you.

But, if you are like been there, done that or are very sure about these styling things go by it. Here, is a little idea for you to identify what might have gone wrong previously or what to avoid doing to make sure you do it right.

The cosmetic products are very safe. This can be confirmed by the statistics of adverse reactions from cosmetic products sold between 1976 and 2004, which revealed only 1.1 undesired effects per million product packages sold.

However, even though a perm product has been approved as safe by legal authorities, rare hair or skin damages can occur from improper use of the products or incorrect application. For example, by applying a home wave without reading or understanding instructions, or using new and probably untrained and unskillful hairdressers at the salons.

Symptoms of Hair/Skin Damage During Perm Treatment and Their Possible Causes

1. Lack or excess of curliness.


  • Wrong choice of product.
  • Excessive development time and temperature.
  • Incomplete rinsing of active perm solution or shampoo.

2. Hair breakage near root.


  • Perm choice too strong for fine or pre-damaged (may be due to previous bleaching or tinting) hair.
  • Tight winding or rubber bands can produce stress on the hair root.
  • Winding against the direction of hair growth.

3. Breakage in hair length.


  • Winding on curlers with fish hooks.
  • Incomplete neutralization.

4. Damage near tip ends.


  • Pre-treatment with an equalizer (conditioner) was not done.
  • Wrap end papers were not used during processing.
  • Excess perm solution was stored in the hair tips.

5. Unwanted kinky curls.


  • Waving power of the perm product was too high.
  • Curler thickness too thin.
  • Processing time with heat too long.

6. Curls without springiness.


  • Loose winding.
  • Impaired protein creep.
  • Time set incorrectly.
  • Application levels too low.


7. Wet hair feels plastified, spongy and extensible.


  • Over processing due to extended application.
  • Neutralization too short.
  • Loss of keratin elasticity.
  • Increased hydrophilicity.

8. After drying hair feels rough, ready to break.


  • Rinsing before applying neutralizer very short.
  • Loss of hair lipids and proteins.
  • Increased hair surface friction by shrunken cuticle cells.

9. Highlighted natural colour or tint.


  • Dissolution of natural pigment.
  • Excess perm conditions.

10. Redness


  • Too much heat heat rollers/hood defect.

11. Pustules


  • Skin swelling during extensive pre-wash.

12. Irritant skin


  • Soaked cotton pads for face protection not removed.


  • Applying beach immediately after perming may chip off the cuticle as a whole.
  • Trying to repair the unexpected result by repeating the perming process is not encouraged as multiple treatments, as well as combination of perming and bleaching or colouring in the same session leads to heavily damaged hair.

Disclaimer: This article is purely informative and educational. It is not a substitute for medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with a certified medical/healthcare practitioner.


  1. Draelos ZD, editor. Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures. Oxford: John Wiley and Sons; 2010. pp. 126–127.

© 2018 Sherry Haynes


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