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Hair Perm – What is it and How does it Work

Updated on April 21, 2011

Hair Perm is not something that belongs to modern world only. It has been there for centuries; even ancient Egyptian used to wear this style. Though, their method of creating the curls was ancient too. With the advent of latest gadgets and cosmetics, the methods of creating curls have also changed drastically. One of the most common methods applied today is the "cold permanent wave," which was invented by A F Willat. However, several different modifications and diversities of this method have taken place, since its invention in 1934.

Basically, perm works by breaking down the hair-inner-structure and their reformation around a specific curler for achieving desired shape and style. It is always recommended to wash one's hair prior to application of any method. This is because washing makes the scales of cuticles to rise, which in turn facilitates the movement of lotion throughout the hair shaft. Each single strand is made of Keratin and sulfur bonds. Where Keratin is altered in its structure, sulfur bonds are broken down completely. These sulfur bonds are the links that connect all cells in a strand.

Therefore, once these bonds are broken, hair can be formed into any shape desired, using a perming rod or a curler. While curlers are in their position, some more lotion is used in definite proportion to further stabilize the new style. However, different people have varying time for the perm to set due to different textures and conditions of hair. Once the desired shape is fixed, it is made more permanent with the application of another chemical called neutralizer. Neutralizer is nothing but an oxidizing agent, responsible for closing up the broken sulfur bonds and developing the curls permanently.

One must take extra care of one's hair up till 48 hours from the time of setting of perm. This is because 48 hours is the duration under which hair is most vulnerable. After 48 hours, Keratin hardens naturally and there would be no risk afterwards.

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