Do perms cause hair loss?

Perms can give you bouncy and lustrous curls. But the hair treatment may damage your tresses. Perms may cause hair loss too.

Many women are born with curly or wavy hair. Others, naturally have straight hair. Whether it is for a special occasion or just to change the look, women like to style their hair using chemicals or heat. A lot of women go for perms, which work by using chemicals to create curls or waves. Perms are a great way to change the hair texture, but there are also concerns surrounding this popular hair treatment. You may wonder if it can damage your tresses and affect the volume of your hair. Read on to know if perms can cause hair loss and what are its other side effects.

What are perms?

Perms, short for permanent waves, are chemical treatments that alter the structure of the hair to create curls or waves. This is achieved by breaking and reforming the disulfide bonds in the hair shaft, explains dermatologist Dr Sonali Kohli. Even though the term permanent is used for this treatment, perms typically last three to six months.

Worried woman at a salon
Perms have harsh chemicals. Image courtesy: Freepik

How do perms cause hair loss?

Hair perms threaten the health of the hair shaft and scalp, according to a research published in the Frontiers in Medicine in 2023.

1. Harsh chemicals

Hair loss from a perm can occur due to the harsh chemicals used in the process, which can weaken the hair shaft and lead to hair breakage. Perms involve the use of chemicals that can contribute to various types of hair loss. The chemicals commonly used in perms include ammonium thioglycolate, ammonium hydroxide, and hydrogen peroxide, shares the expert. These chemicals are harsh on the hair because they work by breaking and reforming the disulfide bonds in the hair’s protein structure, which can weaken the hair over time. Despite their harsh nature, these chemicals are used in perms because they help to alter the hair’s natural texture and create the desired curls or waves. The chemical process involved in perms can lead to damage if not done correctly or if the hair is already weakened.

2. Excessive heat

Excessive heat during the perming process can damage the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. Excessive heat can cause the hair to become brittle, dry, and more prone to breakage. If you are getting a perm, use heat within the safe temperature range specified by the product instructions, and avoid overexposure to heat styling tools.

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Is the hair loss due to perms permanent?

In most cases, hair loss from a perm is not permanent. With proper care and treatment, the hair can regrow and regain its strength over time. Post-chemical treatments, the hair loss is usually due to breakages in mid shaft, as cuticle is weakened. In some rare cases, the absorption of chemicals can lead to scalp dermatitis and hair loss.

What can be done to prevent hair loss from perms?

To prevent hair loss from a perm, it is essential to choose a reputable salon with experienced stylists who use quality products. Also, maintaining a healthy hair care routine, including regular conditioning and avoiding excessive heat styling can help prevent damage, suggests Dr Kohli.

Woman with curly hair
Go for deep conditioning after getting a perm. Image courtesy: Freepik

1. Use sulfate-free hair care products

After getting a perm, it is crucial to use sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners to maintain the health of the hair. This way your hair will get cleansed and your hair’s natural oils will remain intact.

2. Go for deep conditioning

Deep conditioning can be highly beneficial for women who have undergone perms or have experienced heat damage. Deep conditioning treatments help to restore moisture, strengthen the hair shaft, and improve overall hair health, says the expert. Regular deep conditioning can help to mitigate the effects of chemical treatments and heat styling, promoting healthier and more resilient hair.

If you want to get a perm again, wait for at least 8 to 12 weeks between the process. This will allow your hair to recover from the chemical treatment and minimise damage.