After Perm Rules: How to take care of a perm

By: | Last Updated: July 26, 2021

Getting a perm is only the first step to fabulous curls; learning how to make them last is the next.

Familiarizing yourself with aftercare is important because it can help you determine whether or not a perm is for you.

It may seem overwhelming to learn all about how to maintain permed hair at first, but this guide will show you that a head-full of curls isn’t impossible to handle!

What should you not do after a perm? 

There’s a long list of things to avoid when you get a perm, but your hair is most sensitive immediately after the treatment.

I suggest following this list very closely to start your perm journey with the least damage possible.

  1. Do not wash your hair for two to three days or risk deactivating your perm.
  2. Do not undergo any other chemical treatments for at least two weeks.
  3. Avoid combing your hair for the first few days, even if it’s just to get rid of tangles. 
  4. Avoid putting your hair in a ponytail, braid, or bun after the treatment.

Your hair is extremely fragile after getting a perm, so it’s best to let it take a breather first.

That said, it’d be best to avoid dyeing your hair before getting a perm, too, so that your strands can withstand the harsh chemicals they’ll be exposed to during the perm.

Though you will have washed the waving and neutralizing solutions off your hair after the treatment, their effects may still linger in the next few days.

Tying your hair could leave dents or restructure some sections permanently, so it’d be best to let your curls loose for a while.

Washing, drying, and combing permed hair

Permed hair can last about three to six months, but this doesn’t happen on its own. Long-lasting curls are a result of proper washing, drying, and combing. 

So, how often should you wash permed hair?

Shampoo commercials have led us to think that washing and shampooing every day is the way to go, but practicing this as advertised can cause dry hair.

Wash permed hair once a week to keep it healthy and shiny. It’s advisable to use lukewarm or cool water because hot water can strip your hair of essential oils.

For quick showers, you can skip the shampoo and stick to water washes. If you feel the need to shampoo in between schedules, though, you can opt for dry shampoo.

Don’t forget to condition regularly, too. This restores moisture lost due to the harshness of some products or any other chemical treatments you might have undergone.

If you want to comb your hair, do it with the conditioner to avoid tugging on your locks. If you’d rather not have to wash your comb, you can do so after rinsing.

Use a wide-toothed comb so that your curls don’t split into frizzy little locks. If you don’t have one, feel free to use your fingers. Avoid brushing altogether because this could further damage your curls.

To dry your hair, you can scrunch your curls gently in a towel to impart natural bounce or simply pat them dry.

You can also use a blow dryer to quicken the process. Just use the lowest setting possible because high temperatures can ruin your perm.

If you have the time, though, allow your curls to air-dry. It’s the most stress-free method for you and your hair.

CHECK OUT: Things To Do Consider Before Getting a Digital Perm

Styling permed hair

If you’ve had some experience with curls before, then you might already have a clue or two about how to style permed hair without damaging it.

The key is treating it like you would a natural head of curls.

Before touching any styling tools, hydrate your hair first with a mousse or a mask to prep and protect it.

Perms look great by themselves and don’t need much work, but if you decide to shake things up and take the look further, it may be best to steer clear from tools that use high heat.

If you really must, though, invest in a reliable heat protectant and a blow-dry primer.


If you’re not the type to get up in the morning to do some styling, simply get regular trims. Nothing beats the effortless look a haircut can give you. The glow can last days too, and you don’t even have to lift a finger.

For short hair, you can try getting an undercut or a mohawk for an edgy look.

If this feels like it’s too big a leap, try this instead. Gather your curls over your head and hold them in place with some wax or gel for a fauxhawk.

You can also get a bob and experiment with different partitions. Side-parted lobs, for example, look chic because they frame your face without hanging down your neck. 

For longer hair, update your look with shaggy or stacked layers. Achieve that casual, beachy look with little to no effort!

Braiding and plaiting

Braids look neat and interesting and require only loose hair ties and bobby pins.

There are endless styles to experiment with for all lengths of hair, so you can use them to either accentuate or tame your mane. Crowns and headbands are common favorites because they look great with loose up-dos and half up-dos.

Tight braids such as cornrows and micro-braids, however, might not be the best choices.

The condition of your hair after a perm may already be compromised, so it’s best to avoid tight and intricate styles that could further stress your follicles.


Silk scarves and thick fabric headbands are your best friends.

Some days, you might feel like putting your hair up in a bunch or keeping it away from your face. This is perfectly fine as long as you avoid elastic bands.

Tight bands put a lot of tension on your hair and can cause strands to break. Silk and smooth fabrics, on the other hand, lessen friction and allow your strands to relax.

Heat Styling and Dyeing

Normally, I’d advise against heat styling after getting a perm.

However, I can’t deny being able to retouch or rejuvenate your curls using heat.

When using a blow dryer, keep it a good distance from your hair or attach a diffuser. When using other tools, lower the temperature setting and use heat sparingly. Also, apply mousse and heat protectants before you do. 

If you must dye your hair, extend the time in between touch-ups.

Wash your hair less frequently to retain your hair’s natural oils. Complement this practice by applying olive oil and almond oil to rehydrate and strengthen your hair’s cuticles as well.

Finally, avoid bleaching as much as you can. This process makes your strands brittle and susceptible to breakage. 

Buying the right products

The EssentialsIngredients to Avoid:
1. Curling mousse
2. Conditioners and hair masks
3. Defining cream
4. Serum
1. Alcohol
2. Sulfates
3. Parabens
4. Silicone

Making your perm last shouldn’t be our only objective. We should also keep it healthy and looking shiny!

With the right products, this’ll be quite easy to achieve.

Keeping your hair nourished will require locking in the moisture.

A curling mousse and conditioner will do just the trick and control frizz and static simultaneously.

To add volume and definition, you can use a curl-defining cream.

Finally, for smoother and shinier curls, use a serum. 

These four items are essential for maintaining a healthy perm.

However, we must scrutinize the products that we buy, too, as some ingredients can do more harm than good.

Products that contain too much alcohol, for example, can dry your hair out.

Parabens and sulfates, too, are often found in shampoos as they act as preservatives and foaming agents, respectively. While these ingredients help keep your hair clean, they remove natural oils in the process and may even cause hair loss.

To keep this from happening, I suggest buying products that contain natural ingredients instead.

Aloe vera, shea butter, vegetable oils, and leaf extracts contain antioxidants and have moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties that help maintain your curls.

If stores near you only offer commercial products, opt for those that contain glycerin instead. This humectant seals in moisture and helps keep your perms healthy.

Avoid silicone as this may weigh your curls down and make them look limp and drab.

Want to DIY your perm? Check out our Ultimate Guide To Perm Rods!


Can I get my hair wet after a perm?

You shouldn’t wash or wet your hair at all for two to three days after a perm.

This could deactivate the process and ruin your curls.

Instead, allow your strands to fully re-stabilize and fall into their new wave patterns first. Only wash and wet them after.

Can I sleep on my newly permed hair?

Sure you can! It might help to sleep on a silk pillow to avoid friction.

If your curls ever fall flat after a night’s sleep, simply scrunch them back to life and give them natural bounce.

Use light styling products to refresh the style if you feel the need to. Just don’t wet or wash your hair.

For a more in-depth guide, check out our article on “How to sleep with permed hair”.

How long after a perm can you put your hair up?

Keep your hair loose and free for the first 48 to 72 hours.

Tying your hair or putting it up could mess with the structure of your perm, so it’s best to leave it for the first few days and before you wash it.

How do you maintain permed hair?

This is a loaded question.

We’d have to discuss lots of things, such as proper washing and styling methods as well as what products to buy.

The gist of the discussion, though, is to treat permed hair like you would a natural head of curls—that is, to moisturize, moisturize, and moisturize.

Also, protect your hair from heat and harsh treatments, as perms may have already compromised the state of your strands.

Still, it’s better to learn about the nitty-gritty details and responsibilities of aftercare to maintain a healthy perm.

Leave a Comment