Fancy getting a perm? Well, don’t let pandemic lockdowns or exorbitant salon costs stop you! DIY perm kits exist for a reason.
You no longer need to ask, “Can I perm my own hair at home?” because using a DIY perm kit is super safe and easy.
Now, you can give yourself and your friends gorgeous permanent curls all in a day’s work and in the safe confines of your room.
With many kits available today, getting a perm has become convenient and possible for all sorts of hair types. Read on to learn more about the factors you need to consider when getting one and finally find the best home perm kit for you!
Perm kits are very accessible these days, but that doesn’t mean you should settle for the first one that you see.
Factor in hair length, solution compatibility, and included accessories into your decision too. You shouldn’t hurry, just because you’re excited. Take the time to choose the perfect kit so that you end up with healthy, long-lasting curls.
It’s easy to learn how to perm short hair at home because you will need fewer materials to start with. On the other hand, long hair will require bigger rods, more wraps, and a larger volume of lotion and neutralizer.
DIY perm kits come in different sizes. Make sure you purchase a kit that can give your hair full perm coverage, lest you end up with only half a head of curls. So, don’t mistake getting a home perm kit for short hair if your length falls below your shoulders.
If you still don’t know which perm rods to buy, you can head to our Ultimate Guide to help you decide.
A waving lotion makes it possible to change the structure of your hair. It softens the bonds that dictate your natural hair pattern to allow them to shift and assume the shape of your chosen perm rods.
Using perm solutions can be tricky. They come in either acidic or alkaline pH levels, so you’ll have to consider their active ingredient and your hair type when buying one.
The most common ingredient in perm solutions is alkaline ammonium thioglycolate. It needs no heat to be activated, so alkaline waves are dubbed “cold waves”.
This alkaline ingredient is quite strong, though, as it has a pH level of 9.0 to 9.6. Perms achieved with this chemical last longer than most. However, cold perms can be damaging if not used on relatively stronger hair types.
If a waving lotion contains glyceryl monothioglycolate, it is an acidic solution. It requires heat to activate, but it is less damaging. This is because its pH range of 4.5 to 7.0 is closer to that of natural hair, which stands at about 5.0.
If you’ve never dyed, bleached, or performed other chemical treatments on your hair before, you can try getting a cold perm.
Perm chemicals can temporarily strip your hair of its natural oils, making your strands more fragile and brittle. So, if you’ll be using relatively strong chemicals like ammonium thioglycolate, make sure you’re working with coarse or process-resistant hair.
Acidic solutions are gentler than their alkaline counterparts. This makes them perfect for fine, fragile, or processed hair. They might not give you as firm a curl as an alkaline lotion would, but they can help you achieve beautiful relaxed waves or looser curls if you’d like.
A perm solution allows your natural locks to shape-shift into gorgeous new curls; a neutralizing solution ensures they stay that way.
A neutralizer usually contains hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate, or sodium bromate. They can range from a pH level of 2.5 to 7, depending on the waving lotion they’re paired with.
Perm kits won’t provide you with a neutralizer that isn’t compatible with your chosen waving solution. However, it’s good to know what they’re made of so that you can avoid them if you have any known chemical allergies.
If you’ve never attempted perming your hair at home before, you might have to buy the tools and accessories needed first. Some of them may already be available at home, but they could be a bit of a hassle to look for and prepare.
A basic perm kit consists of a perm-waving lotion, a neutralizing solution, and some wrapping papers. However, you will also need combs, clips, drip guards, some more wraps, gloves, and a timer.
You can always shop for these items individually, but I suggest purchasing a kit that includes most, if not all, of these items to save some time. It won’t hurt to have a few spares, too, if you already own some of them.
CHECK OUT: The Ultimate Guide to Perm Rods
Are at-home perms safe?
Yes, definitely! It’s just that results can and may vary. So, it’s best to test the kit’s solutions on a lock first instead of dousing your hair right away.
If you get no scalp irritations, then you’re headed in the right direction. Feel free to use the kit’s contents once you’ve confirmed that they’re compatible with your hair, but always remember to follow the instructions. Deviating from them could lead to hair damage.
Perms and chemically-treated hair don’t usually go well together, but Ogilvie has created a home perm kit that’s great for dyed, fine, or delicate hair.
The Original Home Perm curling lotion contains ammonium thioglycolate. Still, the B4 Pre-Perm Conditioner and the leave-in conditioner included in the kit help avoid dryness and frizz while creating curls that last.
The B4 Pre-Perm Conditioner has sunflower oil, gingko biloba leaf extracts, and rosemary, while the leave-in conditioner contains aloe leaf juice, ylang-ylang, and bergamot oil. Together, these ingredients aid in combating the negative effects of perming lotions.
While this kit doesn’t include rods, it has all the other essentials: gloves, endpapers, and drip guards. Just remember to test the formula on a lock of hair first.
Ogilvie has included conditioners in their kit, but its alkaline perming lotions are still quite strong and should be tested before use.
|- Popular, reliable formula|
- Includes conditioners for pre and post-perming process
- Comes with accessories
|- Not recommended for bleached hair|
Zotos offers a damage-free perming kit appropriate for all hair types by using an acidic formula. This kit is unique because it allows you to wrap your locks with water, lotion, or both to achieve your desired curls.
Because this is an acidic formula, it imparts a lovely wave that gives your hair extra body to enhance your look completely.
The waving solution is formulated with Equalizer 3 conditioner to soften the effects of chemical penetration, while the neutralizer is infused with argan oil to improve curl nourishment and shine.
While the Quantum Extra Body kit is an acidic formula, Zotos has made it strong enough to penetrate gray hair as well. So, feel free to try it out for graying or tinted hair too!
|- Gentle formula for all hair types|
- Infused with argan oil and Equalizer 3 conditioner
|- Does not produce tight ringlets|
Gray hair is often resistant to perm solutions because it has a tougher cuticle to penetrate than normal hair. That said, to perm gray hair, you will need a formula strong enough to impart a wave but still gentle enough to avoid breakage.
One ‘n Only Shiny Silver Perm is perfect because it’s an exothermic alkaline solution that contains argan oil. It’s strong enough to penetrate gray hair but maintains moisture and nourishment with the help of argan oil and essential vitamins.
Its “self-timing” formula also halts the perm process to avoid over-processing your hair. There’s no need to worry about yellowing strands either because One ‘n Only has perfected an anti-yellowing formula that enhances the natural silver glow of gray hair.
While this formula was made with gray hair in mind, you can use it for normal or coarse hair too. Perhaps the only downside is that the kit does not come with cotton and papers for roll-ups.
|- Contains Argan oil for moisture|
- Has an anti-yellowing formula
- Can also be used for coarse, untreated hair
|- Does not come with accessories|
This next kit from Ogilvie uses a relatively weaker alkaline perming solution that’s effective for all types of unprocessed hair.
It needs heat to be activated, but the warm perming process isn’t a deal-breaker and can give you gorgeous, long-lasting waves.
For hard to perm strands, like fine Asian hair, you may have to keep the solution on for a bit longer to see results. Test it first so that you don’t accidentally leave it on for too long and over-process your hair.
Unlike the Original Home Perm Kit, this kit doesn’t come with conditioners. It only contains the heat activator, waving lotion, and neutralizer together with the drip guard and endpapers.
It’s a very straightforward kit. It’s easy to use and one I’d suggest for first-timers experimenting on home perm kits with rods.
|- Gentle but long-lasting formula|
- Great for unprocessed and normal hair
|- Doesn’t come with conditioners|
- Has an unpleasant smell
Like Ogilvie’s Precisely Right Perm, this Zotos kit also features an exothermic alkaline solution.
Feels So Lively is a bit stronger than Precisely Right, so it is best used on coarse, wiry, or gray hair. It creates well-defined curls but maintains the natural shine and texture of hair despite chemical potency.
This formula needs heat to be activated but does not need heat to dry after. Using Feel So Lively is a hassle-free process and a great choice for ultra-firm hair types.
|- Good for coarse, wiry, and gray hair|
- Ideal for both long, heavy styles and firm, springy looks
|- Can make fine hair frizzy|
- Has strong smell
Most kits cost from $8 to $20. Even if you have to buy clips, rods, wraps, and drip guards separately, buying a kit would be much cheaper than getting a perm in a salon. You just have to be careful when using one so that you can avoid unnecessary hair damage.
There isn’t a single brand or kit that all professionals use and suggest unanimously.
Alkaline perm solutions are most common, though they can be quite strong. Acidic perm solutions are gentler but don’t give as tight a curl as alkaline lotions do.
I suggest learning about the factors you have to consider when buying perm kits first. Decide on a perm solution on your own — not because professionals often use it, but because it’s best for you.
You can! Just make sure the rollers you use are non-metallic and non-porous. This ensures that the waving lotion and neutralizer don’t react or seep into your chosen curling tools.
While you can use hair rollers, the best tool to use for perming hair are perm rods. Avoid using flexi rods for perms as the perming solution can interact with the soft foam rollers.
Can I give myself a perm at home? Don’t let the question linger unanswered.
You definitely can! And for much less than you ever would in a salon.
There are many perm kits available today — just make sure that you choose a kit based on your hair length and hair type. And be sure to invest in good aftercare hair products to make your perm last longer.
Achieving a full head of gorgeous, healthy curls doesn’t have to stay a dream. So, free up your weekend and go get a perm kit now!