How to Perm Hair at Home by Yourself

By: | Last Updated: October 19, 2023

Home perms were made to answer the question, “How can I permanently perm my hair at home?” There are many formulas available today, and they each cater to different hair types, budgets, and needs. 

The only thing between you and getting permanent curls now is learning how to use a perm kit. Lucky for you, we’re here to help you out every step of the way. Read on to get started!

What is the best home perm?

Fine and fragile hair types are more sensitive to chemical treatments, requiring gentler perming formulas or those with an acidic active ingredient.

Coarse and virgin hair, on the other hand, require relatively stronger chemicals to achieve a perm. Alkaline perm lotions will do the trick and can also penetrate the tough cuticle layers of gray hair.

No single brand or home perm kit will work for all hair types, so I can’t just crown one and call it the best. Instead, check out our list of Best At Home Perm Kits to help you find the best home perm for you.

Things to anticipate when using a home perm kit

1. Damage caused by waving lotions and neutralizing solutions

Waving lotions can be either alkaline or acidic. They work by softening the bonds that dictate your hair pattern, so you must choose them based on your hair type. If you don’t, the waving lotion might not be effective or could be too strong for your hair.

They also come with a compatible neutralizer to balance out the pH of your newly treated hair. Once applied, this solution locks in the new pattern and gives you permanent waves or curls.

Like other chemical treatments, using a perm kit can potentially weaken or damage your hair. After all, you will be using and applying a copious amount of these lotions.

But you don’t have to panic — know that the damage isn’t irreparable. Just make sure that you follow the instructions of your perm kit to a T. Don’t leave the chemicals on for too long and don’t use more than specified.

Invest in aftercare, too, so that your curls stay healthy. A little bit of essential oil and moisturizing treatments can go a long way and will rejuvenate your treated hair.

2. Varied styles and results

Getting a perm at home will give you lots of savings, but the risk of experimenting and running a little wild with a perm kit is there.

No matter how many tutorials we watch, we might not get the same results as the model on our perm kit’s box. Still, there is a way to minimize disastrous results — that is to practice.

No rule states that we can’t use perm rods with just water. If you aren’t too sure about your hair wrapping or twisting skills just yet, I suggest picking those rods up and practice.

Once you’re satisfied with the way your hair curls, you can use the contents of your kit and get permanent curls.

READ NEXT: Perm Rods vs Flexi Rods

3. Perm commitment jitters

If it wasn’t already obvious, the word “perm” is short for permanent. This means that your head of curls will stay there, but only until the day you cut them off. 

Don’t let perm commitment jitters discourage you! In some cases, weak perms last less than a year. The treatment doesn’t affect your roots either, so you’re free to pull off a new look once your hair grows back.

Getting a perm is only the first step to great hair, though.

Developing an after-perm haircare routine is part of the commitment too. Make sure you can stick to one so that your perm looks and stays healthy. We wouldn’t want your curls to look drab and dull just a few weeks after getting them.

How to perm your hair at home

If you’re still reading this, congratulations!

I’m assuming you haven’t let the pre-perm anticipation get to you. This is the only hurdle left now that you know kits don’t cost as much and don’t come with a learning curve.

Though there are many perm kits to choose from, they have nearly the same application instructions. To get you started, I’ve listed down the items you’ll need as well as a step-by-step guide on how to use them.

What you need

  • Perm kit (perm lotion/waving solution and neutralizer)
  • Gloves
  • Drip guard
  • Perm rods
  • Perm papers
  • Clips and hair ties
  • Bath towel or body cape
  • Microfiber towel or old t-shirt

CHECK OUT: The Ultimate Guide to Perm Rods

How to perm hair step by step

1. Prepare your hair.

First, wash your hair to remove excess oils and dirt. Don’t use a conditioner because the perm solution might not set properly.

Brush or comb through your hair after, but don’t dry it completely. Pat it with an old t-shirt or a microfiber towel, and keep it damp.

2. Section your hair.

Create three partitions — right, left, and the middle. You can make three separate buns so that it’s easier to work on them while sectioning and rolling.

Choose a partition to start with. Take a small section of hair and sandwich its end in between perm paper. Get a perm rod and wrap your hair around it, beginning at the wrapped end until you reach your roots. Repeat this until all locks within a partition have been sandwiched in perm paper and rolled over a rod. 

3. Prepare the perm solution.

Some perm lotions need to be activated by mixing two solutions together. But others can be used straight from the box. Simply follow the mixing ratios and the instructions that come with it. Remember to put on gloves and a body cape or towel over yourself before doing so.

4. Apply the perm solution.

Puncture a hole into the tip of the pointed bottle cap. Apply the solution onto each rod using small, repeated circular motions. Go through each rod. Be careful not to miss any so that the perm solution is applied evenly.

Once you finish applying the waving lotion, you can unravel a lock every few minutes to see if ringlets have started to form. If they haven’t, roll the lock back up.

Remember not to leave the solution on for too long. When your lock forms a loose curl, rinse your hair. Do not take the rods off yet.

Simply lean over your sink or your shower and run water through each rod. Rinse for at least three minutes and let your hair dry with the rods still in them. You can use a blow dryer to speed up the process.

5. Apply the neutralizer

Punch a hole into the bottle cap and apply the neutralizer with the same circular motion. Wait the time specified in the instructions and rinse it off for three minutes afterward.

6. Dry hair and remove rods

Wait for your hair to dry one last time, and remove the rods to reveal your curls. You can use a blow dryer too, but be careful not to use excessively high heat. Your hair is already very fragile at this point, so be as gentle as you can.

Refrain from combing or styling your hair for a week, and wait 48 to 72 hours before washing it again. Wrap your curls in a silk scarf when you sleep to keep them fresh and bouncy in the morning.

How to perm your hair at home without chemicals

Perming your hair without chemicals is possible. However, the curls will only last for a couple of days. You’re going to have to repeat this process regularly if you’d like to maintain the look. 

While this method avoids chemicals, it may inflict tension on your roots due to repeated hair winding or rolling. So, I suggest you use it sparingly too.

  1. Wash your hair. Use shampoo only. Pat your hair with a microfiber towel, but keep it damp. Apply curling cream after.
  2. Section your hair. You can opt to use perm paper on the ends, but it’s not required. Roll your locks around your chosen perm rods.
  3. Keep the rods on until your hair dries. Once it does, take the rods off to reveal your curls.
  4. Toss your curls and use a finishing spray. Do not wash or comb through your curls to make them last as long as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions about Perming Hair at Home:

1. Can I perm hair by myself?

Yes, you definitely can! While it sounds fun to gather your friends for an afternoon of experimenting with perm kits, it isn’t totally necessary. You don’t need a team of people to use one.

Perm kits are very easy to mix and apply. Perhaps the trickiest part of the process is wrapping your hair around perm rods. But this is nothing you can’t learn or do on your own. 

2. How long will it take to perm my hair at home?

It could take about two to three hours, depending on how long your hair is. It could take a lot of time for your hair to dry, so you can use a blow dryer to speed up the process.

3. What do I need to perm my hair at home?

To perm your hair at home, you’ll need a perm kit, gloves, a plastic cap, hair clips, a timer, and neutralizing solution. Ensure you have all the necessary products before starting the process.

4. Can I perm my hair if it’s already chemically treated or colored?

Perming chemically treated or colored hair can be risky. It’s best to consult a professional stylist, as the combination of chemicals can damage your hair. They can assess your hair’s condition and provide expert advice.

5. How long does a perm typically last?

The longevity of a perm varies based on your hair type, care routine, and the perm’s tightness. On average, a perm can last anywhere from two to six months. Regular maintenance and proper care can extend its lifespan.

6. Can I use a specific type of perm for my hair type?

Yes, different types of perms are suitable for various hair types and desired curl styles. Consult the perm kit’s instructions and select one that matches your hair’s needs, whether you have straight, wavy, or curly hair.

7. Is it essential to perform a strand test before perming my entire hair?

Yes, conducting a strand test is crucial before perming your entire head. It helps you determine the optimal processing time and ensures the perm will yield the desired results without excessive damage.

8. Can I perm my hair if it’s damaged or fragile?

Perming damaged or fragile hair can worsen its condition. It’s recommended to focus on hair repair and strengthening treatments before attempting a perm. Consult with a hairstylist for guidance on improving hair health.

9. How do I maintain permed hair at home?

Maintaining permed hair involves using sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners, minimizing heat styling, and applying leave-in conditioners to keep curls hydrated. Regular trims help remove split ends, keeping your perm looking fresh.

10. Can I undo a perm if I’m not satisfied with the results?

Reversing a perm is challenging, and it may require professional assistance. You can try using a straightening treatment or growing out your hair to gradually remove the perm.

11. What should I do if I encounter issues or have questions while perming my hair at home?

If you encounter problems or have questions during the home perm process, stop and consult the perm kit’s instructions or reach out to the manufacturer’s customer support. If needed, seek guidance from a professional stylist to avoid potential damage.


Thanks to the advent of home perms, perming hair has now become accessible and convenient.

While there is a risk of over-processing our hair without the help and supervision of professionals, I wouldn’t pass up the chance of doing it for half the price and in the comfort of my own home.

These kits are safe to use, as long as you choose one that’s compatible with your hair type and follow the instructions closely. Home perm kits are definitely a game-changer, so throw your excuses out the window and get a perm now!

2 thoughts on “How to Perm Hair at Home by Yourself”

  1. This was perfect ! I want the chemical perm .. but I think I’ll try the water perm first. I have long natural gray hair only wash my hair once a week ( I’m 74 )… so the curls should last. I’ll sleep on silk pillow case too. Thanks !


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