Reverse perm to straighten hair

One of the “new” ideas to resurface nowadays is reverse perms to straighten hair. 

It sounds contrasting, honestly! But this method was already popular back in 1990, so it is nothing entirely surprising. 

With everyone’s thirst for DIY, reverse perms are now making their way to compete with known chemical straightening treatments. Yaaay!

This article gives you the basics of this straightening technique and how you can nail it at home. Read and find out!

Can I straighten my hair with a perm?

The thought of a perm to straighten your hair may sound like boiling water and expecting a cold drink as a result, but that is not the case at all! 

Perming solutions often contain ammonium thioglycolate.

The ammonium ion makes the strands more permeable, while thioglycolate reduces the disulfide bonds which hold your hair’s shape. A neutralizer, like hydrogen peroxide, comes afterward to “fix” the hair by introducing new bonds. 

So yes, you can straighten your permed hair using a perm kit

You can either ask for the service in a salon or try it with a DIY session. If the latter is your cup of tea, here’s a detailed instruction to set your goals straight!

  1. You will need gloves, a tail comb, duckbill clips for sectioning, a flat iron (preferably with ceramic-coated plates), and your perming kit. The kit may already contain a neutralizer in addition to the perming solution. But if it doesn’t, secure a neutralizer before proceeding. 
  2. Read the instructions carefully to determine if you should dampen your hair or let it stay dry for the following steps. Different brands have different requirements, and it’s always wise to get it correct the first time. 
  3. Detangle your hair first using your fingers or a brush. The next steps will be more manageable if you don’t have to struggle with knots every time.
  4. Using a tail comb, section your hair into quadrants. Start from the crown and guide your comb down to the tip of your hair. If you already have a tangle-free section, secure it with a clip. Proceed similarly to the rest of the three quadrants.
  5. Evenly apply the perm solution to one section. Start coating an inch from the scalp going downwards.  Comb through the section to distribute the perm solution thoroughly.
  6. Wait for the solution to develop. Refer to the instructions in the kit and adhere to the suggested time. 
  7. Rinse the perm solution thoroughly and carefully from your hair afterward. If there are no additional instructions on what to do with your hair, do not assume otherwise. 
  8. Pat your hair dry with a microfiber towel. Regular towels have a rougher texture and may introduce unwanted frizz. Squeezing the excess water out may also leave kinks on your hair, so be as patient as you must be. 
  9. It’s time to use your flat iron! If your perm kit instructs you to dry your wet hair with a flat iron, you should do so. On the other hand, if it requires completely dry hair, then pat your hair with a towel further. 
  10. Apply your neutralizer and let it sit on your hair for the required time. Rinse thoroughly afterward. 
  11. Air-dry your hair.
  12. Wait for at least 48-72 hours before you wet or bend your hair in some way. This allows the bonds to reset into their now-smoothed state fully. 

Et voila! Your transformation is likely successful! 

Always use hydrating conditioners and repair treatments to moisturize and strengthen your hair after the initial 48-hour wait. 

You don’t want to regret another hair makeover!

Ps. If you want to get your first straight perm professionally, you can ask for a Japanese thermal reconditioning or straightening. It’s the common name for it nowadays. 

Can I do a reverse perm on naturally curly hair?

Reverse perms don’t only lend their magic to permed hair but natural curls as well. 

If you have tight curls or wavy tresses that you want to change, getting a reverse perm will work to get the curls out of your hair. 

How can that be?

It’s because ammonium thioglycolate works to break the bonds found in natural hair. 

Curly-haired gals and guys have more of these disulfide bonds than straight-haired people. Despite that, a perming solution will work the same. 

Of course, if you have thicker and less porous hair, the solution may not work significantly compared to those with thin and porous hair. Always manage your expectations!

For naturally curly individuals, there are always other straightening options like a relaxing treatment. How does a reverse perm compare to relaxing your hair?

Reverse perm vs. relaxer

There aren't many differences in the theory of how a reverse perm or a relaxer works. 

The main difference between them is that relaxing solutions often use sodium hydroxide or lye to break your hair’s bonds. 

Lye is a highly alkaline agent with a pH of 12-14. 

To comprehend the risk, just remember this: your hair’s pH is slightly acidic (4.5-5.5). Around this pH, your cuticles shut away bacteria or fungi while keeping moisture and natural oils in. The pH balance also promotes healthy scalp cells, eventually affecting hair growth. 

In other words, chemicals like lye introduce a higher risk of breakage to your hair and possibly cause skin irritation. Meanwhile, traditional perming solutions have a pH of around 9; the acidic perming solutions range from 4.5-7.0. 

The neutralizer added after a perming solution also helps reform the bonds and gets the pH to a healthy level. On the other hand, the neutralizing shampoo applied after a relaxer only maintains pH. 

Application-wise, a newbie might not find the liquid nature of perming solutions to be the best to work with. Relaxer solutions usually come in a paste, and the quality makes it easier to coat the sections evenly. 

Best perm to straighten hair

Now that you understand the basic know-how of reverse perms, it’s time to look for the one straightening perm kit most suitable for you. 

Note that most at-home perm kits available in the market target people who want their hair curled, not straightened. However, as explained, the theory is similar. Instead of using curling rods, you need to use a flat iron to straighten your hair using a perming solution. 

Without further ado, here are a few recommendations you may want to check out in your next DIY session.

  1. Oglivie Home Perm — for a lasting and salon-quality finish. The kit also contains a conditioner to boost moisture levels. 
  2. ISO Professional Perm — offers a broader range to accommodate different hair types. The range includes those with color-treated and previously-permed hair.
  3. One ‘n Only Shiny Silver Perm for Gray Hair — this is best for those with graying hair. It also works for thick and coarse types. It’s infused with an anti-aging and anti-yellowing formula to keep your locks looking young. 

Is a reverse perm damaging?

Every chemical treatment is potentially damaging. That is one truth that you will never get away with. 

Perming solutions will destroy the protein bonds which maintain your hair’s structural integrity, elasticity, and shape using chemicals and heat. 

That’s how it can restructure your hair. If done incorrectly, it may lead to an alteration of your curl pattern or irreversible damage. 

If you already have frizzy hair before the reverse perm, you’d end up with the same frizzy hair afterward. 

That is to say, if your hair is already weak from undergoing chemical treatments, you are likely to add stress to your hair or end up with the same fragile hair. The former is most probable. 

Bear in mind, too, that overprocessing your hair may also lead to hair loss. 

If you are not confident in your skills, it’s wise to consult a professional and get their opinion. 

Can you reverse a straight perm?

A straight perm is like any chemical treatment which breaks protein bonds to remold your hair. It means that it is not reversible. 

In fact, “perm” is short for permanent. A straight perm at home or salon likely lasts for  3-6 months. After that, your hair transitions to your original hair. 

That news may sound less than ideal, especially if you don’t like the “growing out” phase, but it is the safest and healthiest way to “reverse” your straightened hair. 

If you rush to curl your hair immediately, you may suffer a weakening of your strands. Chemical treatments may leave your hair gummy. 

It’s better to wait and get mini-trims as your hair grows out rather than jumping to another chemical treatment. If you don’t like how your straight perm turned out, you can find ways to style your hair so it is not noticeable. 

Whether you like how your straight perm turns out or not, the most likely way you can try again is to keep your locks as healthy as possible. 

Follow the instructions carefully before proceeding and maintaining aftercare religiously. You got this!

Last Updated: July 30, 2022

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