Perming hair is a personal choice, and if you don’t want a perm (also called a relaxer), don’t get it. But for those who do, here is a complete guide on how to perm African-American hair from home.
A complete perm is usually done on hair that hasn’t previously been permed. A touch-up perm is to straighten the edges of black hair closest to the scalp that may have curled up or waved up since a previous perm. Do not perm hair more than every six weeks. The Chicago Black Hair and Health Examiner recommends waiting at least two months before perming hair again. Even with Chicago’s humid summer and 90-plus degree weather next week, that’s still no excuse to perm hair too much. Perming hair too often and perming hair after coloring hair are the two most common reasons why African-American hair falls out after perming. Click here for more information on selecting a hair relaxer.
Perm activator or perm with activator already mixed in
Conditioner (perm conditioner along with your own conditioner)
Parting comb (make sure it has a thin parting stick on one end and a brush on the other, refer to main photo)
Hand-held hair dryer or seated hair dryer, and hair drying products (ex. leave-in spray, hair oil)
Step One: Spread Vaseline along the outer edges of your hair and all over your ears. Spread Vaseline on the back of your neck. This prevents skin burns should a drop of the perm splash onto your bare skin.
Step Two: Mix the activator with the perm using the mixing stick that comes in the kit. If you bought the perm alone without a wooden stick, use the parting end of your comb will work.
Step Three: Use a pre-conditioner, Vaseline or other moisturizer and part your hair in small sections to protect your scalp from a perm burn.
Step Four: Part your hair into four sections, one part straight down the middle and one part from left to right. When you’re done, your hair should look like you’re in the middle of giving yourself four equal ponytails.
Step Five: Put your gloves on. Part a small section of your hair with the stick end of the comb.
Step Six: Using the brush end of your comb, dip the brush into the perm container and spread the perm evenly on the hair closest to your scalp.
Step Seven: Repeat steps five and sex until your entire scalp has perm. (Side note: Some people choose to perm the outside edges of their hair first, specifically the back edges of hair called the “kitchen,” because this is the area that’s most likely to curl up when your hair requires a fresh perm.)
Step Eight: For a touch-up perm, it’s not mandatory to perm the edges of your hair. When the perm is being washed out with neutralizing shampoo, enough of it will touch the tips of your hair to straighten that area out. However, you are welcome to use the remainder of the perm on the tips to straighten the tips more.
Step Nine: Do not leave perm on longer than necessary. Once you’ve permed all areas of your hair, wash it out. Leaving perm on too long is a quick way to end up with dried-up perm on your hair or to be left with perm burns. The product is strong enough as is. Don’t sit there inhaling and exhaling waiting for hair to get “a little straighter.” Chris Rock’s film “Good Hair” is a good example of what happens to hair that’s had relaxer on it for entirely too long. That’s not the perm’s fault. That’s the fault of the person who permed the person’s hair.
Step Ten: Wash the perm out. Use neutralizing shampoo two or three times to wash out excess perm.
Step Eleven: Use your own shampoo for extra cleaning, specifically if your hair commonly has dandruff. Make sure to use anti-dandruff shampoo.
Step Twelve: Apply conditioner. The conditioner that comes in the kit is okay, but it’s highly suggested to use that conditioner as a rinse conditioner. Use your regular conditioner for a longer period of time.
Step Thirteen: Leave conditioner on for the instructed time. It’s strongly suggested to use a leave-in conditioner or a moisturizing conditioner meant to be used under a hair dryer or a shower cap for at least an hour.
Step Fourteen: Wash conditioner out. Use leave-in spray if desired. Dry hair or let your hair air dry.
Step Fifteen: For especially dry hair, you may want to use a hair lotion or hair oil to regain the moisture that has been sucked out by the hair dryer.
Step Sixteen: Style as desired.