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Hairstyling/PERM FAILURE


QUESTION: I style ladies hair in nursing homes and assisted living. I have been using naturelle Omniperm brand  for years with no problems. Lately the ladies have been saying that the perms don't last as long as they used to. (It isn't just a matter of the ladies age since I have never had a problem with this product regardless of the age of my clients.)

Yesterday I gave a perm to a lady with extremely soft fine hair. After the perm, her hair had even less body than before.

Can you suggest what is going wrong and what to do about it? I especially need help with the lady whose perm completely failed. Is there anything to do now that will give her hair the  body she wants?


Jo Anne

PS I attempted to contact the manufacturer ( but my emails kept bouncing back

ANSWER: Joanne,
  First of all, I can't imagine that you are suddenly doing something wrong that you were doing correctly all this time. My first thought is a change in medication, which can have a profound effect on how perms take or hold. A few things that I will suggest however. Stat with a clarifying or chelating shampoo before the perm.  This will prepare the hair for perking. Chelating is better, since it does more than clarifying. Rinse super well. I realize this is difficult with older clientele, since it is not comfortable. But it is the biggest cause of perm failure. Give a waiting period after rinsing,before you apply the neutralizer. At least 10-15 minutes, preferably about the same time as processing took. Blot with paper towels every 5 minutes during this time. I won't go into a whole chemistry lesson here, but basically it allows the broken bonds to start rejoining, giving a jump on neutralizing. Before applying the neutralizer, take a test curl, just like you would when processing. If it looks weak, wait 5 more minutes, blotting again and then check again. (If it still looks weak, you can still save it by removing rods and replacing them with a smaller size, then applying the neutralizer. This is extra work, but in a pinch can save a perm going  wrong.)
 Another factor is the perm itself. One perm won't work for everyone. I looked up your perm and here's some insight. It's an acid wave, so may not be strong enough for all heads of hair you're doing. Now,some insight exoteric perming. When you mix the perm with the additive it heats up. To achieve optimum results, it has to reach a peak heat of 105-110 degrees Farenheit. Since the additive raises the temp by 30-35 degrees, the perm has to be about 70 degrees or so before the additive goes in. If the perm in not, it will only reach 90 or 95, not enough for optimum processing. If the perm feels cool to the touch, place it in a bowl of hot or warm water while wrapping the perm. Don't add the additive until you are absolutely ready to apply. Exoteric perms reach peak heat and begin cooling down in 4 minutes. If you add the additive too soon, it will already be cooling down before you apply it. Apply quickly and get it bagged before it reaches peak heat. Also, covering with a towel will keep the heat in. I hope this helps.
Best of luck to you.
Stephe (Hairman)

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the help. You have given me a whole lot of info in a short space and I will give some thought to how best to apply it to my clients. I have been scimping on the time allowed for some of the process, since it's hard for my clients to sit still for a couple of hours at a time. I will review and see how I can spend a little more time without causing them too much discofort.

Now for the hard part: how to help my client whose perm completely failed - hair was softer and limper than when we started. She wants a "do over" - new perm 3 days after the first. Seems like a real bad idea, but I want to satisfy her, because she is a lovely person.

Any help will be appreciated.

First of all, I fully understand the time constraint when working with an elderly client. As long as the hair is in good condition, you can redo the perm at any time. To account for the time constraint, instead of the waiting period, just wait 5-10 minutes, blotting well with paper towels. The rinsing is still most important. For these clients, you may want to rinse, let them sit up for a few minutes, then rinse again, for a thorough enough rinsing.
Best of luck to you.
Stephe (Hairman)


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I have been a Licensed cosmetologist in New York state for over 26 years, and am well versed in many areas of the cosmetology and appearance enhancement profession.Specialties however, are hair colour, corrective colour and permanent waving,including the chemical and technical aspects of these services and their effects on the hair.I`m glad to consult on any problems you are having concerning your hair.If I don`t have the answer, I`ll try to get it for you.


I've been licensed for cosmetology in New York State since 1974.I am a salon owner, and very active with the National Cosmetology Association and New York State Cosmetology Associaiton.I am one of only a few hundred people in the United States to be certi

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