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Do You Want Curls With That?: The History of Hair Perm Treatment and How It Works

Aug 17, 2007
Hair treatments have been used all through out history by women and men alike to enhance their appearances. Once of the most famous hair treatment that is still used up until today is the perm treatment.

When a perm treatment is done on a person's hair, curls are created in the hair shaft. These curls appear as a result of the alteration of the hair's chemical structure.

Due to the use of chemical treatments, the curls made from a perm treatment last longer than those curls made by heating or styling by curlers. The curls made from this treatment cannot be destroyed unless by another chemical treatment is done on the person's hair.

The perm treatment has gone far back in history. Women of Ancient Egypt used to put on a concoction of soil and water to their hair. Afterwards, they set their hair using primitive curlers made out of wood and bask under the sun to supply heat to their hair.

After the hair dryer was invented, setting lotions were then used to replace the "mud treatment" that the Egyptian women introduced. However, these setting lotions did not provide lasting results to women who desired to replace their straight hair with curls.

Permanent waves then became available in the market in 1920. This type of perm treatment used electrical devices (instead of the sun) to generate heat into the hair.

But since most heating devices do not have thermostats back then, the amount of heat that flows into the hair was not regulated. Thus, these harsh early perm treatments led the hair to dry. The end results were frizzy curls that were unmanageable and difficult to maintain.

The cold wave was then introduced in the 1940s. The cold wave is basically what the modern perm treatment is today. Since the heat used in a cold wave can easily be regulated, the hair can now be curled closer to the scalp using this treatment.

In a perm treatment, hair is washed and wound to curlers or curling rods to set. The perm lotion is then applied to the hair as it is still set in curlers.

The perm lotion is responsible for breaking the bonds of the hair that keeps it in shape. Since hair and the perm lotion have different pH levels, it makes the hair react to the perm lotion once it is applied.

The perm lotion opens up the cuticles of the hair as it enters its cortex. It is in the cortex where the disulphide bonds that are capable for shaping the hair can be found. Once the perm lotion reacts with these bonds, the bonds loosen and take the shape of hair while it is set in curlers.

After applying the perm lotion, the hair is then placed under regulated heat to help soften and loosen the bonds that keep it in shape.

After rinsing the perm lotion from the hair, a neutralizing lotion is applied. In this part of the treatment, the neutralizing lotion enables the links that were broken by the perm lotion to reform. The hair then hardens and retains its curly shape.

This stage of the perm treatment however can cause irritation and damage to the hair shaft if not executed properly. If the neutralizing is not done properly, the bonds of the hair may not harden enough for it to stand breakage and damaging. Also, the neutralizing lotion can irritate the scalp if not rinsed thoroughly.

After the perm treatment, it is advisable for the client to not shampoo his or her hair for a few days. The shampoo may interrupt the "curing" process of the treatment. The curls may not appear as expected if the client eagerly shampoos his or her hair after the treatment.

On the other hand, it is advisable to often condition newly permed hair to prevent it from being damaged.

A perm treatment is a good way to give volume and body to a person's hair. However, one must take into consideration that different people have different hair types. Thus, a perm treatment, or any hair treatment for that matter, can yield different results for different people.

If one is interested in getting any treatment for their hair, they should take in mind to find a hairstylist that they trust. They must also fully understand the type of treatment and what it does to their hair.

Besides, anyone would not want to do anything damaging to their hair. As the saying goes, "The hair is your crowning glory".
About the Author
James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of
TreatmentHq.com and writes expert
articles about treatments.
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