Why Can't You Wash a Perm?

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Perms are a hair style that uses chemicals to break the natural bonds of the hair allowing it to be shaped as desired. This allows people with naturally straight hair to achieve long-lasting curls. The chemicals cause the protein strains to break, swelling and softening the hair. The hair is then wrapped in curlers or around perming rods to create the curls. The main issue with perms is that they cannot be washed with shampoo or conditioner straight afterward.


The chemicals used in perming break up protein strains in your hair so it can be reshaped. It takes a while for these protein strains to reform, and washing with shampoo and conditioners will break down the chemicals, causing the hair to revert back to the previous style.

Time Frame

The longer the hair is left the better. Stylists recommend between 24 and 48 hours between having the perm completed and washing properly with shampoo and conditioner. This allows the hair enough time to rebond the protein stands to keep the hair curly.

Shampoo Types

It is best to wash a perm with shampoos and conditioners suitable for permed or treated hair. These shampoos use lighter chemicals that will not damage the perm.


The perm can get wet shortly after it is completed, but it cannot be washed. Water is in fact essential for a perm as it reactivates the curls. The perm reconstructs the hair from straight to curly. The water will make the hair go back to its natural form, which after a perm is curly.