How to Give Yourself a Straight Perm

Use a Perm in a Box to Relax Your Hair

How to give yourself a straight perm
How to give yourself a straight perm. Digital Vision / Getty Images

There are many ways to chemically straighten hair, including the pricey keratin hair straightening treatments and Japanese hair straightening, and perm solutions are one of them. These are called "straight perms." I recommend getting them done in a salon, but you can do them at home with perm solution and a wide-toothed comb. 

Are You a Good Candidate for a Straight Perm?

Before you attempt this at home, you must make sure you're a good candidate.

Perm solutions are permanent. If you damage or hate your hair, you're just going to have to wait for it to grow out. And your new growth will be your natural hair texture. This means your hair will be straight-ish below and wavy or curly at the roots. You have to be OK with that.

If your hair is naturally wavy or curly with no damage and good elasticity, you're a good candidate for a home straight perm. Virgin hair is ideal. If your hair has been dyed, colored or bleached, you are at major risk for damaging your hair. That said, some perm solutions are formulated for hair that's been colored, including Iso Perm Option 2. The double processing can cause your hair to fall out and you need to seek professional help. A pro will be able to assess the health of your hair and determine how to proceed.

Typical African-American hair is best straightened in a salon by a professional who has experience working with your hair type.

If you know your way around chemicals and solutions and are confident with your hair, you are a good candidate. If you've tried to color your hair before and messed it up royally, you may not be. Or at least rope in a friend to help. 

You can buy reputable home perm solutions online. I have read very good things about:

How to Prepare for a Straight Perm

Wait at least two days after your last shampoo to apply the perm solution, the oils will coat your hair protecting it from damage.

Read the directions that come with your kit thoroughly. You are basically giving yourself a perm, but without the rollers. The times on the box are the times you must stick to or you risk damaging your hair.

And consider enlisting a friend to help. Four hands are better than 2 when it comes to chemical processing your own hair.

Tools required: An old towel, clothes you don't mind messing up, Vaseline, a wide-toothed comb, gloves (plastic or rubber), a perm kit, flat clips (optional), shampoo and conditioner.

Step 1: Rinse Hair With Water, Comb Out Tangles

Perm solution works best on barely damp hair, so rinse hair in lukewarm water so that every strand is coated. Towel-dry hair so that it's merely damp and not wet. Do not use shampoo or conditioner unless the perm kit comes with one they recommend.

Brush or comb through hair several times to distribute your scalp's natural oils and to make sure there are no knots or tangles.

Step 2: Suit Up

Apply a thin coat of Vaseline along your hairline and on your ears (don't forget the ears) to keep the chemicals from burning your skin. Put on an old t-shirt or sweatshirt that you won't mind messing up with chemicals. Drape an old towel over your shirt, so you chemicals don't work their way through your shirt to your skin. Pull on gloves.

Step 3: Section Your Hair

If you have a lot of hair, you'll want to section it into 4 sections. To do this, part hair straight down to the back and create 2 sections on either side of your head. Wrap in loose buns.

Step 4: Work The Solution Through Hair

Working from left to right (or vice-versa) start with your first section and apply the perm solution as close to your roots as possible. Comb through hair to the ends. If you have thick hair, you may need to work the solution through with your fingers as well.

Step 5: Clip Hair so It Falls Straight

If you have a friend helping you, have her take flat clips to weigh down hair so it straightens as much as possible. To do this, wrap a piece of paper that comes with the kit over a 1 1/2-inch section of hair and clip the end so it weighs hair down.

If you're working alone, the clip method may prove difficult to do by yourself. Instead, comb the solution through the hair at least 5 times before moving on to the next step. 

Step 6: Work Your Way Through the Sections

Now work your way through the rest of your sections. Set your timer for the amount of time solution needs to work.

If you're working alone and not using clips, comb hair through continuously for the time recommended for the solution to set (usually about 15 minutes).

Always follow the packaged instructions for time limits on chemical processing.

Step 7: Rinse Hair

Follow the directions on the box, which usually require you to thoroughly rinse hair of the perming solution. Take the clips out for the rinse.

Step 8: Apply Neutralizer

If your kit comes with a neutralizer, apply it from the roots and gently comb it through to the ends, putting the clips back in place (you can also leave them off for this shorter amount of time and just comb hair a few times so it stays straight). Leave it in for the recommended time.

Step 9: Shower Time

Step into the shower and rinse out the chemicals, making sure not to squeeze hair or bunch it up. Shampoo and condition and then dry hair by gently patting it with a towel. You do not want to mess up the straightening process.

How to Care for Your Newly Straightened Hair

To protect hair from kinking or from creating strange bends, avoid pulling on the hair, putting hair in a ponytail, pulling hair back or washing your hair for at least 48 hours. The first 24 hours are critical so you need to make sure you disturb hair as little as possible.