Can You Perm Bleached Hair?

woman perms bleached hair in a beauty salon

Can you perm bleached hair? Yes, but if your hair is in poor condition, you may want to avoid getting a perm as it can cause further damage. Both bleaching and perming are undoubtedly some of the harshest processes your hair can go through.

However, that doesn’t stop millions of women around the world from doing it and looking fabulous after. In fact, perming bleached hair is a go-to beauty treatment for celebrities and models. Who wouldn’t want Shirley Temple’s signature blonde, curly look?

If you’re considering perming your hair after you’ve bleached it, don’t lose faith just yet. Although it may require some extra hydrating TLC afterward, it can be done. We’ve curated a complete guide for perming bleached hair, so you can have confidence and walk out of the salon looking fierce. 

Can You Perm Hair If It’s Been Bleached?

Yes, you can perm bleached hair, however, it’s not highly recommended. Bleaching already takes a toll on your hair, and perming it afterwards can damage your hair even further. Having said that, you can still do it, but there are some things you should know before starting the process.

When your hair is bleached, chemicals penetrate your hair shaft and react with stable pigment molecules that then break down, and wash out. When this is done, the natural fatty acids found within hair strands are broken down, and the hair becomes weaker.

When a perm is performed, chemicals are used to alter the structure of the hair fiber. As you can see, both processes change the framework of your hair, so engaging in both is not typically encouraged. However, if you are dying to have those corkscrew curls atop your head, it is possible.

Many beauty professionals live by the “2-week rule. Never perm bleached hair until it has been at least 2 weeks since coloring. In order to take an even further step in preventative measures, consult with your hairstylist one-on-one beforehand to get a professional opinion. 

Can You Perm Dyed Hair?

In the 80’s when perms first exploded in popularity, corkscrew curls were the only option. If there were other options, they were incredibly limited. However, the perming process has come a long way. Not only are there better options for curl size, there are less harsh ingredients, making dyed hair perfectly safe to perm. 

Due to softer solutions, dyed hair can undergo this procedure with minimal risks. However, there are a few things to consider before perming your dyed hair:

  • Consider what type of dye you have used
  • Consider how long it has been since you colored your hair 

Semi-permanent dye is best to perm over since semi-permanent dyes aren’t nearly as harsh on your hair (box dyes are semi-permanent). Some salons may offer specialty perm formulas meant for colored hair, although they may be a bit more expensive. 

If you know ahead of time that you’re planning on perming your hair weeks after dyeing it, take proactive steps to ensure the health of your hair remains intact. Use ultra-moisturizing deep conditioner after you dye your hair to prep the strands for treatment.

Can You Perm Highlighted Hair?

If you’re dead set on perming your highlighted hair, it’s recommended to wait no less than 3 weeks. This is because many highlighters for hair are bleach-based, so applying a perm on top can result in dry, brittle hair strands.

Chemicals in perms don’t always mix well with chemicals used to highlight, so consult with a hair care professional beforehand. If you haven’t done either, but are planning out your plan of action, it’s actually recommended by many hairstylists to get your perm done first and then add highlights. 

Can I Bleach My Hair If I’ve Permed It?

Since both bleaching, and perming change the hair on a structural level, it’s often not recommended to do both. However, in order to maintain the health and strength of your hair after perming—but before bleaching—take precautions beforehand.

Conduct strand tests to determine the health of your hair, and use either a deep conditioner or leave-in conditioner product. In addition, wait at least 45 days from perming to bleach your hair. If you don’t, you could end up ruining your perm and wasting hundreds of dollars that now sit in a frizzy mess on top of your head. 

Is Bleach More Damaging Than A Perm?

With a perm, you aren’t stripping the pigment from the entire hair strand like with bleach. A perm goes straight into the cuticle, while bleach quite literally cleans the hair strand of any pigment and sends it straight down the drain. 

A perm won’t fry your hair like bleaching does, but don’t expect to walk away scot-free. Perms do alter the structure of your hair, so there will be damage. If you have dry, or damaged hair going in, a perm may cause more harm than good. However, it’s still not as damaging as bleach is. 

All in all, bleach is more damaging than a perm, as bleach often damages keratin—a protein component that makes up the structure of hair strands. When keratin is compromised it can result in dry, breakable hair that is difficult to style. 

What Are The Risks Of Getting A Perm?

As with any process that requires chemical manipulation, there are risks involved when getting a perm. However, there are ways you can decrease your chances of falling victim. Allowing ample time in between dyeing and perming is first and foremost. In addition, having healthy hair to begin with can make a world of a difference. 

Nevertheless, here are a few risks when getting a perm:

Scalp Damage

This can occur either by accident or careless application. If the perm solution touches your scalp it can cause itching, redness, burning, or peeling. 

Hair Damage

Since perms contain a powerful chemical, some may find their hair texture has changed since. Chemicals may restrict new hair growth 

Pain

Not only can the chemicals used to perm your hair be painful if they touch your scalp, hair has to be tightly wound for a length of time, causing some people to find perming a painful experience. 

Is There A Perm Type That Doesn’t Damage Hair?

Digital or hot perms use a heated approach when establishing curls. Using a heated rod, curls are doused in an acidic acid to break the bonds within hair strands. As you may have guessed, this method of perming is quite damaging. However, hot perms produce loose, beachy waves, which have only grown increasingly popular as time has gone on. 

Cold perms are far less damaging, as they use much smaller amounts of this acidic solution. In addition, cold, or ceramic perms use no heat, therefore there is no risk of heat damage to already vulnerable hair. In addition, Thio-free perms are the newest damage-free product to hit the market. 

Thio-free perms are specially curated to restructure the hair’s internal bonds, without causing any damage to the hair follicle. While Thio-free perms are still gaining popularity, they don’t last as long as the traditional methods used in salons. 

How Do I Prepare Bleached Hair For A Perm?

If you have bleached hair, and want to take the leap of faith in perming your locks, there are a few steps to prepare yourself beforehand:

Perform A Strand Test

This is incredibly important, as you want to ensure your hair will be able to handle another chemical treatment. One way to conduct a strand test is to place a few hairs in a glass of water. Dry hair will soak up water and sink to the bottom. If your hair stays afloat, it’s most likely able to withstand a perming process. 

Use A Perm Lotion

Many beauty stores can help you find the product you need. Using a perm lotion beforehand is smart, as it doesn’t dry out your hair and can help provide a hydrated template for the perm to be conducted on.

Hair Masks

Use a nourishing hair mask every 10 days 

Wash Your Hair Every Few Days

Washing too often will dry your hair out.

Wash Your Hair 2 Days Before Your Perm

It’s recommended to end with a leave-in conditioner to provide extra hydration before the perming procedure. When you take these extra steps and precautions, you greatly reduce your risk of damaging your hair even further. 

How Do I Perm Bleached Hair?

When it comes to perming your hair, it’s recommended to go to the salon. When it comes to perming your bleached hair, it’s strongly recommended to allow a professional to handle this process.

However, for whatever reason, if you are perming your bleached hair at home there are some steps you must follow in order to achieve bouncy, healthy curls. 

  1. WAIT: Ensure it has been at least 3 weeks, if not longer since bleaching your hair 
  2. Wash your hair using a clarifying shampoo to remove any oils, dirt, or residue 
  3. Brush your hair out to detangle any knots 
  4. Dry your hair 
  5. Divide your hair into 3 sections 
  6. Using a rat-tail comb, pull out a small strand from your first section and wrap it around the curling rod
  7. Continue this process with the remaining sections 
  8. Once all hair is wound, apply the perming solution 
  9. Leave the solution on for 5 minutes 
  10. Perform a test: unwrap one rod, if you are unable to see any curl or wave, continue waiting
  11. When an ‘S wave’ appears, rinse hair with warm water, DO NOT remove rods!
  12. Dry hair with a blow dryer 
  13. Apply neutralizer 
  14. Wait for 10 minutes and wash out neutralizing liquids 
  15. Blow-dry again as you gently remove rods 

How Do I Keep Bleached Hair Healthy After A Perm?

Once you’ve completed your perm, there are some aftercare steps to take to ensure your curls live as long as possible. 

  • First and foremost, washing your hair after a perm is a huge no-no—wait 3 days before you wash your hair, no matter how difficult it may seem
  • If you must get your hair wet, you may spray with a bottle
  • Do not get into a swimming pool or hot tub for 7 days 
  • Do not brush or pull on your curls for up to 48 hours 
  • Do not use any heat styling tools for up to 48 hours 
  • Once you’re able to shower, use a generous amount of conditioner—curly hair tends to be drier since hydration can’t penetrate the shaft as well, leave in conditioners are recommended
  • Use a texture spray to keep the curl defined 
  • Use a pick or wide toothed comb when hair is wet

The aftercare of a perm is just as important as the before care. You would hate to go through all the time sitting at the salon, the money spent, and the damage done to your hair just for it to turn out frizzy, dry, and limp. Do your research and ask your stylist for product recommendations. 

Perming Bleached Hair: Final Thoughts

While you can perm your bleached hair, I will reiterate one more time, it’s not recommended. When hair follicles undergo the bleaching process, the internal structure of the hair strand literally changes at the molecular level. Bleaching is an incredibly invasive and damaging process.

While perming is not as damaging, the combination of the two can be disastrous. However, it can be done, though risky, with proper precautions, application, and aftercare. Remember, always wait at least 2 weeks, yet many hair professionals recommend over a month in between bleaching and perming. 

If you want to be extra cautious, opt for a cold perming method, as this will have less damaging effects on your hair. No matter what, if you want to bleach your hair, just be aware of the risks and take the responsible steps necessary so you can walk out of the salon with a fresh new do. 

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By Emma Eliason

Emma Eliason is a beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She has a passion for makeup and both skin and haircare. She is also a mom to a little girl whom shares the same love for beauty as Emma does. Emma is regularly trying out new products and always looking for the best!