Is there one perm for all hair types?

Q. I recently gave a perm to a client with bleached ends on her hair. The perm I used said it was good for ALL types of hair. It should have said, “Bad for all types of hair”. The virgin hair came out straight and the bleached hair was frizzy. Is there a perm that is good for all hair types? Why do manufacturers make such claims if they are not true? Cindy, Denver, CO.

A. Cindy, I am going to answer your second question first. I am assuming that your experience with this perm was your first and last. If that is the case, then it may not be fair to condemn the product as being “Bad”. Most manufacturers usually put a great deal of effort and expense to test their products, simply because of pure economics. They want their product to be successful, and they want to avoid any potential costly recalls and legal challenges. However, unfortunately there are a few manufacturers who exaggerate their claims beyond the truth.

Having said that, I think what you may have experienced with your perm is a case of “Hair mysterious identity”. In other words, your client’s hair may be loaded with a high level of metallic contaminants such as copper and/or iron. If you have noticed a purple tint during the application of the perm, then iron is definitely present in that hair. If no purple color was noticed, then the culprit metal could possibly be copper. Both these metals are found abundantly in home water supplies (galvanized iron or copper pipes), well water, medications, swimming pools, and even some hair care products. These metals bind to the hair very strongly and cannot be shampooed out with regular products so they build up in the hair over time. You cannot tell which hair is loaded with them and which hair is not until after the unpleasant fact. These metals cause the perm solution to lose its activity, and they cause the peroxide bonding lotion to damage the hair (especially if the hair is already porous) by generating super active free radicals. This may explain why the virgin portion of your client’s hair remained straight (due to loss of perm activity) and the porous ends became frizzy (further damaged due to  metal interference with the peroxide solution).

Try using a dependable clarifying treatment before any chemical service. One of the most effective products you may want to try is called “Get Pure Clarifying Treatment”.

Going back to your first question, different hair types will require different perm solutions and it is unlikely that one perm solution will fit all hair types. The physical condition of the hair dictates the type and strength of the perm. And as you can see from above, depending on what is inside the hair, even an excellent perm may fail under the “wrong” conditions.