Why won’t my hair take a perm? 4 possible reasons why perming may fail

If your hair didn’t take the perm, it probably has to do with any of these four reasons:

  • Reason 1: your hair was too damaged; therefore, the perm liquid could not modify the hair structure.
  • Reason 2: there was too much or too little heat during the process. The excess heat evaporated the perm liquid. The lack of heat didn’t achieve the necessary reaction to modify the hair structure.
  • Reason 3: You miscalculated the exposure times. In any chemical hair process, the application times of the chemicals are key.
  • Reason 4: you used an expired or bad perm liquid. Therefore, it lost its effectiveness.


how long to wait to apply dye

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That’s the way it is with chemical processes on hair.

Either they go really well and you achieve what you were looking for, or they end badly and you never reach your goals.


Perming has been used in salons to curl hair for decades.

Since the beginning, things have only evolved. They did to such an extent that, nowadays, the liquids to perform the perm are sold online to do it in the comfort of your home.


However, what seems easy becomes complicated.

 If you don’t have at least some perming knowledge, it won’t take. If that happens, the curls never appear. 

Have you permed your hair but it didn’t take?


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Although it may seem like the worst thing in the world, everything has a solution.

You need to understand what went wrong during the perming process. And for that, we’ll start with the first reason why you may not be sporting those much-desired curls today.

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Reason 1: Your hair was too damaged before the perm


If it was damaged due to bleaching, coloring, or abuse of heat tools, your hair had high porosity. Your hair can absorb the products you apply to it.


In this case, your hair absorbed the perm liquid so quickly that it lost its effect.

But also,  as your hair was damaged and the molecular bonds were broken, the perm liquid could not change its structure.  That’s why your perm didn’t take.


Is there a way to fix your perm?

Yes, but you’ll have to be patient. You’ll have to repair your hair and, then, perm again.

You can apply coconut oil two or three times a week and  add Olaplex shampoo and conditioner to your hair care routine. 


Was your hair healthy before perming it? Then, let’s move on to the second reason why the curls didn’t take.


Reason 2: During perming, there was a lack or excess of heat

to form curls

The perm is achieved with a perm liquid. It needs heat to change the structure of your hair. That’s why the heat factor is so important.

What happens if you didn’t apply enough heat?


 The perm liquid couldn’t be strong enough to change the molecular bonds in your hair. So, the perm didn’t take. 


There should be a balance. Maybe you thought applying more heat would make your curls firmer and better shaped. However, it doesn’t work like that.

In that case, the excess heat evaporated the perm liquid. Therefore, the hair’s structure remained intact.

That’s why, in the salon, we apply heat but cover the hair with a cap to prevent the product from evaporating.


If you think this is why the perm didn’t take, you can wash your hair with cold water, neutral shampoo, and conditioner.

Then, let your hair air dry, and wait 4 to 7 days to perm again.


Still not sure why your perm failed?

Read on. You’ll find the answer.


Reason 3: There was an error in the perm liquid’s exposure time

at home

Exposure time is an important factor. It has to be accurate. The perm liquid needs heat and time to change your hair’s molecular structure.


 If you removed the liquid before, the reaction was interrupted and the curls were not achieved. 

What if you exceeded the exposure time?


In that case, you got the opposite effect you were looking for! The hair reacted by straightening instead of curling.

If that’s why your perm failed, you can redo the process after three weeks. If you go to the salon, the stylist will follow the perm liquid manufacturer’s instructions. Each manufacturer suggests different exposure times.

If you’re perming your hair yourself,  read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and do as they say. 


Reason 4: The perm failed because the perm liquid was expired or in bad condition

smooth the curls

Be careful if this is the reason your perm didn’t take!

A bad or expired perm liquid damages the hair. It can also cause breakage from root to tip.


 This liquid is a powerful chemical and you should always check its expiration date.   

Therefore, if you still have the liquid you used, and it expired or is in bad condition, don’t hesitate and discard it.


Now, if it isn’t expired, it may have been in bad storage condition.

How do you know if the perm liquid is in bad conditions?

  • If it’s very liquid or has lumps, it’s not in good condition. It should be creamy.
  • If it’s yellowish, it’s bad. It shows that it was exposed to heat or sun. The color should always be translucent.
  • If it has a pungent odor, which does not let you breathe or irritates your eyes, the active ingredients are degraded and lost their effect. It’s useless.


 In any of these situations, the perm liquid is useless. 


The solution is to re-perm the hair after three weeks. I suggest that you visit  the salon. They’ll evaluate the condition of your hair and determine if it’ll resist a new process. 

Don’t be shy about asking the stylist to show you the perm liquid expiration date she’ll use. After all, it’s your hair at stake.



Now you know why the perm failed. Remember that beyond the frustration, you must put your hair health first.

Try the process again three weeks after the failed perm. In the meantime, do hair repair treatments to strengthen your hair. If possible, try to go to a professional to know if your hair fiber will resist a new process.

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