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How Do I Choose the Best Perm for Black Hair?

Kaiser Castro
Kaiser Castro

There are a various chemicals of differing strengths incorporated in most modern hair perms for black hair that all work by breaking down the proteins in the hair, essentially straightening it. Choosing the best perm for black hair will require you to know the chemical differences between hair texturizers, lye, and non-lye relaxers. If you are looking for something that will slightly loosen your curl pattern, then a texturizer will be right for you. Non-lye, and lye relaxers will completely straighten the hair, with non-lye formulations being suitable for those with sensitive hair strands.

To understand how texturizers and other chemical straighteners work, you will have to familiarize yourself with the science behind chemical straighteners. Hair is mostly made up of proteins known as keratin amino acids. The sulfide bridge in the protein is what gives hair its unique shape and texture. Chemicals like sodium hydroxide is weaken these protein bonds, resulting in straighter hair. When selecting a perm for black hair, always make sure to use the appropriate strength. Boxes are that are labeled as “Super” should only be used on stubborn hair, while “Mild” formulations should be used on fine hair.

A neutralizing shampoo is typically used during the process of relaxing the hair.
A neutralizing shampoo is typically used during the process of relaxing the hair.

If you are trying to maintain a somewhat natural curl pattern, then a texturizer will be best for you. The sodium hydroxide in texturizers will loosen tightly-coiled hair to something with more of a wave pattern. They are usually marketed towards men because of their ease of use, though they can be used on women just as well.

There are two other forms of relaxers that are usually used to straighten black hair completely. A hair relaxer is the best choice if you are looking for a perm for black hair that will completely straighten the hair strand. Unlike texturizers, hair relaxers will have a more potent formulation of sodium hydroxide, resulting in straight hair instead of smooth curls delivered by a texturizer. Guanidine hydroxide, commonly dubbed as a “no lye” relaxer, is a perm for black hair that straightens without the harsh sodium hydroxide compound. This chemical will benefit those that have adverse reactions to sodium hydroxide.

A perm for black hair will have to be washed as soon as the desired straightness is achieved. The rinsing process is as important as the application, as traces of perm left on the hair will continue to process it. It's imperative to select a perm for black hair that contains a neutralizer that will halt the chemical process.

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Discussion Comments


The No. 1 rule that "professional" stylists and people in general ignore is the need to do a strand test. It is out of lack of knowledge and mostly the rush that people get into doing a relaxer on their entire head, often using a relaxer formula that they have never used before! A strand test is: taking a couple of strands of hair and testing your application processing. You apply the relaxer as you would for your entire time and do an estimated time test and smoothing test (amount of physical manipulation with fingers or back of comb to undo the curls so that the relaxer can adopt that structure). This strand test will let you know whether your timing is correct or should be adjusted. I do five strand tests when I relax my natural three year hair. In addition, companies change formulas often without notice, so it is wise to do a strand test for each new touch up.

The No. 2 rule also ignored by all is: Read the instruction box! In particular, the time chart that corresponds to the type of hair that you have: fine, medium, coarse. Note that most people think that really kinky hair is thick and coarse. This is a big misconception. The type 4 hair is like being blonde. For your hair to curl up so much, it is in general quite fine. Do not use the "coarse" hair timing for fine hair!

The No. 3 rule is: Use real plastic gloves and not the cheap plastic gloves included in most box kits.

No. 4 rule: Are you perming your entire head (virgin hair) or just doing a touch up on the roots? Many “professional” stylists make the mistake of re-relaxing the entire head each time. This will kill your hair. Once you have relaxed your hair once, you only need to do the roots! The rest of your hair should be protected with vaseline in it and absolutely no additional coating of relaxer. It's already gone through the process.

No. 5: Read specialized relaxed hair blogs and internet websites.

There are many more rules that you can find on the internet, but these five are the musts!


If you are determined to do an at home perm for black hair, which perm do you think is the safest? Also, which one do you think requires the least amount of work?

My friend has been asking me to help her perm her hair because she doesn't have the money to go to a salon and we're not really sure what we should be buying.

My friend showed me a picture of a girl with some nice waves in her hair. My friend keeps telling me she would really like to have that look for herself. Personally I am scared stiff to try and do another person's hair. I can barely color my own out of the box. So I need something really foolproof.


My friend had the worst experience trying to do her own at home perm for black hair. She bought a box of hair relaxer that pretty much left her hair downright limp. She was pretty upset over the whole thing. She ended up cutting her hair and getting a weave to undo the damage she felt had been done to her hair.

I think that if you are looking to perm black hair, and get it to the perfect amount of waves or curls for your liking that you should get it done professionally. It seems to me that just too much can go wrong when trying your own perms at home. A professional will know the right chemical mix to give you the look you want.

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    • A neutralizing shampoo is typically used during the process of relaxing the hair.
      By: Valua Vitaly
      A neutralizing shampoo is typically used during the process of relaxing the hair.