Whether the curl is too tight, you failed at an at-home perm or you simply don’t like the result, dealing with a bad perm doesn’t have to be an annoying or routine-changing task. There are countless ways to tame or rid your strands of a bad perm. As with any remedy, be sure to follow each instruction carefully, so that no further hair damage is done to your tresses.

Before we can get down to the essentials of how to correct a bad perm, first we must figure out what your problem is. Depending upon the issue, there may be an at home fix. Unfortunately, some perm mistakes cannot be corrected at home, at least without damaging your hair and look even more. A professional consultation may be required, but first, before you walk out of the house with a scarf or hat hiding the disaster, analyze the problem and figure out where you need to begin.

At-Home Perm Remedy

Trim fishtails only where your cut won’t disturb the curl pattern. Basically, only trim the straight parts!

This at-home remedy includes conditioner, plastic wrap, and canola oil. Applying the oil on dirty hair is best.

For many, this process will help to loosen the perm. However, others may need to repeat this at-home remedy several times in a span of a week to see the effects start to hold.

What You’ll Need
  1. Find an area that will catch your spills. Place your head over a sink, bathtub, garbage can or any other disposal object. It is likely you will be getting product all over the area, so make sure what you’re wearing and where you are at can take the beating.
  2. Apply oil and wrap your hair. Apply enough canola oil in order to soak the hair from root to tip. Wrap the hair in plastic wrap, or any other covering that will protect your clothing and objects. Then wrap your head in a towel. This will help prevent any drips and keep moisture and heat inside the treatment. The oil should remain on the hair for at least one hour.
  3. Rinse with a gentle shampoo. After an hour passes, rinse the hair completely. Please note it will take quite some time to rinse all of the oil out. If you are having trouble, use a gentle shampoo
  4. Condition and repeat. After rinsing the hair of oil, condition the hair and allow it to sit for at least two to three minutes. Rinse the conditioner and repeat the conditioning process once more.

Correcting a Fishtail

For many, a bad perm is the result of an improper perm rod application. A fishtail can result if the hair is not wound around the perm rod correctly.

Also, if the hair is extremely straight or coarse, it may not wind properly, resulting in a straight rather than curly look. Luckily, fixing a fishtail is easy.

  1. Trim the ends. Simply trimming the end of the fishtail can solve the problem. Be sure that you are using a pair of shears, rather than plain scissors. Make the cut only on the straight part of the hair. The cut should not interfere with the curl pattern at all.
  2. Blend the hair. You can also use a hot tool, such as a blow dryer or a curling iron, in order to blend the hair more naturally.
  3. You have a professional option. If the fishtail look is too drastic for your liking, ask your stylist to re-perm the fishtails so that they blend. Wait at least three days after the initial perm, however, so as not to cause too much damage to your hair.

Chemical Misapplication

Many times a perm goes bad because the perm solution isn’t left on for the proper amount of time. In addition, if the hair isn’t in a healthy state, it may not take the solution properly.

This may result in permanent damage to the hair. Most of the time, this type of mistake can result in a major haircut in order to fix the error. Bad perms often can be unshapely, result in no curls at all or create a noticeably frizzy look.

Use a good deep conditioner to hydrate your hair back to health. This will decrease frizz and result in a better-looking perm.

Condition, Condition, Condition!

Healthy curly hair needs conditioning, and often, which means that damaged curls need even more! So many curl dilemmas are due to lack of conditioning, so get your mane on the right track!

Final thoughts

A bad perm can be frustrating, but whether you’re just dissatisfied with the results or there was an error during the application process, it is possible to get through them. Let us know what you’ve tried!


This article was originally published in August 2011 and has been updated for grammar and clarity.

Jessica Mousseau


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