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Acid Perm Vs. Alkaline Perm: What Are the Differences?

Getting a perm is one of the best ways to express your personality. However, it’s necessary to have a good understanding of the acid perm vs. alkaline perm comparison before you start, as choosing the wrong method could damage your hair beyond repair!

Today, we’ll discuss which types of hair are suitable for acid and alkaline perming and go over how each method works, along with the differences between them. 

Let’s jump right into it. 

How Do Perms Work?

how do perms work

A perm, or permanent wave, is a chemical hair treatment that alters your hair’s natural texture to create waves or curls.

Depending on the type of perm the process involves the use of an acid solution or alkaline solution to chemically change the hair’s structure.

Acid Perms

acid perm

Acid perms use a combination of chemicals and heat to break the disulfide bonds in keratin. This is known as hot perming since it’ll only work when you heat the hair with a blow dryer.

The main component in acid perm lotion is glyceryl mono-thioglycolate. It has a pH of 5 to 6, which is around the same pH as our hair. This makes acid perming more gentle than alkaline perming!

Acid perms create softer curls than alkaline perms. It’s best for those who want to have a more natural wavy look.

Yet, there’s a downside to acid perming. It’s slow-acting, and one session could last up to 5 hours! Moreover, you need frequent touch-ups to maintain your hair.

Acid perms usually hold for only 3-4 months.

Who Should Get an Acid Perm?

Because it’s weaker, acid perms are more suitable for people with fine to medium hair. If you have a sensitive scalp, you should go for an acid perm.

Those with dry, damaged hair may also prefer acid perms such as digital perm.

Acid Perm Pros and Cons

  • It’s ammonia-free, so it doesn’t have an unpleasant smell.
  • Cases of allergic reactions to acid perm lotion are rare but can happen with prolonged exposure. However, if you have an allergic reaction, it won’t be intense.
  • Acid perms are generally safe for use.
  • This type of perm is pricier. It costs up to $250 per session.
  • Interestingly, acid perm isn’t recommended for people with colored hair as it can lighten dyes!

Alkaline Perms

alkaline perm

Alkaline perms, or cold perms, are more popular than acid perms. This is because they’re faster and more convenient to use.

An alkaline perm lotion uses a base, like ammonium thioglycolate, to curl your hair. It has a PH of 9.5, which makes it highly potent and potentially damaging.

This type of perm breaks the outer layers of your hair down and opens the cuticles. It results in your hair absorbing the chemicals within 20 minutes of application.

After treatment with alkaline perm lotion, you have to apply a neutralizer like hydrogen peroxide. This will lower the pH of your hair and put it back to its original state.

Who Should Get an Alkaline Perm?

If you want to have defined curls, you should go for traditional alkaline perming.

Alkaline perms are best for people with thick, coarse, and resistant hair. Those with virgin hair will have better results using this type of perm because it’ll have a stronger hold.

It’s also suitable for Asian hair.

Pros and Cons of an Alkaline Perm

  • Alkaline perms are cheaper than acid perms. It costs around $150 per session.
  • Alkaline perms last longer than acid perms. You can maintain your curls for up to six months.
  • Unfortunately, alkaline perms have a skunk-like odor because of the ammonia it contains.
  • You can’t get a subtle curl using this type of perm.

Acid-Balanced Perms

acid balanced perm

The acid-balanced perm is a new type of perm worth mentioning.

It’s in the same category as an acid perm. The difference is its glyceryl mono-thioglycolate content has a pH of 7.8 to 8.2. This puts it more in the neutral zone!

Acid-balanced perming combines qualities from acid and alkaline types.

It doesn’t need heat treatment, yet it can create firmer waves. Like alkaline perming, you also need to use a neutralizer.

Who Should Get an Acid-Balanced Perm?

If you have porous and damaged hair but you want to have strong curls, then an acid-balanced perm may be the best option!

Acid Perm Vs. Alkaline Perm

acid perm or alkaline perm hair

So based on the application process, results, and characteristics, these are the differences between acid perm and alkaline perm:

1. pH Level

  1. Acid Perm: Lower pH (typically 4.5 to 7.0)
  2. Alkaline Perm: Higher pH (typically 8.0 to 9.5)

2. Hair Type Suitability

  1. Acid Perm: Suitable for delicate or damaged hair
  2. Alkaline Perm: Suitable for normal or resistant hair

3. Result

  1. Acid Perm: Produces softer, more natural-looking curls or waves
  2. Alkaline Perm: Produces firmer, more defined curls

4. Processing Time

  1. Acid Perm: Requires a longer processing time
  2. Alkaline Perm: Has a shorter processing time

5. Smell

  1. Acid Perm: Milder odor
  2. Alkaline Perm: May have a stronger, more pungent odor

6. Strength

  1. Acid Perm: Gentler on the hair
  2. Alkaline Perm: Stronger and more effective

7. Curl Type

  1. Acid Perm: Creates subtle and long-lasting curls
  2. Alkaline Perm: Creates dramatic and defined curls

So, based on these differences, we can come to the following conclusions:

  • Acid perms are best for fine or fragile hair, alkaline perms are ideal for thick or coarse hair.
  • For soft, natural-looking waves, opt for an acid perm. If you crave defined, bouncy curls, choose alkaline perm.
  • If you have porous and damaged hair but you want to have strong curls, then go for an acid-balanced perm.

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