Perming Questions: Do Perms Cause Hair Loss?

Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry M.B.B.S.
By Dr. Ahmad Chaudhry M.B.B.S.
Updated on November 15, 2023

Perms, also known as permanent waves, are a popular hairstyling technique used to give curly or wavy texture to straight hair. However, there is some debate around whether the chemical process involved in perming can potentially lead to hair loss over time. This article explores what the research says about the relationship between perms and hair fall.

Do perms cause hair loss?

The short answer is that perms alone do not typically cause hair loss. However, repeated and frequent use of perms over many years may potentially contribute to traction alopecia (hair loss) in susceptible individuals.

How perms work and potential risks

Perms work by using chemicals like ammonium thioglycolate or sodium hydroxide to break the cysteine bonds in the hair shaft. Heat and rollers are then used to reconfigure the hair into tight spiral curls. This process can be stressful on hair and damage the cuticle layer. While a single perm is generally considered low risk, frequent and back-to-back perming without breaks may cumulatively cause mechanical stress leading to traction alopecia over years of use.

Individual susceptibility plays a role

Not everyone who gets regular permed hair will experience hair loss. Individual factors like genetic predisposition to baldness, overall hair health and strength, frequency of perming, and styling techniques influence results. Those with naturally fine, thin hair prone to breakage are at higher risk of permanent damage from repeated perming compared to coarse, thick hair.


In summary, most research indicates that the occasional perm is generally harmless to hair. However, over-permting hair without breaks in between treatments, especially in susceptible individuals, may potentially contribute to traction alopecia over many years. Maintaining healthy hair care practices can help reduce perm-related risks.

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