Taking Care of Chemically Treated Hair – Before and After

Chemically treated hair should always be cared for differently than hair that’s never been altered. Hair colors, perms, straighteners, bleach, and color removers change the molecular structure of hair so they are (most of the time) permanently rearranged. As a result of the process, sometimes your hair can become venerable. That's why it's so important to know how to  take care of your hair before and after a service is performed.

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Taking care of your hair becomes top priority if you want your chemical treatment to be long lasting. Most all permanent chemical treatments are alkaline in nature. When they are applied to your hair, hair cuticles swell and open, which allows for the penetration of said chemicals. In order for your hair to recover properly, cuticles must be closed again after the service.

Common Types of Permanent Chemical Hair Treatments

  • Permanent Hair Color
  • Straight Perms (also called relaxers, rebonding, and Japenese straighteners )
  • Curly Perms
  • Color Removers
  • Bleach

Before you decide to have a chemical service, there are many things to keep in mind. Chemically treated hair can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the results of the change. What do you want to get out of the service? Will it make styling easier? Are you just ready for a change? Do you feel cultural or social pressure to change your hair? Do you believe it make you look better? These (and many more) are some considerations you’ll need to ponder!

The strength of the products is always something your beautician (or you) will need to consider. For fine hair textures or damaged hair, chemical strength should be minimized to prevent damage. Conversely, on coarse, wiry, or resistant hair, the strength of the chemicals may need to be stronger. In both cases, preventing damage should always be a top concern.

Before Chemically Treated Hair

There’s no need to wash your hair before having your hair chemically treated. Why? Because slightly dirty hair has the benefit of having natural oils that help protect hair and scalp during the chemical process. Never wash your hair before a chemical treatment unless it’s unavoidable. In the case of clean hair, it’s a good idea to apply a light coating of coconut oil to your hair and/or scalp before the service.

You must always check your scalp for abrasions or scabs. If none are present, your scalp is good to go. However, if you notice abrasions, wait until they’re healed up.

For hair color, bleach, or color removers - Using a deep conditioning treatment on your hair beforehand can help save the integrity of your hair and correct any porosity issues.

For chemical straighteners - Days before a perm, do not wash or rinse your hair as water on the scalp can leave hair follicles open and susceptible to burns or damage. Do not use combs or tools that could cause scrapes or injuries. Do not massage your scalp as it could leave your scalp tender after treatment. In general, hair should not be shampooed or manipulated at least a week before treatment, if not longer. For the best results, use a deep conditioning mask to help strengthen hair and correct porosity.

If you’ve used chemical straighteners on your hair in the past, you should be aware that some are not interchangeable.

There are three basic types of hair straightening systems. The most common active ingredients used in chemical hair straightening products are sodium hydroxide (lye/no base), guanidine calcium hydroxide (no lye), and ammonium thioglycolate. To avoid problems in the future, keep records of the chemical ingredients that are used on your hair. Sodium and calcium hydroxide relaxers are interchangeable. However, thioglycolate based straighteners are not interchangeable with sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide relaxers.

For curly perms - Never perm your hair if you’ve ever used metallic dyes/salts in your hair as these can have adverse effects with the oxidation solutions used in perms. Many years ago, a product called Sun In contained metals. Boy did it cause a lot of problems for ladies who wanted to perm their hair! I've seen hair start smoking before! Thankfully, the product doesn't contain metals anymore but for a long time, it did! To be super sure, look at the labels of the products you use. If any metals (copper, silver, or lead) are listed in the ingredients, you must wait until it’s all grown out of your hair (or cut it off) before receiving any chemical service.

Curly perms contain thioglycolate, which can be used to straighten hair and/or curl the hair. The process IS reversible because the same chemical reaction that curls hair in the permanent wave process, can take curl out of hair in chemical straightening. (Thioglycolate is the chemical that’s used in Japanese Straightening Systems.)

As a basic rule of thumb, these are not effective on African American hair types or on hair that is extremely fragile and prone to breakage. Do not use thioglycolate products on hair that’s been treated with sodium hydroxide or calcium hydroxide relaxers.

Do not wash your hair before getting a perm. Check for scalp abrasions to make sure you are in the clear for the service.

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After Chemically Treated Hair


Chemically treated hair must be handled differently than natural hair, especially if damage occurred as a result of the process. Once bonds are rearranged in the structure of the hair, you will need to be a bit gentler with your hair and use products that are specifically formulated for chemically treated hair.

Shampooing Chemically Treated Hair

Hair Colors, - It is best to allow your hair to rest before shampooing your hair again. Hair conditioners however, are OK to use because they help close the hair cuticle, which helps to HOLD your color.

Bleach, and Color Removers - Because of the harshness of these products, you must use heavy conditioners for a few days after treatments. This also helps correct porosity problems.

Curly Perms - Always wait about 3 or 4 days before shampooing. If you shampoo too soon after a perm, it can degrade the structural bonds, which can ruin curly hair. Deep or heavy conditioners should not be used as well because they may weigh your hair down and also help pull out the curls.

Hair Straighteners - After sodium or calcium hydroxide relaxers are used on your hair, do not wash your hair for at least a week or longer. Reason? Perms are crazy costly and water alone can leave hair less manageable.

Shampoos for Chemically Treated Hair

The best shampoos for chemically treated hair contain conditioning agents that improve manageability. They also add shine to hair and help it reflect more natural light. Shampoos may contain protein, dimethicone, biotin, hydantoin, oleyl alcohol, and cocoamphocarb-oxyglycinate conditioning agents.

Look for shampoos that include 'color treated' or 'chemically treated' on the label. You may have to pay more for professional hair products but they're worth the extra money. They may also work better than their counterparts because they contain higher grades of the ingredients listed.

Some good choices are: Redkin, Frédéric Fekkai, Bed Head TIGI, Bumble and Bumble>, Biosilk Silk Therapy, John Frieda, Nexxus, and many, many more!

All shampoos list water as the first ingredient so you’ll need to look down the list of ingredients to know what you’re buying. Shampoos for chemically treated hair that contain conditioning agents are thick and rich. If your shampoo is clear, it probably is devoid of ingredients that are beneficial to your hair.

Conditioners for Chemically Treated Hair

Conditioning your chemically treated hair is vital! Conditioners help hair cuticles lay flat against hair strands, which makes taking care of your hair so much easier! Conditioners are a must have weapon for every person with chemically treated hair!

Conditioners should be creamy and rich; slippery to the touch. Oils are a must have for chemically treated hair and conditioners should contain some of them, like coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, and/or emu oil. Conditioners are intended to soften your hair, add luster and sheen, and decrease tangles. They coat your hair to make it smooth and sleek.

If you notice that your hair has become oily or heavy, you need to shampoo it with shampoo's that remove the gunky stuff. They get rid of the coating on your hair that can occur from the overuse of hair products.

Acid balanced conditioners are best for color treated hair. These keep the color from fading as quickly and add shine. Acid balanced conditioners work by closing hair cuticles, which help trap color molecules.

General Suggestions for Chemically Treated Hair

  • Never over process your hair, which can degrade the structure of your hair and obliterate it. Your hair needs time to rest between treatments.

  • Do not overlap chemical treatments. Touch ups of any kind should be done on new growth or virgin hair only.

  • Be honest with your hairdresser about previous services you’ve received or done at home. There are many different considerations for chemically treated hair! Hairdressers will have different guidelines that need to be followed for previously chemically treated hair.

  • Keep hair ends trimmed to reduce split ends and prevent breakage.

  • Natural oils can help replace lost moisture and boost manageability.

  • Be careful with chemically treated hair. Comb and brush it carefully and don't overdo it. Once or twice a day is enough.

  • Heat can also degrade chemically treated hair. Keep heat from blow dryers or hot irons to a minimum. Use ceramic flat irons and turn the heat control DOWN on both blow dryers and irons.

    Chemically treated hair can be challenging to take care of but with the right products and a little love, it can look and feel great! If you're looking for a change, don't forget about new hairstyles or new haircuts that can also breathe new life back into your hair!

    Related Pages on This Site

    Chemically Straightened Hair - Should You or Shouldn’t You?

    Get Rid of Frizzy Hair – Steps to De-poof Your Hair

    How to Get Smooth Silky Hair like Eva Longoria

    Dry Hair Remedies and Tips to Correct Brittle Hair

    Weak Hair Tips for Strength and Flexibility

    Argan Hair Oil Benefits – A Moroccan Delight!

    Bad Hair Products Ingredients You’ll Want to Avoid


    Different Types of Hair Relaxers

    Transitioning from Chemically Treated and Damaged Hair

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