Can You Perm Coloured Hair?

Published 22nd Mar 2024 by Chlo Weldon

Just in case you missed it, curls and waves are starting to become a hot topic of conversation in the salon chair. And of course, colour services are the go-to for clients. But what if your client wants both? HJ spoke to the experts for the ins and outs on perming coloured hair.

Can You Perm Coloured Hair?

“You can perm coloured hair. However, it’s not advised – especially if the hair is very obviously damaged,” Suzie McGill, Artistic Director at Rainbow Room International, tells us. “Bleaching, colouring, and perming hair are all chemical processes, they open the hair to damage, and also weaken the hair. Therefore, putting the hair through both processes can result in the hair being seriously damaged and feeling as well as looking dry and brittle.”

Conor James Doyle of Conor James Education recalls back on his training and tells us: “When we trained, the rule of thumb was if it was over 30% lightened, you couldn’t – but ordinary tints were fine. However, with the advancement of more gentle products and bond protections, we can cautiously include more coloured hair.” But for now, as always, the strand test is imperative.

What Are The Dangers to Perming Coloured Hair?

“When we perm hair, we are essentially breaking the disulphide bonds and moulding them back together,” Conor says. “When we colour hair – especially lightening – these same bonds can be put under enormous pressure but through a different chemical mechanism.”

Which is why a thorough consultation must be done first to ensure your client’s hair is suitable for perming. “You must take everything into consideration, colour, porosity, and density. But colour is the main one – if there is bleach on the hair, perming is a big no-no for me,” says Peter Mellon, Medusa. “Perming can damage and dry out the hair, causing split ends and resulting in the perm looking damaged and fluffy.”

How Long Should Clients Wait?

We’ve gathered that perming coloured hair is a risk due to causing damage to the hair, so how long should stylists advise clients to wait to have their hair permed after having a colour service? “I always advise clients to give their hair at the very least, two weeks,” Suzie says. “However, if they can wait 3-4 weeks, then that’s even better. In this time, clients should be using great quality, professional products that will work to replace lost moisture in the hair and ensure its nourished and in as healthy a condition as possible.”

You should also inform clients vice versa. “I normally tell my clients to perm the hair first before going for a colour service, as perming can actually lighten the hair colour,” says Peter. “We then normally give the clients 10-15 days after perming before we colour the hair.”


An aftercare routine is essential for permed and coloured hair, and for Conor, a bond care regime is non-negotiable to help keep the structure intact and encourage repair as best as possible. “The added layer of a perm on colour means we now have a modified cuticle shape – a structure that has been adjusted to mimic more curly/wavy formations,” he says. “We see a much higher level of water loss within this, so adding in a highly moisturising everyday home-care regime would help a lot, along with adding a layer of leave-in serum while the hair is still wet to retain as much as possible.”

Likewise, for Peter, hydrating products are key. “Perming the hair will make the colour fade faster if the hair is over-processed. It’s vital to get as much moisture in the hair to hold onto the colour, so hydrating products are a must.”

Top aftercare tips for your clients from Suzie McGill

  • Wait 48-72 hours before washing the hair
  • Do not use any heated styling on the hair until after the first wash to allow the bonds to form properly
  • Avoid combing the hair for around 24 hours
  • Refrain from going swimming for at least a week – the chemicals can be very harsh on permed hair
  • Do not use hair ties or clips for a few days to allow the curls to form properly
  • Use moisturising hair products including a moisturising shampoo and conditioner to keep curls hydrated and to ensure they are manageable. This will also help to keep the colour looking its best and the hair in good condition
  • Use a wide tooth comb for gentle detangling
  • Use deep conditioners, masks, and treatments twice a week for extra nourishment
  • Consider getting regular trims to ensure split ends are removed quickly

Take a look at the modern perm…

Feature image courtesy of Suzie McGill, Rainbow Room International 

Chlo Weldon

Chlo Weldon

Published 22nd Mar 2024

Chlo writes regular content for the print magazine and website, as well as scheduling the content for HJ’s social media channels. Chlo has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism and previously worked as Assistant Editor at craft magazine Tattered Lace. After moving to London from her small hometown to be part of the HJ team, she is loving every minute of being involved in the industry. She loves a good treatment and is on a mission for a longer and thicker mane.

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