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Difference Between Alkaline and Acid Perm

Alkaline vs Acid Perm

One thing that you will first notice when you look at people is their hair. People are born with different types of hair, straight, curly, wavy, and they can be worn either short or long. The colors of the hair can also differ and while some are content with their hair, others are not.

They change hair color as often as they want to and not only that, they might also wear their hair straight or with curls. Those that have curly hair can have them straightened and those that have straight hair can have a permanent wave or perm by using chemicals.

The process involves wrapping the hair in rods after certain chemicals are applied to shape the curls. There are two chemicals that are being used for a permanent wave or perm, Alkaline and Acid. They are both effective at making a hair permanent but they produce different types of curls.

Alkaline Perms

Alkaline perms, also known as cold perms, are the most commonly used of the two. It is made of a lotion with ammonium thioglycolate as the main ingredient. To activate the chemical, no heat is needed thus the name cold perm. It can be activated in just 20 minutes.

It is very strong and has a pH balance of between 8.2 and 9.6. It has a strong odor which is due to the ammonia and is apt for hair that is thick and coarse because it gives a firmer, stronger curl that lasts longer. It is more damaging to the hair though.

Acid Perms

An acid perm which was introduced to the market in the 1970s is made of glyceryl monothyioglycylate and has a pH balance of between 4.5 and 6.5. To activate the chemical, heat is needed and it takes longer for the hair to set.

It is gentler and produces a looser curl which can take faster to relax. It can sometimes cause allergic reactions when the scalp and the skin are frequently exposed to its active ingredient.

Most people prefer alkaline perms to acid perms because it is more convenient to use and hair stays curly longer. People with damaged hair should use acid perms instead of alkaline perms though.


1. The active ingredient in alkaline perms is ammonium thioglycolate while the active ingredient in acid perms is glyceryl monothyioglycylate.
2. Acid perms need heat to help it set while alkaline perms do not; hence they are also called cold perms.
3. It only takes 20 minutes for alkaline perms to set while it takes a much longer time for acid perms to set.
4. Alkaline perm has a pH balance of between 8.2 and 9.6 while Acid perm has a pH balance of between 4.5 and 6.5.
5. Alkaline perm is stronger and is good for coarse and thick hair while Acid perm is gentler and good for damaged hair.
6. Alkaline perm can be damaging to hair because of the strong chemicals while Acid perm can sometimes cause allergic reactions.

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  1. I have had Alkaline perms but I have always had heat applied.
    Is this wrong

    • Brian question I have very thick and curl hair I take will care of my hair I went to this hairdress after 5 other salons did not like attitude I told her my skin sensestive I am on meds but had perms in Jasper never problem now my hair looks treable my scalpfeels like burning also back my neck and ears itchy horrible this going over two months no improve is it true my hair is ruined ones a chemical burn destroy your hair Ian 70 this has destroy my soul I have been sick and can’t sleep I ‘ll never understand why any advise did this perm destroy my hair thank you

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