Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

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.

Sharing is caring!

Search DifferenceBetween.net :

Email This Post Email This Post : If you like this article or our site. Please spread the word. Share it with your friends/family.


  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

      • So sorry this happened to you. It never happened to any of my clients because I was trained to over protect my clients skin by not only applying toms if absorbent cotton on the surroundkng skin but also to immediately pull off the soaked cotton and replace it with dry after bathing the wet skin in water or, better yet, Wella Reginal which is a creamy light acid liquid that neutralizes the alkaline perm solution where it has touched the skin so it cannot burn. I have actually had my hair ruined too by a hairdresser’s assistant who ignored me when I asked for a loose body wave and she used small rods and walked away rather than checking my hair every 3 to 5 minutes. My hair is fine and fine hair takes a curl like lightening because the the outer shell of the hair is so thin.
        The way to avoid problems is to ONLY GO TO A HAIRDRESSER WITH A HUGE REPUTATION AND FOLLOWING FOR PERMING THE EXACT KIND OF HAIR YOU HAVE. All hair takes perming differently and a real perm pro will know exactly what to do. Never allow a stylist’s assistant to take over such a serious chemical process. And if someone burns your hair and skin go immediately to the emergency room and then get an attorney who handles personal injury cases and call the Stste Board of Barbering and Cosmetology in your state, because you were chemically assaulted by a licensed professional and that person should loose their license until they learn to to protect their client with the methods we were all taught in beauty school but, sadly, only some of us learned. We are licensed by the same governing department of the state that licenses doctors and nurses so you have a real recourse. Oh also take pictures of the damage immediately and as it gets worse and email them to yourself which time and date stamps them for legal use. Then, you have ten years to use that evidence to sue someone for damages. You can also just go small claims court if you would be satisfied with $5000 or less in damages. That way you wouldn’t have an attorney taking some of your money from a law suit. And most hairdressers don’t have enough money to pay a lawsuit anyway.

    • No it is not necessarily wrong as long as your cosmetologist/stylist is keeping a close eye on it. It is not un common for a professional to use heat with alkaline solution IF the client has very coarse or resistant hair. But again a professional knows when enough is enough based on checking the pliability of the hair by loosening one of the rods and looking at the strand of hair.

  2. Can you mix acid and alkaline perms? I need 3 to 4 perms to curl my hair and they make the choices to confusing now. I have fine hard to curl damaged hair and lighten it only 20% peroxide. Last perm left on 45 min felt not dry but will drop out in 3 weeks. Or fri and friz ? I mix 4 dif perms all quantum and came out great before. But dont remember what I mixed. Will i have a chemical problem mixing the two?

  3. How does the acid perm smell? Does it smell as strong as the alkaline perms?

    • Now the smell of the acid perm is more lile a soft sulfur smell and the standard alkaline perm is an ammonia smell. Either will leave a faint smell of chemical in your hair for a few weeks when your hair is wet or damp. You really cannot smell it when your hair is completely dry IF you have a good stylist who takes the time to THOROUGHLY RINSE the solution off of the hair on the perm rods before neutralizing. You also need someone who can accurately gauge how long to leave the solution in before rinsing and also — very important— which perm brand and type to use for your hair’s structure and condition (I.e. virgin hair, colored, bleached, highlighted, previously permed etc.) Perming, like coloring, is an advanced science and an art so the best person to have is someone with cast experience and that is a lot harder to find for perms these days than color as perms have fallen from popularity.

  4. Can I substitute an alkaline perm for tinted hair for the perm for normal hair on a client with virgin, course hair? Would I just leave it on longer?

  5. My hair does not curl consistently with an alkaline perm. Some curl and some straight all over my head. I have to use acid perms. I always thought acid was more harsh. Now I know why my hair breaks off and falls out if an alkaline perm is used.

  6. I was using acid perm but now I know why I got issues of hair fall. thank you for showing the difference between an acid perm and alkaline perm.

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.

Articles on DifferenceBetween.net are general information, and are not intended to substitute for professional advice. The information is "AS IS", "WITH ALL FAULTS". User assumes all risk of use, damage, or injury. You agree that we have no liability for any damages.

See more about :
Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Finder