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People keep asking “why does my hair smell like a perm when wet?”, and NHP has some answers here to help identify the different causes and help you get rid of the funky sulfur-like smell.
PLUS, we'll be talking about some other issues, such as…
So, let’s get you the help you need RIGHT NOW, you’ll be happy you finally found some REAL answers…
Now listen, some people have asked “why does my hair smell like a perm when wet?”, and the crazy part is that they’ve never put any chemical treatment on their hair. I wrote about that in the FAQs section below.
Let’s be real though…
Most who ask about their hair smelling like perm when wet have actually had a perm applied so let’s get to you all first. This advice applies to all hair types including type 2 wavy hair.
Answer is, the main reason that hair that was permed continues to smell like perm when wet is that the hair has not been thoroughly neutralized. Many simply don’t leave the neutralizer in hair long enough.
And even when they do, they fail to try a neat little trick that some stylists use that helps stop the problem before it begins.
If you want to get rid of that perm smell before it starts to haunt you, act immediately after using the neutralizing shampoo.
What do I mean?
I mean that you should follow up immediately after using the neutralizing shampoo, and wash it one or two times with Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap (can be uncented, peppermint, or rose).
Don't scrub too hard because you don’t want the hair to get tangled, but just flush it through your hair. It gets rid of the smell pretty immediately after perming.
Hard water could also be the reason you’re asking, “Why does my hair smell like a perm when wet?”.
When water is hard, it carries tons of mineral compounds like sulphur and iron to your hair and scalp. I remember visiting the home of a friend of my mother as a kid, and I never wanted to use the water because it stunk like a dang skunk. See..
These minerals can build up on your hair and scalp, and they can cause your hair to smell like eggs or like perm.
If your water pipes are the culprit of your perm or sulfur stank smelling, and you can’t realistically get the pipes replaced, get a water filter or a shower filter.
Shower filters like the PuRite brand shower filter operate as a filtration system. It removes heavy metals, odors, chlorine, sulfur, rust, sediments, and more while protecting your hair from hard water.
A shower filtration system may also be the answer if you suffer from itchy skin and scalp problems.
I know you’ve probably never heard of smelly hair syndrome before, I promise you that it’s real.
If your hair smells bad within a few hours of washing well, you might be having 'smelly hair syndrome'. This is a condition that leaves a terrible odor from the scalp. The smell is so strong that you can't help but notice.
Most likely, you’ll need to see a trichologist to get a proper diagnosis.
If you don’t want to go immediately to a trichologist for help, medicated shampoos and anti-fungal hair care products have helped many with this problem.
Speaking of fungus, sometimes folks just have a build-up, and that’s our next reason why folks are wondering, why does my hair smell like a perm when wet?
Let’s talk about it…
One of the main reasons why some hair smells like a wet dog, or like sulfur, or like a perm (I know, that’s a variety of stink, ha!)...
… is because of what’s coming from your very own head.
The reasons behind your smelly hair and scalp could be from excess oil production to accumulation of bacteria and sweat.
Much like with smelly hair syndrome, medicated shampoos and anti-fungal hair care products have helped many get rid of perm smell, strong sulphur smell and even those musty wet dog smells.
[RELATED ARTICLE: Type 4C Hair Tips...]
People are wondering "why does my hair smell like a perm when wet?", and so much more...
Let's get to some FAQs!
ANSWER: Your perm still smells because it wasn’t rinsed long enough before the neutralizer was applied, locking in the perm smell. Since it was insufficiently rinsed, go ahead and wash it again, permed hair will NOT return to being straight after another wash.
If washing permed hair again actually worked, it would be really easy for someone who dislikes their perm to rid themselves of it. It doesn't work like that!
The chemical bonds in the hair have been permanently altered around the shape of the curl rod. Permanently…… So wash again and get rid of the perm smell for good.
You could go back to your stylist or do it yourself. Also, sometimes applying neutralizer through the hair removes some of the perm smell. Sometimes.
ANSWER: If your hair has the smell of perm treatment even though you haven’t permed it, you may be having fungal infection problems on the scalp. Does it itch?
That would be a clue to fungal issues and fungus overload definitely has a foul smell that can smell like anything from perm, to sulfur, to wet dog mustiness.
Try Ketoconazole shampoo and see if that clears up the stinky issue..
ANSWER: The reasons behind your smelly sulfur-scented hair and scalp could be many, as we listed above - from excess oil production to accumulation of bacteria and sweat, or permed hair that wasn’t rinsed enough before neutralizing or wasn’t under the neutralizing shampoo for enough time..
ANSWER: Wet dog smell in hair often comes from overly oily hair that hasn't been washed enough and is picking up components of the air environment.
The wet dog stench is more prevalent in rainy or humid weather as well. The humidity makes your hair secrete more oil than necessary.
The oil and damp hair traps in dirt, pollutants, smoke, and many different funky odors from the environment – making your head a hotspot for foul smelling dog-like odors.
ANSWER: Many reports of bad after-perm odors that didn't fade after a few days or a couple of shampoos were caused by interactions between the chemicals in the perm and other products or services done to the hair.
Specifically, if the hair has been color-treated, the perm could result in a reaction that leaves a lasting odor.
Given that the smell is lingering so long, and the smell is characterized as a perm smell or even a "burnt" odor, it’s probable that the perm used had a chemical reaction with something already present in the hair.
This could be anything from hair color product to a residue left by medications or curl defining creams for wavy tresses.
Treating the problem of the lingering smell is relatively simple and there are two suggestions NHP can give you to clear it up. First, is a premium deep conditioning treatment with baking soda added to it.
Use a hair conditioner that is acidic, such as Apple Pectin conditioner like PURA D'OR Apple Cider Vinegar Thin2Thick, and combine 2 ounces of conditioner with 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda.
Apply the mixture to wet hair and comb through with a wide-tooth comb.
Cover the hair with a plastic cap and leave in place for 20-30 minutes. If desired, you can wrap permed hair in warmed towels or sit under a hooded dryer to add heat to the conditioning.
The effect of the baking soda is to absorb the odors in the permed hair, and the acidic conditioner will help to contract the cuticle layer of the hair and seal the hair shaft.
The second idea in removing the odor is to use tomato juice. Now, rather than applying straight tomato juice to your hair and running the risk of staining it or getting seeds stuck in it.
Strain the tomato juice through a coffee filter and use the filtered tomato juice applied straight to the hair.
Leave it in place for 15-20 minutes and follow up with an acidic shampoo and conditioner (like Apple Pectin).
Soak your hair with lemon juice. The acidity of lemon juice can help lift the chemical smell from your hair after a perm.
Using a lemon juice rinse won’t stain your permed hair, so it is a particularly helpful rinse if you have light or blonde hair.
If you studied well, I’m sure that this NHP tutorial about the question why does my hair smell like a perm when wet will help.
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And check out our article for my Lovelies in the NHP-Hive who have really dry & irritated scalps.
See my article about 15 best styling products for curly hair...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melissa Lee
Melissa Lee is a Contributing Editor to NHP and a former owner of the BlackhairOMG website. She formed 4C Trichology Growth Services, LLC., a US based hair care consultation service. She has also contributed as a writer and consultant for various hair and beauty websites. Melissa can be followed on Twitter here.