Is Straightening Your Hair Worth the Health Risk?

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Women often go through countless hair styles and hair cuts throughout their lifetime, all in the hopes of looking their best and avoiding those dreaded bad hair days. But can you go too far in the name of beauty? And is it worth risking your health?

Hair strengtheners are common products used to shake up your current hair trend, but the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a health hazard alert to salons nationwide about the risks that popular hair straightening products pose to salon customers. The agency warned that formaldehyde – a common ingredient in many of the treatments – can cause nose and lung irritation and increases the risk of cancer.

The Environmental Working Group has published a large investigation of chemical hair straightening treatments and their findings have turned up numerous complaints of hair loss, blisters, burning eyes, noses and throats, headaches and vomiting in women who had been given or had applied Brazilian-style straightening treatments.

Despite all this growing research, many of the nation’s top salons still offer these products and services, knowing that the products are potentially hazardous to one’s health.  “Deceptive marketing of formaldehyde-laced hair smoothing products is deplorable,” said EWG senior scientist David Andrews. “Chemicals known to cause cancer shouldn’t be hidden ingredients in any products that people inhale or apply to their skin.”

“While not as common as a haircut, these straightening procedures happen in salons across the country each day, exposing workers and customers to unnecessary levels of formaldehyde that could put them at increased risk of adverse health effects including cancer later in life,” added Andrews.

What’s the solution? Try to go the chemical-free route. Use a blow-dryer and a hot iron. Don’t expose yourself or others around you to hazardous chemicals. Because it’s not just the consumer who is in danger, it’s the hair stylist who does several procedures per day that is at the highest exposure risk to the fumes. For more information, please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website.

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