Is straight hair worth the risk? Salons across the country are being called upon by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop using hair straighteners that cause serious health damage to those individuals unfortunate enough to use or be around them.
For the past several years, some celebrities and fashionistas with $250 to $600 to drop at a hair salon have raved about “Brazilian-style keratin” hair straighteners purported to transform frizzy, unmanageable hair into flat, silky-smooth locks.
In fact, those chemical concoctions are loaded with formaldehyde, which numerous prestigious health institutions, most recently a National Academy of Sciences panel, have labeled a human carcinogen. Formaldehyde is also a potent allergen. It is especially hazardous when it reverts to its natural state, a gas, and is inhaled. Formaldehyde-based hair straighteners present a particular danger to salon workers who apply blow driers and 450-degree flatirons to chemical-coated hair.
Some salon clients and personnel have suffered severe allergic reactions, massive hair loss, neck and face rashes, blistered scalps and other serious health problems, according to an Environmental Working Group review of 47 previously unpublished “adverse event” reports filed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The FDA recently released the following statement to the CEO of one company in particular, Brazilian Blowout, stating that their product is “misbranded” and “adulterated” and contains carcinogenic formaldehyde. The label on the product states that it is “formaldehyde free” and is clearly a false statement. Formaldehyde is a highly reactive chemical that readily reacts with biological tissues, particularly the mucous tissues lining the respiratory tract and the eyes. Adverse events have reported the following injuries associated with Brazilian Blowout: eye disorders (irritation, increased lacrimation, blurred vision, hyperaemia); nervous system disorders (headache, burning sensation, dizziness, syncope), and respiratory tract (dyspnea, cough, nasal discomfort, epistaxis, wheezing, rhinorrhea, throat irritation, nasopharyngitis).
EWG’s research team surveyed 41 of the nation’s top 100 hair salons, according to Elle magazine. The question: which ones continue to offer hair straighteners laden with formaldehyde despite the risks and recalls abroad.
Nearly every salon representative we interviewed knew about recent reports of health problems from formaldehyde hair straighteners. But 28 of the 41 salons still offer the treatments. For the complete list, click here.
Should you avoid straightening your hair altogether? There are safe alternatives available for you to use. Using a flat iron with no chemicals is still perfectly safe and acceptable. The flat-iron process is the top choice among EWG researchers because it is chemical free and it won’t cost you a fortune. Just be careful of the hot iron! The EWG has put together a complete list of safe treatments and dangerous chemicals to avoid.