Hair Straighteners May Not Be Good After All

by Dr. NIthin Jayan on  January 19, 2012 at 2:29 PM Health Watch
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Exposure to formaldehyde contained in hair smoothing and straightening products can pose health risks such as cancer. Hair salon workers and those attending beauty schools are at increased risk of exposure. Brazilian Blowout treatment, used by licensed hair stylists, has been facing contempt charges for a while due to the alleged presence of this cancer causing chemical.
Hair Straighteners May Not Be Good After All
Hair Straighteners May Not Be Good After All

Formaldehyde that binds keratin to hair is used in hair straightening products. Dangerously high levels of formaldehyde were found in the air of salons using these hair-straightening products during the investigation by the U.S. Department of Labour's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA was responding to complaints from workers. Even products that were labelled as 'formaldehyde free' were found to contain the chemical. Evidence of allergic reactions such as eye irritation, nose bleeds was found in workers exposed to formaldehyde.

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Salons and other employers, such as beauty schools, that use hair smoothing products that contain or may release formaldehyde are supposed to follow the requirements of OSHA's 'formaldehyde and hazard communication standards'. Citations and fines were issued by OSHA to salons and other employers (e.g., beauty schools) who were found to violate norms.

Formaldehyde, a strong foul-smelling gas, is a known cancer causing substance. Hair smoothing products may contain formaldehyde dissolved in water. The chemically reacted form is called methylene glycol.

Hair smoothening products release formaldehyde when heated, viz., flat-ironing or blow-drying.

Exposure to formaldehyde can occur in the following ways:

Breathing it in through your nose and mouth

Getting it on your skin

Getting it in your eyes or mouth

Symptoms caused by exposure to the chemical include:

Eye irritation and damage, including blindness.

Nose irritation, including bloody noses.

Skin sensitivity, rashes, and itching.

Breathing difficulties, such as coughing and wheezing.

Formaldehyde levels above 0.1 ppm in the air can irritate nose, throat, and lungs. Higher levels worsen symptoms.

It is important that employers and employees know the risks of using formaldehyde containing products. It is not however easy since most products never list their ingredients. Products that contain formaldehyde, methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene or Chemical Abstract Service Number 50-00-0 are not recommended by OSHA.

Several brand-name products that contain formaldehyde or that can expose you to formaldehyde during use have been identified:

Acai Professional Smoothing Solution

Professional Brazilian Blowout Solution



Acai Therapy


Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy

Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment

Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment Blonde

Express Blow Out

Marcia Teixeira

Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Advanced Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Chocolate Extreme De-Frizzing Treatment

Soft Gentle Smoothing Treatment

Soft Chocolate Gentle Smoothing Treatment

Reference : Facts about Formaldehyde in Hair Smoothing Products; Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Source: Medindia

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I had a Brazilian Blowout at the Jordana Lorraine Colour Bar in Santa Monica by a stylist named Jordana Kotlus and she had a very nice portable chemical source capture system that was able to extract the chemicals released while blow drying/flat ironing. I didn't experience any burning of the eyes or smell the bad odor that I have experienced at other salons that didn't have one of these portable ventilation systems. I don't know if she charges a little more for a hair smoothing treatment to help offset the cost of the ventilation but If so I think it's totally worth it!

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