The Health Hazards Of Chemical Hair Straightening Treatments
Hair Straightening treatments and hair styling products are big business!
Chemical hair straightening salon treatments, promises both men and women, glossy, lustrous, super straight hair, but what they don’t tell you is how potentially dangerous these treatments are to our health and that they often contain one of the most toxic chemicals known- Formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde Exposure From Hair Straightening Treatments
Although sleek, straight, hair looks great, exposing yourself to a heavy dose Formaldehyde, which is produced from the chemicals in these professional hair straightening products, is not!
Formaldehyde can seriously, affect our health. So much so, that one very popular, professional, straightening treatment (which for legal reasons shall remain nameless on this site) made news headlines worldwide, because of the dangerous levels of formaldehyde it released- read here and here.
Formaldehyde is present in many products and is can be extremely toxic, it is basically a carcinogenic impurity that is released by many cosmetic preservatives. Scientific research labels it as a probable carcinogen, as well as a documented, immune and respiratory toxicant.
Read EWG’s data sheet on Formaldehyde.
Even after all the alarming headlines, there are still many of these permanent, hair straightening treatments around containing formaldehyde. There are also many other hair styling products; e.g. hair sprays, that release dangerous levels of formaldehyde.
My Personal Story – Hairdressing & Constant Exposure To Toxic Chemicals
As a professional hair and makeup artist with over 25 years experience, I can personally attest to how toxic these products are and how sick they can potentially make you.
When around a decade back, the GHD, straightening irons first came onto the market, I thought they were absolutely brilliant. They literally halved the time it took to style hair, they smoothed down the hair cuticle beautifully, making the hair look incredibly healthy and shiny.
Over a period of a couple years of using hair straighteners in conjunction with hair styling products and hairspray, I developed a chronic cough and a painful, heavy feeling in my chest when I breathed. This was going on for months before I saw the correlation. My cough and the pain, would always get a lot worse just after I had styled hair using a straightening iron in conjunction with styling products and hairspray.
Anyone who uses straightening irons with products, will notice that a steam/vapor, comes off the hair as you style. This is caused by the extreme heat of the irons on the hair and the hair product. I endured a series of tests, which includes ECG’s, X-Rays and Lung Capacity testing, the results, thank G-D, showed clear. In the end the only thing that worked to subdue my cough was a steroid inhaler, not great either.
I had a break from hairdressing while pregnant and a new mum and noticed that the tightness in my chest eased. As soon as I went back to styling and using the hair straightening irons, combined with styling products/hairspray the chest problems started to return. I took to wearing a protective face mask, like nail technicians do, but it wasn’t comfortable, or practical. I experimented by first styling my clients hair, when it was free of all products and only once I knew that I no longer needed to work with the straightening irons, did I apply any styling products. This worked and I have been doing this ever since.
Although for years I had been using only certified, cruelty free products, I now choose to use, (so as to protect my health and also the health of my clients and the environment) the range of Everescents Organic Hair Care, Hair Styling Products. These are plastic free and toxic chemical free.
How To Straighten And Style Hair Without Toxic Chemicals
The simplest solution is to choose not to get your hair chemically straightened, but if you do decide to have it done, then research fully beforehand and know exactly what ingredients are being used on you and their side affects and opt for the safest choice.
Personally, I do not recommend this procedure, as to date they are still all using harsh, toxic chemicals and as far as I know, there is no product that chemically straightens hair that is all natural, or certified cruelty free.
- If you are going to use a straightening iron at home, do not apply any styling products beforehand, not unless you are confident that the ingredients will not release formaldehyde and other toxins e.g phthalates.
- If you do wish to use styling products and you are not confident that the ingredients are harmless e.g. any hairsprays, setting lotions, gels, waxes, pomades, shine sprays. Choose to play it safe and use them only once you have finished styling your hair with the straightening irons, or curling tongs and please use as natural styling products as possible and ones that are from Cruelty Free International and their Leaping Bunny Programme approved cruelty free companies.
- Choose to use only safe and natural shampoos and conditioners. This way if you want to straighten, or heat-style your hair, you won’t be heating up any residues left on the hair from synthetic and chemical based shampoos and conditioners that could be potentially toxic.
- Always be sure to wash your hair before restyling with hot irons, or tongs. This is to ensure you have removed all the hairspray or styling products that you previously applied.
Make sure when styling at home, that you work in a well ventilated area, with plenty of fresh air, or at least a room that has very good ventilation.
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