Are Hair Straighteners Toxic?

(Last Updated On: June 25, 2018)
Curly Hair and Hair Straighteners

Tests show that hair straighteners can be toxic.

Many people use hair straighteners. Are they toxic?

There are do-it-yourself hair straighteners and there are those done at the hair salon. Hair straighteners are increasingly popular. Especially among people who have naturally curly hair. This does not mean that hair salon straighteners are necessarily safer. As we will find in the research below, hair straightener safety depends largely upon the brand and the ingredients used in the product.

One of these questionable ingredients is formaldehyde.

Do hair straighteners contain formaldehydes?

A study of leading “Brazilian-style” hair straighteners that included 45 manufacturers has found that many brands claiming little or no formaldehyde actually contain significant levels.

The study, by the Environmental Working Group, included a review of 47 adverse event reports that have been filed with the United States Food and Drug Administration. The study found that “15 of 16 companies claim little to no formaldehyde but tests show their products contain substantial amounts.” Tests concluded that some hair straighteners have up to 11.8% formaldehyde.

In addition, salon air fume testing conducted during 2010 found that hair salons often maintain high levels of formaldehyde. The researchers noted that solutions containing over one percent formaldehyde will produce significant air vapor formaldehyde levels. U.S. federal law calls for salons to provide medical monitoring and emergency wash stations if they use formaldehyde solutions over 1%.

The EWG petitioned the U.S. FDA to take action on what they cite as hazardous products.

Read more:  Formaldehyde in Clothing Linked to Dermatitis and Cancer

Natural hair straightener alternatives

Meanwhile, many hair straightener fans are discovering natural black castor oil, which has been reputed (but not confirmed by research) to be a healthy hair straightener. Black castor oil has also been reputed to stimulate hair growth and yield a healthy scalp.

Click here for the Environmental Working Group formaldehyde in hair straightener report.  The report discusses the brands, the salons and consumer products.

We have also discussed formaldehyde in clothing and formaldehyde in flooring. In these, we discussed how formaldehyde is linked to cancer, skin conditions, allergies and other conditions.

Finally, I should add that naturally curly hair looks better, at least to me, than hair that has been straightened.

Case Adams, PhD

Case Adams has a Ph.D. in Natural Health Sciences, is a California Naturopath and is Board Certified as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner, with clinical experience and diplomas in Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling, Homeopathy and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 27 books and numerous articles on print and online magazines. Contact: case@caseadams.com

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