Are Hair Straighteners Safe? 6 Adverse Health Effects You May Not Be Aware Of

Hair straighteners have become a well-liked technique for achieving sleek and smooth hair, but the potential health risks associated with using them may not be well-known to many people. While these can provide instant results, they can cause significant damage to hair and scalp and even lead to long-term health problems.

By understanding the potential risks, individuals can make informed decisions about their hair care routine and take steps to protect their health.

Chemicals Used in Hair Straighteners

One of the key concerns regarding the safety of hair straighteners is the chemicals used in these products. Most of them rely on chemicals to break down the protein bonds in hair, allowing it to be reshaped and straightened. However, these chemicals can also have negative effects on both the hair and the scalp.

One common chemical used is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can cause respiratory problems, eye irritation, and skin sensitization. Some also contain sodium hydroxide, a harsh chemical that can cause chemical burns and damage the hair shaft.

1. Cancer Risk

Hair straighteners have been associated with potential cancer risks, making “hair straightener cancer” a concerning topic for many. Formaldehyde, a common chemical used, is known to cause cancer in humans.

In fact, as per the TorHoerman Law LLC website, prolonged and repeated exposure to formaldehyde has been linked to an increased risk of various cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer, leukemia, and lung cancer. These risks may be higher for individuals who use them frequently or work in hair salons where formaldehyde-containing products are used.

Also, Formaldehyde is released as a gas when straighteners are heated, and prolonged exposure to this chemical can increase the risks to salon workers or individuals who frequently use them.

According to the Toxics Use Reduction Institute, IARC reclassified formaldehyde from Group 2A (probable human carcinogen) to Group 1 in 2006. (carcinogenic to humans). Based on “sufficient evidence of human nasopharyngeal cancer, strong but insufficient evidence of human leukemia, and limited evidence of human sinonasal cancer,” this categorization was made.

IARC concluded that there was adequate evidence of leukemia in people and reiterated the Group 1 designation in 2009.

2. Respiratory Problems

Formaldehyde can be emitted into the air as a gas during the heating process of the tool, which can irritate and inflame the respiratory system when breathed.

It can lead to various respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In some cases, exposure to formaldehyde can also trigger asthma attacks or aggravate existing respiratory conditions.

Choosing products free from formaldehyde and other harmful chemicals is important to reduce the risk of respiratory problems associated with hair smoothers.

3. Skin Irritation

These can also cause skin irritation, especially if the product contains harsh chemicals or is used improperly. For example, some straightening irons use sodium hydroxide can cause chemical burns on the scalp. Others containing ammonium thioglycolate can cause allergic reactions and skin sensitization.

In addition to chemical burns and allergic reactions, it can cause minor skin irritation, such as redness, itching, and dryness. It is especially true if the hair smoothing tool is used frequently or left on the hair for an extended period.

4. Hair Damage

The heat from the hair press can cause the hair to become dry, brittle, and prone to breakage, resulting in split ends and thinning hair.

Furthermore, it can cause damage to the hair shaft, making it more susceptible to damage from other sources, such as brushing or styling. It can result in a vicious cycle of damage, where the hair becomes more and more fragile over time.

To minimize the risk of hair damage, choosing products designed to be gentle on the hair, such as those that use ceramic plates or infrared heat technology, is important. It’s also important to use the product at the appropriate temperature for your hair type and to use a heat protectant spray or serum to minimize the damage from the heat.

5. Hormonal Disruption

Another potential health risk associated is hormonal disruption. Some hair-smoothing tools contain chemicals, such as phthalates and parabens, linked to hormonal disruption and other health problems.

Phthalates, for example, are often used as plasticizers in smoothing tools and other personal care products. Unfortunately, these chemicals have been shown to interfere with the body’s hormonal balance, leading to various health problems, including reproductive and developmental issues and even cancer.

Moreover, some chemicals have been shown to mimic the hormone estrogen in the body, which can interfere with normal hormonal functioning and lead to various health problems.

6. Allergic Reactions to Chemicals

Many of these tools contain ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions, including fragrances, preservatives, and other chemicals. Allergic reactions can manifest in various ways, including skin irritation, redness, swelling, and itching. An allergic reaction can lead to difficulty breathing, hives, and other serious symptoms in severe cases.

To reduce the risk of these reactions, it’s important to choose products free from known allergens and to test the product on a small area of skin before using it on your entire head. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, take a patch test, frequently used to identify dermatitis or skin irritation and swelling. For this test, a small quantity of allergen must be applied to the skin and covered for 48 hours.

After 72 to 96 hours, a doctor will examine the skin for indications of an allergic response, such as redness, a rash, or hives. The doctor can assess whether the patient has had an allergic response based on the symptoms present. Two to three office visits are necessary for patch testing.

If you experience an allergic reaction, you must stop using the product immediately and seek medical attention.

Hair Straighteners Can Come with Several Adverse Health Effects

As per Market Data Forecast, the market for hair straighteners was estimated at USD 6.32 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 8% from 2023 to 2028.

The increasing number of working women and the growing interest in beauty will be the two main factors driving the global market by 2026. But, at the same time, while they can be a convenient way to achieve a sleek and polished hairstyle, they can also come with several adverse health effects.

It’s important to be aware of these risks and take necessary precautions, such as choosing safer products, using them responsibly, and seeking medical attention if you experience any adverse effects. By being cautious and informed, you can minimize the potential health risks and enjoy a beautiful hairstyle without compromising your health.

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