Frequently Asked Questions about Formaldehyde and Hair Smoothing Treatments
What is Formaldehyde?
A known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is a toxic and volatile gas that, combined with water, becomes methylene glycol.
How can I get exposed to formaldehyde in a hair smoothing treatment?
Exposure can be in the form of inhaling the fumes or from direct contact with the skin. The stylists, client and other clients in the salon during a hair treatment are all exposed to the fumes during the service. Anyone in the vicinity is affected. Additionally, the product can be absorbed through the skin, whether it be through the scalp or from touching a surface that the product came in contact with, such as a salon chair or tool.
What are some of the symptoms salon workers and clients are experiencing?
Some symptoms can include scabs, bleeding and blisters in the nose, sore throats, eye irritation, blistery rashes, sinus infections, coughing up blood, wheezing, breathing problems such as asthma, dizziness, coughing, increased respiratory infections, weakened immune systems, sensitivities to chemicals, allergic reactions, headaches, and other ailments. More long term symptoms include various health conditions related to sensitivities, allergies, gynecological issues, cancer risks and more.
What if I don’t experience any symptoms?
Just because a person does not experience any symptoms initially does not mean that he or she is not at risk. Not all symptoms are short-term, there are long-term health concerns as well. Symptoms can develop later in life, and since formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen the risk of cancer increases.
What if the product says it’s “formaldehyde free?”
A product that indicates it is “formaldehyde free” does not necessarily mean that it is without formaldehyde. Many companies do not include their entire ingredient list, including hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde. Often, such products are tested and found to have formaldehyde in them despite these false claims. Additionally, companies will use different names for chemicals that ultimately create formaldehyde during the treatment.
What if the bottle says “OSHA Compliant” – does that mean it’s formaldehyde free or safe?
Be very cautious when products claim to be “OSHA Compliant,” as companies are not allowed to make such a claim, since OSHA does not certify products. Chances are, the product still contains formaldehyde.
Will a mask help with the fumes?
A particle mask will not help protect a person from the formaldehyde vapors. Only a gas mask would work. However, there is still exposure through skin contact regardless of using a gas mask. General masks will not protect a person.
Who do I contact if I have a reaction to hair smoothing treatment?
Contact the FDA and report the reaction as soon as possible. Click here for ways to report reactions to the FDA.