GLOW Body Blog

Fit, Mindful, Nourished.

BUYER BE CLEAR 2... Chemical Hair Straighteners

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When you look beyond the beauty...

From celebs to the girl next door, we have all seen someone's hair transform from frizz to swooshing, silky locks − the impressive result of a keratin hair treatment. What could be more intriguing? You walk into a salon, self-consciously smoothing your frizzies, and a few hundred dollars later, you walk out... shiny, silky, ready for the red carpet − and with a newfound confidence that you are frizz-proof for many months ahead.

Sound too good to be true? There's a reason for that.

Expensive? Yes. Effective? Yes. Dangerous? YES. According to an EWG (Environmental Working Group) investigation from 2011, these chemical hair straightening treatments are packed with formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is known to be a carcinogen as well as a powerful allergen. In fact, in its gaseous state it is especially dangerous − alarming when you stop to consider the blow-drying and flat iron finishes that follow the chemical treatments. As the formaldehyde transforms to gas, clients and stylists alike inhale dangerous fumes.  

According  to the EWG, "some salon clients and personnel have suffered severe allergic reactions, massive hair loss, neck and face rashes, blistered scalps, and other serious health problems..." (Authors: David Andrews, Ph.D, Senior Scientist; Jane Houlihan, MSCE, Senior Vice President for Research; Thomas Cluderay, Staff Attorney and Stabile Law Fellow; Elaine Shannon, Editor-in-Chief; EWP investigation, 2011).

Not nearly as appealing when you stop and realize the dangers and risks. I was greatly alarmed to learn...

  • that many companies claim "no formaldehyde" despite tests proving the opposite.
  • when there is greater than 1% formaldehyde in products, salons are required by law to have quick drench showers available, eyewash areas, and medical monitoring for staff with related symptoms.
  • some salons deny risks and continue to offer these treatments to unsuspecting clients.
  • salons have been urged by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration to stop using formaldehyde based hair treatments; and if they do not, it is critical that they monitor air, add effective ventilation, and ensure that workers have gloves, chemical splash goggles, chemical resistant aprons, and face shields.
  • the FDA does not limit the amount of formaldehyde in these hair treatments!
  • the very formaldehyde based hair straighteners that we use in the U.S. have been recalled in Australia, Ireland, Canada, France, Germany, and Cyprus.

Suddenly grabbing a blow dryer isn't a hassle at all! It is the least expensive, easiest, and safest way to straighten your hair. With some good blow drying habits (quality equipment, heat setting that is appropriate for your hair type, safe styling technique (ask your stylist for tips!), and a good natural conditioner − which goes a long way in protecting the cuticle − you can achieve straight, silky hair without risk! Flat irons are effective too, but caution is needed regarding heat levels and techniques, and safe heat protective hair products.

Looking for some quality hair products to help you achieve those silky locks? I always lean toward those carried at Health Food stores. They tend to be really careful about chemicals in their products, carrying lines that are more organic and wholesome. Check out the products at a Health Food store you know and trust − it's great to pamper your hair with nourishing options. And if you really want to keep it natural − and have some fun − try these easy home remedies!

  • Coconut Milk Rinse: Take about half a cup of coconut milk; massage into hair; let sit for 5 minutes; rinse.
  • Milky Spritzer: Fill a spray bottle with milk; spritz hair; comb through. Leave milk on hair for 20-30 minutes, and rinse well. Milk's protein strengthens the hair shaft.
  • Coconut Oil Smoother: Massage warm coconut oil into hair; cover with heated towel for about 15 minutes; wash hair thoroughly.
  • Deep Conditioning Mix: Combine 3 tablespoons (each) of olive oil and honey. Mash in two ripe bananas and one raw egg white. Work mixture through hair, cover with a disposable shower cap; leave it for half an hour and wash thoroughly.

Couldn't agree more with EWG when they state that the FDA should prohibit the use of formaldehyde (and formaldehyde releasing chemicals!) in chemical hair straighteners. But for whatever reason, they are lax. So, bottom line? Abstinence is best. You are already beautiful, your health is priceless, and that's the 'straight' truth.

*Note: Formaldehyde is a flammable gas with a very strong smell. It may be listed (in hair products) as: methanal, methylene oxide, oxymethyline, methylaldehyde, and oxomethane − or methylene glycol or formalin (aka embalming fluid) when mixed with water. Read your product labels... and if you see formaldehyde, just say no!