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3 Chemicals Found in Beauty Salons and Their Possible Dangers

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3 Chemicals Found in Beauty Salons and Their Possible Dangers

Beauty salons are more than just places for beauty treatments—they are considered havens for relaxation, self-care, and rejuvenation. But they could be the cause of several health issues you suffer from—hard to believe, right? From hair straightening treatments and dyes to nail polishes, hazardous substances are added to numerous beauty products to achieve the desired results. 

A recent NIH study revealed that exposure to toxic chemicals during hairdressing activities puts hairdressers at risk of adverse health effects. Even nail salon workers are at risk of severe health issues. These include contact dermatitis, rhinitis, asthma, respiratory system illnesses, and organ damage. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some common chemicals found in beauty salons and the dangers associated with them. 

1. Toluene

Obtained from crude petroleum, toluene is a clear, colorless liquid with a pleasant odor. 

This highly toxic chemical is the key ingredient of an array of nail and hair products. Toluene is used in nail polishes to create a smooth and glossy finish. Nail polish removers also contain toluene because it helps dissolve substances such as plasticizers and resins. Hair dyes are also loaded with toluene to impart color. 

Toluene, however, is detrimental to human health. While it isn’t a cancer-causing chemical, excessive exposure can cause neurological damage. Even at low levels, toluene can cause nausea, temporary tiredness, weakness, confusion, and memory loss. 

Toluene exposure is especially concerning for pregnant women. Animal studies link toluene inhalant use during pregnancy with birth defects. An experiment in rats and hamsters exposed to 800 mg/m3 toluene via inhalation revealed higher rates of low birth weights and negative effects on behavioral tasks.

Using toluene-free nail products and hair dyes can help reduce your exposure to the chemical. Thus, the next time you visit a salon to get your nails done or dye your hair, ask them to use toluene-free products. Or, simply go for nail polishes from Sally Hansen, Orly, and OPI. These are three major companies that have removed toluene from their nail polishes. 

2. Formaldehyde

A new report issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology revealed that personal care products contain high levels of formaldehyde. 

Formaldehyde exposure has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals. Some studies in people have found a link between cancer of the nasopharynx and formaldehyde exposure in the workplace. Studies on people who were exposed to formaldehyde at work discovered a possible link to nasal sinus cancer. 

Nail polishes, nail glues, and hair smoothing products are some salon products formulated with formaldehyde. Some hair salon products, such as flat ironing, release formaldehyde. This is more of a matter of concern because it puts salon workers and clients at risk of cancer. 

An NIH study finds women who use hair straightening products are at an increased risk of uterine cancer than those who do not. 

However, formaldehyde found in hair straightening products doesn’t only raise the risk of uterine cancer. The likelihood of developing endometrial and breast cancers is also high among these women. Black women are most likely to be affected by formaldehyde in hair straightening products. 

A recent Reuters publication reveals that thousands of Black women have sued cosmetic companies claiming their hair-relaxing products caused uterine cancer. Other than L’Oreal, TorHoerman Law notes that Softsheen-Carson, Just For Me, Dark & Lovely, and Motions Hair are the defendants named in hair straightener lawsuits. 

Women, in their chemical hair straightener lawsuit, claim that the defendants failed to warn them of the risks of ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers from their hair relaxer products despite knowing. They further allege that they failed to test their products for safety adequately. 

Skip products that contain formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, quaternium-15, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol). Always go for products labeled as “formaldehyde-free” when you go to beauty salons for hair smoothing or manicure services. 

3. Styrene Acrylates Copolymer

Another ingredient of concern found in beauty salons is styrene acrylates copolymer. This chain of polymers consisting of styrene and acrylates is added to beauty products for color. Nail polishes and shampoos contain styrene acrylates copolymer. 

While styrene acrylates copolymer is generally considered safe, contamination with the styrene is concerning. Styrene has been classified as a possible human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program. Due to its association with lymphoma and leukemia, it’s classified as so. Exposure to styrene can cause eye and ​​mucous membrane irritation and gastrointestinal effects. 

Steer clear of items that contain styrene acrylates copolymer or fragrances to reduce your risk of cancer and other health issues. 

In conclusion, most products found and used in beauty salons are chock-full of chemicals. Toluene, formaldehyde, and styrene aren’t the only chemicals that pose health hazards for salon workers and clients. Many others, such as trichloroethylene, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and methyl methacrylate, are also linked to several health issues, from skin irritation to cancer. 

The only way to limit exposure to these chemicals is to avoid using products formulated with them. Anytime you visit a beauty salon for a service, ask the service provider to use products formulated without these toxic chemicals. If possible, consider checking the labels to ensure they don’t contain chemicals that could harm your health.  On the other hand, salon workers must consider using protective equipment such as masks and gloves to limit exposure to these chemicals. Also, make sure to clean up spills right away to minimize your exposure to the chemical.

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