The FDA's Proposed Ban on Hair Straighteners: Protecting Your Health and Beauty

Ladies, if you’ve ever dreamed of having smooth, sleek, and manageable hair without the hassle of daily styling, you might be familiar with the allure of keratin treatments. These treatments promise to transform frizzy locks into a cascade of silkiness. But, did you know that some of the ingredients used in these treatments may pose serious health risks? Now while this may feel this is attack on kinky hair, lets delve into the FDA’s proposed ban on hair products containing formaldehyde or methylene glycol to better understand what dangers they present and their potential links to cancer.


What are Formaldehyde and Methylene Glycol

Formaldehyde and methylene glycol, a formaldehyde releaser – are chemicals commonly used in hair straightening products, including popular keratin treatments. They’re known for their ability to lock in the straightened effect and maintain it for several weeks. However, these ingredients come with a dark side, and it’s crucial for us to be informed.

These two chemicals are in many hair straighteners but not to be confused with hair chemical relaxers. According to board certified dermatologist, Dr. Crystal Aguh, in an Instagram video she posted – she mentions that the terms hair straighteners and hair relaxers have been used incorrectly and interchangeably and that just isn’t the case. “Chemical relaxers fall into two categories – Lye relaxers which contain sodium hydroxide as the straightening agent and No-lye relaxers which contain quanidine hydroxide as the straightening – neither of which are part of the ban.”


The Dangers of Formaldehyde and Methylene Glycol

Irritation and Allergies: Formaldehyde and methylene glycol are potent irritants that can cause skin and eye irritation, respiratory problems, and allergic reactions. This can be especially concerning for individuals with sensitive skin, making it important to be cautious when using products containing these chemicals.

Toxic Fumes: When heated during the straightening process, formaldehyde and methylene glycol can release toxic fumes into the air. Salon workers and clients who undergo these treatments are at risk of inhaling these fumes, which can lead to a range of health issues, including coughing, wheezing, and even lung damage over time.

Cancer Concerns: One of the most alarming potential dangers of these chemicals is their association with cancer. While research is ongoing, several studies have suggested a link between formaldehyde exposure and an increased risk of certain cancers, including myeloid leukemia, nasal and nasopharyngeal cancer. Black women already face disparities in cancer diagnosis and mortality rates, making it even more crucial to avoid potential carcinogens.

Research in recent years has helped raise awareness about the potential dangers of using chemical hair relaxers. A study published last year by the National Institutes of Health found that women who used hair-straightening chemicals more than four times in the previous year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to those who didn’t use the products. While the study didn’t collect information about specific brands or ingredients used by the participants, the researchers noted that formaldehyde, parabens and other ingredients found in chemical hair straighteners may contribute to the increased risk of uterine cancer. 


Are Keratin Treatments Safe?

Keratin treatments have gained immense popularity for their ability to provide long-lasting, frizz-free hair however their safety varies depending on several factors, including the specific product used, the application process, and individual considerations. Not all, but many of these treatments do contain high levels of formaldehyde or methylene glycol to achieve these results. While the straightening effect may be appealing, it’s essential to weigh the potential risks against the benefits.

Some salons may offer “formaldehyde-free” keratin treatments, but it’s essential to be cautious and verify the ingredients. Some products labeled as “formaldehyde-free” may still contain low levels of formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasing products or release it during the heating process. Always inquire about the specific ingredients used in your chosen treatment and prioritize your health.


The FDA’s Proposed Ban

In recent years, the FDA has recognized the health risks associated with formaldehyde and methylene glycol in hair straighteners. As a result, they have proposed a ban on the use of these chemicals in such products. This move aims to protect consumers, especially those at higher risk due to frequent use or salon work.


What Can You Do?

Educate Yourself: Knowledge is power. Understand the ingredients in the products you use on your hair. Look for safer alternatives that don’t contain formaldehyde or methylene glycol.

Choose Safer Alternatives: Many haircare brands now offer formaldehyde-free and safer keratin treatments. Opt for products that prioritize your health without compromising on results.

Advocate for Safe Salons: If you frequent hair salons, ask about the products they use and advocate for safer practices. Encourage salons to prioritize the health of their clients and staff.

Support FDA Regulations: Stay informed about the FDA’s proposed ban and support initiatives that promote safer products in the beauty industry.

Our pursuit of beauty should never come at the expense of our health, especially within the black community, where health disparities are a concern. The FDA’s proposed ban on hair straighteners containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing chemical is a step in the right direction. By understanding the dangers of these ingredients, their role in keratin treatments, and their potential links to cancer, we can make informed choices that prioritize our well-being and beauty simultaneously. Let’s stand together for safer, healthier haircare practices that empower us all.


It’s time to prioritize both our beauty and our health!