Everyone thinks that because a service or product is offered at a salon, it is safe. Unfortunately, this is completely false and the FDA seems to disappoint once again, this time in the case of dangerous hair straightening products. A recent Environmental Working Group report claims that hair straightener makers and salons continue to cover up the dangers exposing their clients and salon workers to formaldehyde.

EWG Investigation: Hair Straighteners Release Potent Carcinogen

Obama Administration Moves to Curb Toxic Salon Service

CONTACT: EWG Public Affairs: 202.667.6982. alex@ewg.org


Washington, D.C. – The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a health hazard alert to salons nationwide about the risks that popular hair straightening products, including well-known Brazilian Blowout, pose a danger to salon workers and customers. The agency warned that formaldehyde – a common ingredient in many of the treatments – can cause nose and lung irritation and increases the risk of cancer. Read more….

EWG’s comprehensive report of 45 manufacturers of hair-straightening products has found that:

  • Even though companies are claiming that they do not use formaldehyde in their products, tests show that 15 out of 16 of these companies have a substantial amount of formaldehyde in their products.
  • Dangerous formaldehyde fumes have been found in the air of salons; those salons using hair straightening products containing more than 1 percent formaldehyde are required by law to monitor workers symptoms. Some products tested contain 11.8 percent!
  • Unfortunately, many salons continue to deny the risks and government officials have been slow to move against risky hair straighteners.

From the EWG report:

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has belatedly issued a “hazard alert” to salon workers and owners, urging them to stop using formaldehyde-based hair straighteners. If they persisted in selling the service, the agency said, they must take extensive precautions, including air monitoring, installing ventilation, training workers and providing protective equipment such as gloves, chemical splash goggles, face shields and chemical resistant aprons.

The agency disclosed that it is investigating a number of salons, importers, distributors and manufacturers of these products and already has issued some citations. “Workers have the right to know the risks associated with the chemicals with which they work, and how to protect themselves,” OSHA chief David Michaels said on April 11, 2011, as he announced the agency’s salon crack-down. “Employers need to know these risks in order to ensure the safety and health of their workers.

The FDA, responsible for cosmetic safety, does not limit amounts of formaldehyde in hair-straightening products and has not taken action against companies using formaldehyde. Hair straighteners based on formaldehyde have been recalled in six countries — Australia, Ireland, Canada, France, Germany and Cyprus — but are still widely used in American salons.

What is even more frightening is that most consumers are unaware of the dangers to begin with….or maybe they just don’t want to know for fear that they would have to give up straight hair. EWG goes even further in its report, listing the best options for straight hair. Unfortunately, there aren’t many.

photo © Tatiana Morozova | Dreamstime.com