The road to beautiful, smooth hair is paved with good intentions. But before you try something with good intentions that ends up doing more harm than good, there are things you need to know. We are here to tell you why a natural solution may be the safest option.
Get hair, health, and science news delivered right to your inbox.
Chemical Treatments Can Cause Your Hair Structure to Change
Each hair is made up of chains of keratin, a naturally occurring protein. Certain chemical treatments involve coating each hair strand with a strong chemical, then warming it up to activate the formula. This can affect the way these keratin chains are held together – and by doing so, it changes the structure of your hair.
There are several types of chemical treatments that claim to give you smooth and straight hair – the Brazilian blowout (a keratin treatment) and the Japanese straightening perm are the most common. Both processes can affect the hair structure, but the Japanese – being a permanent treatment – uses the strongest chemicals and therefore poses the greatest risks in terms of damaging your hair.
Chemicals Can Also Cause Hair Damage and Health Issues
But there are side effects that are more immediately apparent than a change in your hair structure. Some women have experienced burnt hair and hair loss, others tend to end up with drier hair than before. But the women who have suffered only damaged hair can count themselves lucky, as these treatments can also cause damage to our health. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, breathing in formaldehyde can cause allergic reactions to the skin, eyes and lungs, asthma, and even blindness, if you get it in your eyes.
Chemical Smoothing Treatments Contain High Levels of Toxic Ingredients
It is safe to say that formaldehyde – used in many keratin treatments – is not good to be around. “In general, every client and stylist [exposed to keratin chemicals] complains of burning eyes, difficulty breathing, and burning sensations,” stylist Kelly Merriman told Cosmopolitan in a recent interview. Customers that have gone through this type of treatments have also complained of throat and mouth ulcers, dizziness, headaches, flu-like symptoms like vomiting, eye damage, loss of taste and smell, and fatigue, according to the Environmental Working Group, EWG. And because exposure is added over time, hair stylists are even more likely to suffer from serious symptoms.
While the chemical is not supposed to touch anything but the actual hair during the procedure, accidental skin contact can cause blisters or rashes on the scalp, face and neck. But that is just in the short term. Formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen, which means it is proven to cause cancer in humans. Higher levels and prolonged exposure pose greater risks. This might explain why hair straightening products containing the chemical are already outlawed in some countries such as Canada, France, and Ireland. This should clearly make the appeal of natural solutions even bigger.
“Formaldehyde-free” Hair Chemicals Can Still Contain or Release the Ingredient
An investigation made in 2011 by the EWG found that formaldehyde-free products can still contain the chemical. Out of the 16 companies that make hair-straightening products that the EWG tested, none included formaldehyde in their product ingredient list, but all of them did contain high levels of the dangerous chemical. In fact – all 16 companies exceeded safety limits set by the industry safety panel, Cosmetic Ingredient Review. The way they get away with it is by claiming that when formaldehyde is mixed with water, a new chemical called methylene glycol is created. For a list of all ingredients to keep an eye out for, as they are all other names for formaldehyde, check Nutrafol’s article about the Brazilian blowout.
Chemically Treated Hair Can Continue to Release Toxins After You Leave the Salon
Using a curling iron, straightening iron or a blow-dryer after you go home could release irritating fumes long after you leave the salon. This is because some ingredients used in chemical treatments are not formaldehyde per se, but will form formaldehyde when heated up.
Natural Treatments Are Always Safer
Even though it is not the same as a straightening procedure, trying a natural dietary supplement can have a great impact on your hair quality and hair health. You might feel that it is enough, and that putting your hair and health in danger for a chemical smoothing treatment is just not worth the risk. When going for an all-natural solution, you do not have to worry about what possibly harmful chemicals you are exposing your hair to.
Plant-based supplements do not have the synthetic fillers and toxic chemicals that are common in other supplements and treatments. One of the most desirable traits of plant-based supplements is that you know what you get. There are also natural hair treatment options that can do the job, if they contain keratin but no harmful chemicals. But simple homemade treatments like coconut oil or an avocado mask can also make your hair shiny and happy.