Chemical Treatments – the Damage They Can Do to You and Your Hair

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.

These days women seem to opt for chemical straightening and smoothing treatments as often and easily as a normal haircut. But these popular salon services have been questioned because of harmful side effects. So what exactly is happening to your hair when getting a chemical treatment?

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 Treatments
Formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen, which means it is proven to cause cancer in humans.

 

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.

Brazilian Blowout: What You Need to Know

Nutrafol for healthy hair

If you are someone who keeps up with the newest in hair care, chances are you have heard about the Brazilian Blowout. A Brazilian Blowout treatment is a hair protectant that gives your hair a glossy, frizz-free, hydrated shine for up to three months. The ingredients used when doing a Brazilian Blowout are the Brazilian camu camu, annatto seed, and acai berries, which sound harmless enough. But studies show Brazilian Blowouts can actually pose a real health risk.

What is a Brazilian Blowout?

Just what is a Brazilian Blowout hair treatment? The treatment is generally recommended for people with damaged, frizzy, or very processed hair. A Brazilian Blowout treatment is meant to make your hair straighter, shinier and frizz-free, which can tempt many of us to try it. But then there’s the question of how long does a Brazilian Blowout last, and it turns out the results only last for about 10-12 weeks. And that is if you maintain it the way the stylists tell you to, which we all know is hard to keep up with.

When you go for your Brazilian Blowout treatment, the stylist will assess your hair and answer any questions you have, from what is a Brazilian Blowout to how to care for your hair following a Brazilian Blowout treatment. The first step of a Brazilian Blowout is to wash the hair and then towel dry it. Next, the smoothing product is applied in sections. After that, the stylist will blow dry your hair while making it as smooth as possible using a brush. After a round of flat ironing, the stylist will rinse the hair out using only water, and then apply a specific bonding spray that will seal the cuticles of the hair. After that, it is time for a smoothing serum before the final blow dry and styling.

Why is a Brazilian Blowout Dangerous?

If you’ve read many Brazilian Blowout reviews, you know a lot of customers are satisfied with the results the smoothing treatment has on their hair. What those Brazilian Blowout reviews usually don’t mention is that Brazilian Blowouts can be dangerous to your health — not because of the process itself, but rather because of some of the chemicals involved in it. While many people want to know “How long does a Brazilian Blowout last,” a better question might be “How long can the potentially harmful effects of a Brazilian Blowout last?”

Did Somebody Say Free From Formaldehyde?

Nutrafol for hair growth
Sulfates are ingredients well-known as a skin, eye, mouth, and even lung irritant

What is in a Brazilian Blowout hair treatment that could be considered harmful? Although the products used in the Brazilian Blowout, and the similar Keratin treatment, are reported as free from the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde, the air in salons offering these treatments tested positive for formaldehyde. How is this possible?

Some manufacturers list “synonyms” for formaldehyde on their labels. This is because sometimes the formaldehyde has been dissolved in water or another substance, which changes its chemical composition slightly, giving it a new name. The problem is that all these substances can release formaldehyde when subjected to certain conditions, such as the heat involved in a hair smoothing treatment, or even when using heating tools later at home.

For this reason, The American Cancer Society wrote the following about keratin smoothing treatments: “Professional keratin hair-smoothing treatments can contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals. Using these can raise indoor air concentrations of formaldehyde to levels that could be a potential hazard.”

All of the chemicals listed below are names for formaldehyde under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s formaldehyde standard:

Methylene glycol
Formalin
Methylene oxide
Paraform
Formic aldehyde
Methanal
Oxomethane
Oxymethylene
Timonacic acid
Thiazolidinecarboxylic acid

Is Getting a Brazilian Blowout Worth the Risk?

Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer and tends to be the worst when it is in the gaseous heated stage. It is a “sensitizer,” which means that it can cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes, and lungs such as asthma-like breathing, skin rashes, and itching. It can also be a health hazard, whether in a product or in the air.

Studies conducted by The American Cancer Society have shown that formaldehyde can increase the probability of nasopharynx cancer and leukemia. One study found that workers exposed to formaldehyde had higher than normal levels of chromosome changes in early white blood cells in their bone marrow. This finding supports the possible link between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia.

Other Everyday Chemicals You Should Get Rid Of

Considering this, maybe it is not worth risking your and your stylist’s health for the sake of beauty. There are other, safer methods of achieving great hair without turning to Brazilian Blowouts. Have you, for example, considered natural solutions and skipping the chemicals for a while? We are not only talking about choosing a supplement made from plants to increase your hair health, we are talking about changing your routines, even when it comes to how you wash your hair. Did you know sulfates, which can be found in many shampoos, are well-known irritants of the skin, eyes, mouth and even lungs? Maybe it is time to take a closer look at the ingredients of that bottle you use every other day.

The study “Exposure to Chemicals in Cosmetics” conducted by the Breast Cancer Foundation shed some new light on another shampoo ingredient — parabens — and what effect it has on the body. The study discovered that parabens can penetrate the skin and act as a very weak form of estrogen in the body potentially making hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow.

So how about getting rid of shampoos containing sulfates and parabens and switching to a sulfate-free shampoo? Sulfate-free shampoos preserve your hair’s natural oils and are also color-safe, which is good if you dye your hair a lot. Instead of buying hair masks, which also have chemicals in them, you can make your own. A hair mask made from avocado, for example, contains vitamin E and is easy to make. Vitamin E is good for hair growth because it is a great moisturizer and also boosts the immune system.