Some of us are born with naturally smooth, straight, healthy-looking hair. And some of us get keratin treatments to fake that naturally smooth, straight, healthy-looking hair. These treatments utilize liquid keratin to seal the bonds in your porous and unruly strands, leaving your mane glossy, glowing, and frizz-free. But this hair-saving technique could have serious health risks for clients and salon professionals alike. To find out how to avoid these negative effects, we spoke with Dr. Melanie Palm, a board certified dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, and medical director of San Diego’s Art of Skin MD. Here are the 4 safety precautions you should be taking if you do keratin treatments.
1. Watch Out for Keratin Treatments that Contain Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling, colorless chemical found in many household products, building materials, and…certain keratin treatments. According to Dr. Palm, serious health concerns arise when this chemical is inhaled or absorbed through the skin. “Short-term exposure to high levels of formaldehyde can cause eye irritation and watering, nose and throat irritation, skin rash, breathing difficulties and nausea” says Dr. Palm. The long term effects are even more serious. Multiple government agencies have classified formaldehyde as a carcinogen, meaning it could cause cancer. “Breathing in the toxin, if at abnormally high levels, could be concerning for lung health or cancer development,” she adds.
2. Ask to See the Ingredient List
“Keratin treatments without formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing chemicals are the safest to use” says Dr. Palm. However, she cautions against blindly trusting labels. “Some of the most familiar brands were labeled as “formaldehyde-free,” yet they contained methylene glycol, which releases formaldehyde,” Dr. Palm explains. For this reason, she suggests monitoring formaldehyde levels with a Consumer Sampling and Analysis Kit. “I think it is important for consumers and hairstylists to determine the presence or level of formaldehyde in a hair care product, including keratin treatments,” says Dr. Palm, “if levels of formaldehyde are unacceptably high, or exposures are highly abnormal, longer term health risks may be a valid concern.”
3. Make Sure Your Workspace Has Proper Ventilation
If you are performing a keratin treatment, especially one containing formaldehyde or methylene glycol, it’s important to make sure your workspace has proper ventilation. This will minimize the inhalation of harmful chemicals released during the processing portion of the treatment. Dr. Palm also recommends having designated eye washing stations and low heat settings on hair dryers. Safety precautions like this are a must to avoid unnecessary chemical contamination.
4. Wear Protective Coverings
“Hair care workers should wear appropriate protective equipment including gloves and aprons to protect against inappropriate formaldehyde or noxious chemical exposures” says Dr. Palm. Repeated skin contact with the chemicals found in keratin treatments can cause rashes and skin irritation. Gloves and other protective gear can help protect salon professionals from coming into contact with these chemicals.