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Are Keratin Hair Treatments Safe? 9 Reasons to Rethink Keratin Hair Treatments

Dani is a college student as well as a makeup and skincare enthusiast, as well as an Avon Representative.

What Is a Keratin Hair Treatment?

Keratin hair treatments are a salon treatment designed to straighten your hair and reduce daily upkeep time. They are commonly marketed to the African-American community and are very popular among those with thickly textured hair.

However, keratin hair treatments come with a host of negative side effects and are potentially very dangerous to you and your salon hairstylist. From carcinogenic ingredients to a hefty price tag, here are nine reasons to rethink your keratin hair treatment.

Some of the ingredients in keratin treatments may surprise you.

Some of the ingredients in keratin treatments may surprise you.

1. The USDA Issued A Hazard Alert

Formaldehyde is one of the many dangerous chemicals found in keratin hair treatments. This compound is a common ingredient in many toxic chemical cocktails like embalming fluid and is bad for your overall health.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued a Hazard Alert on Brazilian keratin hair treatments based on the carcinogenic properties found in formaldehyde. Not only is it dangerous to you, but it hurts your stylist as well as everyone else in the salon. According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the United States: "Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas that presents a health hazard if workers are exposed. You can be exposed to formaldehyde if you breathe it into your lungs, if it gets into your eyes, or if it is contained in a product that gets onto your skin. You can also be exposed accidentally if you touch your face, eat food, or drink after using a product containing formaldehyde without first washing your hands. It can irritate the eyes and nose, and cause coughing and wheezing."

2. Even One Exposure Can Hurt You

One time exposure to formaldehyde, a common ingredient in keratin treatments, can cause skin irritation, dryness, and asthma-like symptoms. A bleeding nose, cough, and itchy eyes are symptoms of one-time exposure to formaldehyde. There is no "safe" amount of exposure to the toxic chemicals in many keratin hair treatments, so even one trip to the salon can have an impact on your health.

3. The Initial Treatment Is Expensive

Keratin treatments are costly, often running upwards of $200 for a single treatment. Keratin treatments are one of the most costly hair treatments on the market, even at a professional level. There are many other salon-grade treatments on the market, a popular and much safer option being amino acid treatments, that are more cost-effective.

4. Keratin Treatments Can Damage Hair

Although keratin treatments are effective in straightening hair, it causes damage and breakage. Hair appears smooth after the initial treatment, but chemical upkeep is required to maintain the silky smooth texture. Formaldehyde has actually been linked to hair loss, hurting your hair in the long-run.

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The heated tools used to apply keratin hair treatments can also damage hair. Straighteners can be upwards of 450 degrees and every heat exposure reactivates the toxic chemicals in your hair.

5. You Need Special Products After Keratin Treatments

After the initial cost of a keratin treatment, you also have to purchase aftercare products. Special sodium chloride-free and sulfate-free shampoos, conditioners, and treatments make chemically treated hair much more expensive to upkeep.

Keratin hair treatments can be harmful to pregnant women and their unborn children.

Keratin hair treatments can be harmful to pregnant women and their unborn children.

6. Keratin Treatments Are Dangerous for Pregnant Women

Keratin treatments are not suitable for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, or those planning to conceive. Formaldehyde, methylene glycol, and other carcinogenic ingredients in these treatments can cause birth defects and can sometimes cause early death after repeated use. Keratin hair treatments require prolonged exposure to dangerous, potentially fatal chemicals and should be avoided by pregnant women. If you have used a keratin hair treatment, or any other chemical salon treatment, you should consult your doctor as soon as possible.

7. Keratin Hair Treatments Can Cause Allergies

Allergic reactions are common with keratin treatments, resulting in irritation, rashes, and respiratory problems.

8. Lots of Training and Risk Means More Fees For You

A well-trained stylist willing to work with carcinogenic ingredients is needed to properly administer keratin treatments, making it more expensive.

Works Cited

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Products - Hair-Smoothing Products That Release Formaldehyde When Heated. Retrieved from

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2017 Dani Merrier

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