As a hairdresser, sore feet aren’t the only occupational hazard. A new study suggests hair stylists who use more permanent waving products or light hair dyes have more cancer-causing compounds in their blood. The World Health Organization already considers hairdressing a “probable carcinogenic” career, as stylists have a higher risk of bladder cancer. This most recent study could help explain why.
According to Reuters, the researchers looked at 300 hairdressers, 32 women who used permanent hair color, and 60 who didn’t. All of the participants were non-smokers and all had their blood tested for several potential cancer-causing compounds present in hair styling products.
Known as aromatic amines, these carcinogenic compounds attach themselves to hemoglobin, allowing the scientists to get clear readings on their presence. In particular, the researchers found one aromatic amine to stand out in the blood of hairdressers—toluidine.
Toluidine is a known carcinogen that was found at higher levels in hair dressers who frequently used perms on their clients and those who frequently used light-colored hair dyes.
“The measured levels of o-toluidine in blood among hairdressers were in general low, however, exposure to o-toluidine should be kept as low as possible since it is a carcinogenic compound,” said researcher Gabriella M. Johansson.
Johansson explained, “In the late 1970s, regulatory actions were taken in (Europe) and carcinogenic aromatic amines were forbidden for use as hair dye ingredients. Whether this still is a problem for modern hair dyes is debated.”
The study, published in BMJ, concludes with:
“Hairdressers who use light-colour permanent hair dyes, other permanent hair dyes and hair waving treatments seem to be exposed to o- and m-toluidine as indicated by associations with the number of treatments performed. Analyses of hair waving and hair dye products should be performed to identify the possible sources of exposure to o- and m-toluidine.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says toluidine can be inhaled or enter the body through the skin and eyes. Effects of exposure include dizziness, blood in the urine, exhaustion, headache, and weakness.
The researchers suggest hair stylists always wear gloves while coloring or applying permanent wave solutions to hair. If the hair is to be cut, cut first so gloves aren’t required during the cutting stage.