Many women are satisfied with a great haircut or color from their local salon, but the chemicals used to make you look beautiful just might be causing unknown harm to your body. What’s more, these chemicals are not only hurting you, but the salon professionals who help you look your best, as well. A new report from Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) on the health impacts of chemicals found in salons explains why you might want to alter your beauty regime.
The report, titled, Beauty and Its Beast: Unlocking the Impact of Toxic Chemicals on Salon Workers, uncovers what many women have suspected – that long-term exposure to many products routinely used in salons can result in an array of negative health conditions. Your beautician – and you – could get more than a great new style with their use.
The report amalgamates decades of research on the topic, and shines light on just how dangerous these chemical products are to beauty care professionals.
The study’s lead author Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for WVE, says:
“Studies across the globe have found correlations between chemical exposures in salons and adverse health outcomes in employees, however, until now, there has never been a comprehensive review of existing science that brings all the players onto one stage.”
This danger is often overlooked because the field is dominated by women. They are exposed to dozens of chemicals every day in their work places, yet no one – not even other women who seek their services, are truly aware of how damaging this exposure can be.
“Hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and numerous other salon products contain ingredients associated with asthma, dermatitis, neurological symptoms and even cancer. Salon workers absorb these chemicals through their skin and breathe them in as fumes build up in the air of the salon over the course of the workday. Research shows that salon workers are at greater risk for certain health problems compared to other occupations.”
This aggregate mix of chemicals can also cause dementia and cancer. Birth defects are common, as are other reproductive issues.
Public Advocate Letitia James recently sought a crack down in New York city on nail salons, for example, that were using too many toxic chemicals. It is a problem that spreads across the country and affects millions.
WVE found that women who worked in beauty care industries had higher rates of numerous fatal diseases – from exposure to chemicals such as:
- Methyl methacrylate
- Ammonium persulfate
These chemicals are not just in products, but also often in the air of salons.
Women who work with exposure to these chemicals also have more low birth weight babies, especially when they are repeatedly exposed to hairspray and permanent wave solutions, and have an increased risk of miscarriage and babies born with cleft palates. Skin irritations, and nasal of throat irritations are the least of their problems.
Jennifer Arce, a salon worker in San Diego noted:
“Once hair-smoothing products like Brazilian Blowout hit salons nationwide, these health issues went to a whole new level because of exposure to formaldehyde, which is very toxic. Salon workers can experience bloody noses, sore throats, rashes and respiratory infections from breathing in these fumes while working in the salon each day.”
Simple steps can be taken by salon owners and workers to minimize exposure to these chemicals. They include better ventilation, the use of ‘greener’ products, such as those used at salons like Aveda, or Swing Salon in Soho, New York, and also better protective gear.
The report also points out that legislation is needed to protect workers in this industry from the exposure they are regularly subjected to.
The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act introduced last year by Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky is a start. It would regulate the chemicals allowed in beauty products and force a full disclosure of what they contain.
A great new hair style or a beautiful manicure shouldn’t cost a women her health.