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5 Crucial Facts About Chemical Hair Straighteners You Should Be Aware Of

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5 Crucial Facts About Chemical Hair Straighteners You Should Be Aware Of

The allure of sleek, straight strands is undeniable. For many women, chemical hair straighteners offer a shortcut to achieving that coveted look.

It helps eliminate frizz and curls in favor of silky smooth waves or pin-straight tresses. Relaxers, Japanese thermal straightening, and keratin treatments can give you sleek, straight hair for months at a time. But these chemical straighteners also come with some risks and downsides you should know about.

Understanding the facts about how they work and their potential impacts on your hair health is key. In this blog post, we will explore five crucial facts that every woman considering chemical hair straightening should be aware of.

5 Crucial Facts About Chemical Hair Straighteners You Should Be Aware Of

Source of Image: https://pixabay.com/photos/hair-care-cream-protection-paint-4541744/ 

#1. The Science Behind Chemical Hair Straighteners

Think of your hair strands as intricate chains built from protein links called disulfide bonds.

These bonds determine your hair's natural texture, with more bonds translating to tighter curls and fewer bonds fostering straighter strands. Chemical straighteners work by breaking down these bonds using powerful chemicals like sodium hydroxide (lye), parabens, phthalates (including bisphenol A), formaldehyde, metals, or ammonium thioglycolate.

Once softened, the bonds are reformed in a new shape, locking your hair into a straightened state. However, this chemical manipulation comes at a cost, potentially impacting your hair's health and strength. Moreover, these chemicals seep through the skin and may have endocrine-disrupting effects.

This can cause respiratory issues, skin sensitivities, and an increased risk of hormone-sensitive disorders like uterine cancer and fibroids. Which brings us to the next point.

#2. Understanding the Risks of the Chemicals Involved

As mentioned above, chemical straightening products contain several toxic chemicals that pose a severe risk to your health and well-being.

Formaldehyde, one of the most common chemicals used in chemical hair straightening products, is a known carcinogen. It also goes by the names Methylene glycol and Formalin and is commonly found in shampoos and conditioners. It is known to cause skin irritation and can also disrupt your hormone levels. A 2022 found that women who use chemical hair straighteners have greater chances of developing uterine cancer.

According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, women who used chemical straightening products more than four times in a year were twice as likely to develop uterine cancer. This study also concludes that black women are more prone to uterine cancer than white women. The study also found that chemical hair relaxers increase the risk of developing uterine fibroid and endometriosis.

There’s even an ongoing lawsuit against some renowned brands such as L'OrĂ©al, Dark & Lovely, Soft sheen-Carson, and others. Known as the hair straightener cancer lawsuit, it allows the plaintiffs to seek compensation for the damages incurred due to exposure to the chemicals found in hair straightening products.

So far, over 8,020 cases are pending and lawyers expect the count to rise. TorHoerman Law estimates that victims can expect compensation in the bracket of $100,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the severity of their injuries.

#3. Even “Formaldehyde-Free” Hair Products Are Toxic

Many brands now advertise their chemical straighteners as “formaldehyde-free.” But don't be misled.

These products still rely on other potent chemicals to straighten hair. Brands may use formaldehyde derivatives like methylene glycol, formalin, or methylene oxide, which release formaldehyde vapor heated or mixed with water. Some brands opt for formaldehyde donors such as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, and Diazolidinyl urea. These ingredients act as preservatives and over time release formaldehyde when exposed to heat or water.

Even without formaldehyde, the chemicals penetrate the hair cuticle and break bonds to forcibly straighten curls. This process still damages hair's protective layer, leaving it weakened and lifeless. Other concerning ingredients like hormone-disrupting parabens may also lurk in these “safe” formulas. Other chemicals to look out for are glyoxylic acid, which can irritate the scalp and eyes, and acetaldehyde, a potential carcinogen.

So while formaldehyde-free products may have slightly less cancer risk, their chemical cocktails still pose dangers like irritation, hair loss, and toxicity. Build a habit of reading hair product labels and researching the ingredients before buying them.

#4. They Damage Your Hair Over Time

The harsh chemicals in relaxers, keratin treatments, and other straighteners take a toll on your hair's health.

Over time, the protein bonds holding your strands together get broken down by the potent formulas. This makes hair weak, brittle, and vulnerable to breakage, especially when subjected to other stresses like brushing, heat styling, and washing. The damage compounds progressively with each application.

Your once-strong, healthy hair can end up feeling dry and looking frizzy as the protective cuticle layer gets destroyed. Significant thinning and shedding occur for many women after long-term chemical straightening. Moreover, these products also irritate your scalp, causing redness, itching, and even burning in some cases. Repeated exposure leads to increased sensitivity and even long-term scalp issues.

You can try protective styles and deep conditioning, but for optimal hair integrity, avoid using chemical straighteners. You can also opt for other gentler, safer alternatives that provide healthier, stronger, and naturally beautiful strands in the long run.

#5. Expect a Ban on Some Hair Straightening Products

In recent years, concerns over the safety of certain chemicals used in hair straightening products have prompted regular scrutiny.

Currently, the popular brand Brazilian Blowout is banned in Brazil, Australia, Canada, and other European countries, due to dangerous formaldehyde levels. Canada also introduced a ban on over 40 beauty products containing cancer-linked chemicals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also re-evaluating the regulation of hair straighteners and proposing new rules that may pull products with toxic ingredients like formaldehyde or phthalates. The FDA has already recommended a rule, that, if approved, would halt the production and sale of formaldehyde-based hair products by April 2024.

Stricter labeling laws are also being considered. This crackdown aims to protect consumers from exposure to carcinogens and harm. As regulations evolve, prepare for more bans on chemical straighteners with the most hazardous substances and potential health impacts.

While the appeal of straight strands might be too strong to ignore, prioritizing your health and embracing your natural beauty will be the smoothest move you’ll ever make.

With potential bans looming, safer alternatives emerging, and a growing understanding of chemical risks, it's time you prioritize your health and hair integrity. Remember, healthy hair is a journey, not a destination. Choose gentle practices, explore natural textures, and celebrate your unique beauty, whatever form it takes.

Let your hair story be one of health, strength, and self-acceptance, a tale written not with harsh chemicals, but with mindful choices and love for your natural texture. After all, natural beauty shines brightest when you embrace hair health over convenience.

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