You know what they say: The grass is always greener on the other side, especially when it comes to hair. OK, so we might have added in that last part, but ladies, don’t we always want what we don’t have? Curly-haired girls spend hours blow-drying and straightening to create sleek, kink-free locks, while straight-haired girls turn to curling irons and wands to achieve bouncy, tousled waves.
There are thousands upon thousands of products that can help anyone achieve their perfect style. But while these products can make our hair look fantastic, they may not be fantastic for our health. Many use chemicals that may have questionable effects on our bodies and the environment.
Take hair sprays, for instance. Though they’ve been around for decades and are one of the most popular styling products on the market, hair sprays pose a certain amount of hazardous exposure to these chemical ingredients:
- Phthalates and parabens: These commonly avoided chemicals can penetrate the skin and act as a hormone disruptor. Want to make sure your hair spray doesn’t contain these pesky chemicals? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic database and look for hair sprays with the lowest (zero or one) hazard ratings.
- Aerosol propellants: These gaseous substances propel the hair spray out of the can. While they can affect the immune system, potentially decreasing your ability to fight infections, their primary health hazard is air pollution. Aerosol propellants contribute to smog, greenhouse gas emissions and indoor air pollution.
So, setting the hair spray aside, we can’t talk about the hazards of hair care without mentioning permanent hair straightening methods. Though not as popular as it once was, thermal reconditioning—a.k.a. Japanese straightening—uses ammonium thioglycolate to get the hair pin straight, but can have a negative effect on the immune system. Unfortunately, the current queen of permanent hair straightening, keratin, doesn’t get a clean bill either. Many of the keratin solutions contain formaldehyde, which is considered a carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, meaning it creates an increased cancer risk.
Long story short, it’s time to make peace with your hair. Your tresses, body and environment will thank you!