Research/studies Services Workplace exposures

Advocacy groups continue their call for safer salon products

Photo: Mladen_Kostic/iStockphoto

Missoula, MT — Despite years of public health warnings about hazardous chemicals contained in professional salon products, their use “remains widespread,” claims a recently published report.

Authored by Women’s Voices for the Earth, Black Women for Wellness and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, the report looks at the effects of recent ingredients disclosure laws – mainly in California. On a national level, President Joe Biden signed the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022, requiring labels for professional salon products to meet the same disclosure requirements as retail cosmetics by Dec. 31, 2024.

Chemicals used in some styling products have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, lung problems and allergic reactions.

“I think that it’s our right as stylists to know what chemicals we’re exposed to so that we can make informed decisions on whether or not we want to use certain products for our own protection as well as for the safety of our clients,” Freda Cullins, a hair care professional for more than two decades, said in a WVE press release. “I hope for honest, effective, clean products with ingredients that I can identify and trace back to a source that has a place in maintaining the health of hair.”

Despite the laws, the report notes “imperfect” compliance in many cases.

“The three types of compliance problems included products having no listing of ingredients at all, ingredient information was either inaccessible or impossible due to missing outer packaging, or product labels listed ingredients in a manner that was vague or nonspecific,” the release states.

Many of the replacements also fell short of expectations: “In cases where manufacturers did make changes to formulas in an attempt to reduce toxicity, many times toxic ingredients were replaced with regrettable substitutions; a known practice where essentially one toxic chemical is swapped out for a chemically similar, toxic alternative,” the release states.

The authors say manufacturers often provide impractical safety instructions.

“For example, hair relaxers include warnings to ‘Keep relaxer off scalp and other skin areas,’” the release states. “While caution can certainly be taken to minimize skin exposure, this is clearly an unrealistic instruction for a product that is intended to be applied to hair that is growing out of one’s scalp. This tactic unfairly puts the responsibility for safety on the shoulders of salon workers, rather than on the manufacturers.”

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