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Health Risks of Formaldehyde for Salons, Hairdressers and Clients (and How to Avoid It) - Vitta Gold™ Global

Health Risks of Formaldehyde for Salons, Hairdressers and Clients (and How to Avoid It)

Health Risks of Formaldehyde for Hairdressers and Clients (and How to Avoid It) 

Keratin hair smoothing treatments, like the popular “Brazilian Blowout” promise to transform your naturally curly, wavy or thicker hair to straighter and smoother hair, improving its shine, color, removing hair frizz along with providing health benefits for your hair.

Despite the fact that many of these products’ labels claim to be “formaldehyde-free,” the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found as much as 11% formaldehyde by weight in some, which is released during product application and hair drying procedures.

Not only are hairstylists along with clients subject to exposure to formaldehyde, but other people in salons are, as well.

As a result, said David Andrews, a scientist from the Environmental Working Group, “these products have been banned in Europe, Canada, as well as Australia.”

In this article, you’ll understand how harmful formaldehyde actually is as well as which options you can use instead, all backed up by scientific studies. 

The Short-Term Health Effects of Formaldehyde Exposure in Salon Treatments

In beauty salons, formaldehyde is released into the air when a stylist dries a client’s treated hair with a blow-dryer or straightening iron.

When the levels of Formol in the air exceed 0.1 ppm (parts per million), some individuals may feel unpleasant effects, like:

  • Watery eyes.
  • Burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Coughing and wheezing.
  • Nausea.

Skin sensitivity, rashes, and itching.

Some people are very vulnerable to Formol, whereas others may not experience any feeling to the same level of exposure.

Exposure to higher concentrations can also cause:

  • Eye irritation and damage, including blindness.
  • Nose irritation, including bloody noses.
  • Breathing difficulties.

Furthermore, there have been cases of hair loss from hair products with high levels of Formol. 

Hair & Beauty Salons - Workplace Exposure Limits

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not regulate the amount of formaldehyde in hair products used in salons. It does, though, stipulate that during an eight-hour shift the air has no more than 0.75 ppm during an eight-hour shift and no more than 2 ppm during any 15-minute period.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) recommended airborne exposure limit (REL) is 0.016 ppm averaged over a 10-hour work shift and 0.1 ppm, not to be exceeded during any 15-minute work period.  

Levels Measured in Salons during Hair Smoothing Keratin Treatments

Beauty Salon Formaldehyde Use Risks



OSHA has tested the air during hair smoothing treatments at various salons nationwide in the USA. In several of them, they found that measured levels of formaldehyde exceeded the short-term exposure limit (STEL) of 2 ppm.

In one salon, formaldehyde levels were measured at five times the OSHA STEL, during the blow-drying phase of treatment.

All salons with levels higher than allowed were issued OSHA citations and fines for failing to protect workers from the health risks of formaldehyde. In addition, OSHA issued citations and fines to other salons using products that contained or could release formaldehyde because they did not follow the requirements in OSHA’s formaldehyde standard to test the air to determine formol levels and to provide workers training and information on the health hazards and signs and symptoms of exposure to formaldehyde.

Cancer Risks involving Formaldehyde or other Harmful Chemicals

In 2011, the National Toxicology Program named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen.

Studies in vitro, in animals, and in humans have shown that formaldehyde is genotoxic. Increased numbers of DNA–protein crosslinks have been found in exposed workers—similar to results found in animal studies. Cell proliferation increases substantially at formaldehyde concentrations higher than six parts per million , amplifying the genotoxic effect. The working group concluded that “both genotoxicity and cytotoxicity have important roles in the carcinogenesis of formaldehyde in nasal tissues”.

An important point to note, however, is that not every "chemical component" is harmful or a dangerous component. In fact, products that have organic and natural components, often cause chemical reactions to perform the promised results, and this is not in any way harmful, but a natural event.

We must be aware of which chemical agents are harmful, and avoid using them in our treatments at all times.

The Best Protection Against Formaldehyde: Checking the Label

Several companies that make formaldehyde-based hair smoothing products have already been investigated or cited for violations by OSHA or FDA for false advertising about their products, and for exposing workers to formaldehyde above legally allowable levels.

The problem is that a hair straightening product may claim to be formaldehyde-free, but if the label lists methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanol, oxomethane or oxymethylene , these are all either other names for formaldehyde or chemicals that can release formaldehyde into the air.

In this OSHA’s article you can see a list of 27 chemicals that can release formaldehyde, so if you see a hair straightening or smoothing product with one of those substances, don’t buy it.

Alternatives to Formaldehyde Products

The best news is that there are more natural and organic-focused hair treatments that also make your hair smoother, silky in appearance, and totally healthy.

Using a flat iron straightens hair by temporarily smoothing the fibers in the strands. You can get a similar effect by blow-drying hair with a large, round bristle brush.

Curly and wavy hair is normally drier than other hair types. Avoid washing hair more than once every two days. Too much shampoo can remove natural hair oils.

Moisturize hair regularly to help make dry hair smoother, shinier, and stronger. Natural moisturizing products can help keep your hair and scalp healthy. Try products with:


Tests show that some keratin treatments contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde and other chemicals.

Formaldehyde is a known cancer-causing chemical. It can also cause skin reactions and other health effects, for both professionals and clients.

Ask your hairdresser what kind of keratin treatment they use before you book your appointment. Check the labels carefully, and if you find a harmful chemical, ask for other safer or natural alternatives.

It is especially important to avoid formaldehyde as well as other harmful chemicals if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid bringing children to beauty salons where they may be exposed to chemicals in the air.

If you have asthma, allergies, or are sensitive to smells, you may also be at higher risk of side effects from chemicals in the air.

Always look for products based on organic and natural components. In nature, we have countless substances that directly contribute to hair health, promoting effects exactly opposite to the problems that formaldehyde can cause.

Organic acids and oils, when combined with meticulous advanced product development technology, are undoubtedly the best alternatives to achieve similar - or much better - results in hair treatments, aiming at smoothing and deep straightening effects, also bringing benefits to healthy hair.

Using Vitta Gold Cosmetics' Nanoplex Arginina as an example, we see a product with 0% formaldehyde, which uses numerous organic oils and amino acids (proteins), such as L-Arginine which, in contrast to formaldehyde, promotes hair growth, has proven hair loss prevention effects, and promotes incredible straightening and softening results.

Your Keratin Protein Smoothing Treatment can - and should - be a pleasurable process, not only aesthetically, but also in relation to your health and, for that, it is essential that you seek a treatment completely free of formaldehyde and, preferably, with the use of organic oils and acids.

For you, who want to use Formaldehyde-Free products, a special discount.

To thank you for your time and attention reading our article, accept this discount code (for 12% OFF + Free Shipping), exclusive to our products, totally free of formaldehyde: FORMOLFREE

Thanks for reading!

Stay safe!

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