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Safety Tips

There are health risks to beauty for all users. However, stylists are most at risk because they use hair salon products every day. Research shows that hair stylists are more likely to:
  • Report skin rashes (dermatitis)
  • Have decreased lung function
  • Develop asthma
  • Develop depression
  • Have miscarriages or give birth to low birth weight babies or babies with birth defects
  • Develop certain kinds of cancer, such as breast, lung, larynx, bladder, and multiple myeloma
  • Die of neurological conditions liek Alzheimer's disease, pre-senile dementia, and motor neuron disease​
But there are things you can do to stay safe!
  • ​Avoid products containing formaldehyde, which is often found in hair straightening and smoothing products like Japanese hair straighteners, Brazilian blowout, and keratin. Look on product labels for formaldehyde or for formalin, oxomethane, oxomethylene, methylene glycol, and other names. Formaldehyde is likely a carcinogen, according to the EPA.
  • Limit use of products like relaxers, permanent waves (perm), and texturizers. These products can contain chemicals like sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, pthalates like diethyl pthalate, and ethanols like phenoxyethanol, which can cause health problems. Instead, choose a non-chemical method, like heat, to style hair, or increase the amount of time between chemical treatments.
  • ​I​f you choose to use chemical styling products, make sure to apply the products according to directions, wear appropriate protective clothing and gear (like gloves, aprons, and safety glasses), and make sure the room you're in is well ventilated.
  • Know that labels can be misleading. Some labels use words like "organic" or "natural" or advertise that the product contains oils and proteins, but the product's other ingredients may still pose a risk to health. 
  • Read the product's list of ingredients and the product's material safety data sheet (MSDS) or safety data sheet (​​SDS). These are public documents that companies are required to provide for all of thei​r products.
  • Use reputable sources like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to learn more about the chemicals in products. 
  • Ask product manufacturers to remove harmful chemicals from their products.
  • Advocate with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to improve regulatory review on cosmetic and beauty products.
  • Visit a Green & Clean salon! Through the Green & Clean business recognition program, businesses in Boston are recognized for their commitment to health and safety. Businesses recognized as Green & Clean have gone above and ebyond what the regulations require, taking steps to reduce worker and client exposure to chemicals and protect the environment. For more information, visit​ or call 617-534-5965.

​For more information, visit the Resources tab at the right or call the Safe Shops Program at 617-534-5965.

Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: