The Hidden Costs of Artificially Straightened Hair

The world of hair styling is no stranger to advanced treatments, from taming curls to frizz-free and pin-straight looks. In fact, the hair straightener market registers a CAGR of 4.9%, reaching a whopping $28.82 billion in 2023.

It seems like over a quarter of the world’s women are unable to leave their homes without hair treatment of some kind. However, the curtains draw on the truth hidden behind the styling practice of hair straightening – women may have to pay a cost heftier than the process itself.

Yes, be it salon-based professional styling or a home kit, hair straightening is associated with several risks and side effects. Let’s explore them in detail.


Kinds of (Chemical) Hair Straighteners

Also known as hair relaxers, most hair straighteners available in the market are laden with harmful chemicals. Moreover, there are different types of straighteners available to help deal with different levels of curly hair. The most common of these include:

  • The traditional kind

These hair straighteners are the most popular, used mainly for permanent straightening. Made using hydrogen peroxide, traditional hair straighteners can cause scalp irritation and hair damage.

  • Brazilian hair straighteners

These hair straighteners typically work on the principle of keratin treatments. They are most suitable for mildly curly hair as the effects only last for three months.

  • Japanese heat hair straighteners

These hair straighteners are also called thermal reconditioners. Their effects last anywhere from four to six months.

The Mechanics of Chemical Hair Straighteners

Chemical hair straighteners primarily work on the principle of breaking disulfide bonds. Curly hair naturally has a higher number of disulfide bonds. Hence, stronger chemicals are required to break these bonds and straighten the hair.

Chemical hair straighteners consist of a cream that breaks apart the hair’s protein bonds. In the case of professional styling, the broken bonds are reformed using a neutralizer. Finally, the stylist configures the hair into its new straightened shape.

The concentration of chemicals is higher in permanent hair straighteners than in temporary ones.

Side Effects and Risks of Chemical Hair Straightening

The less-known fact about chemical hair straightening is that the process is harmful to hair in particular and health in general. Its side effects include short-term scalp irritation to cervical cancer.

According to a study conducted by the National Cancer Institute, women using chemical hair relaxers are at risk of developing uterine cancer. This study was done over a follow-up of 11 years, and the risk was twice when compared to those who used no hair treatments. In recent years, numerous women have spoken out against these products, with several hair relaxer lawsuits filed.

As per TorHoerman Law, LLC’s attorneys, the Northern Illinois US District Court is witnessing a growing number of hair relaxer lawsuits. Besides uterine cancer, women are also reporting post-straightening instances of breast cancer. In their fight for the injured, the law firm has helped secure $4 million in payouts and settlement amounts through a class action hair relaxer lawsuit.

Cancer isn’t the only risk. Chemical hair straighteners come with other side effects, including:

  • Frizzy hair
  • Scalp inflammation
  • Skin atrophy
  • Alopecia or hair loss
  • Hair discoloration
  • Allergic reactions
  • Burns and pain on the scalp

The Hunt for a Balanced Solution

On the one hand, it is understood that some women naturally have extremely curly and frizzy hair. As such, they might need hair straightening to tame their tresses. However, the side effects of the toxic chemicals are alarming and glaring.

Is there a safe way to go about hair straightening, or are there safer alternatives available? Yes, the best way to go about hair straightening is to get it done professionally. This is because stylists are trained to handle chemicals properly.

In the case of home kits, it is important to follow instructions carefully and avoid over-processing. You can prevent scalp irritation with the help of base oils and petroleum jelly. But should you wish to ditch chemical hair straightening altogether, opt for safer alternatives like serum-based heat styling.

Though this practice also carries the risk of mild hair damage, it poses no danger in terms of reproductive issues or uterine and ovarian cancer. As for the hair damage, you can apply hair protectant during the treatment and hair conditioner after.

Also read: Indian Diet Plan For IVF Success

The Bottom Line

In light of the threats chemical hair straightening poses, having a bad hair day doesn’t seem like a bad alternative after all. Some top toxic chemicals in hair products include ammonium thioglycolate, diethanolamine, triclosan, phthalates, benzophenone-3, and parabens.

If the damage is already done, then you must bring your case to light. Reach out to trusted attorneys, and they will help you obtain the required medical records to fight your case.

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