HAIR LOSS CAUSES AND TREATMENTS FACT AND FICTION

HAIR LOSS CAUSES AND TREATMENTS

NORMAL HAIR LOSS
Normal hair growth occurs in a repeating cycle of growth, fall and replacement. At any one time, about 90 percent of scalp hair is actively growing (anagen phase). The other ten percent is either in the transition (catagen) phase or the resting (telogen) phase, waiting to be shed and replaced by a new hair in the next growth phase. One complete cycle of growth, fall and replacement takes from three to five years.

The scalp contains about 100,000 hairs, with slightly more for blondes and fewer for redheads. The average rate of normal hair loss is approximately 35 to 40 hairs per day. Although that’s a small number compared to the total number of hairs on the head, it can be alarming when found in a hairbrush or shower drain. Remember that normal hair loss is 35 to 40 hairs per day.

Hair that is in the catagen or telogen phase is not growing and is called bed-hair. Bed-hair is usually pulled out by brushing, combing or shampooing, but can remain in the follicle until it is pushed out by a new hair in the next growth phase. If a hair is pulled from the scalp, it takes about 130 days before a new hair emerges.

Scalp hair grows faster on women than men. Although individual hairs grow at a constant rate day or night, more falling hair is shed in the morning. Hair growth is also seasonal and reaches a peak in the summer with more falling hair in November.

ABNORMAL HAIR LOSS
Pregnancy disrupts the normal growth cycle of hair. Women usually have less hair loss during pregnancy, but experience sudden and excessive hair loss from three to nine months after delivery. Although this can be traumatic, the growth cycle returns to normal a few months after delivery.

Androgenetic alopecia, commonly called “male pattern baldness” is abnormal hair loss caused by age, genetics or hormonal changes. By age 35, almost 40 percent of both men and women show some hair loss from male pattern baldness.

COSMETICS
Hair loss treatments that claim to make the hair appear thicker or fuller are classified as cosmetics because they claim to change the appearance of the hair. Changing the appearance of the hair is a cosmetic change.

The right shampoo, conditioner and styling aids are essential to anyone who wants to look their best, but even more important to those who suffer from hair loss. Hair loss creates a special set of needs that can be determined with a professional consultation and retail product recommendation.

DRUG TREATMENTS
Hair loss treatments that claim to make the hair grow thicker or fuller are classified as drugs because they claim to change the growth of the hair. Changing the growth of the hair is a physiological change.

Products that claim to grow hair fill the retail shelves and flood the internet and although we might like to believe the claims, Minoxidil (Rogaine) and Finasteride (Propecia) are the only two drugs approved by the FDA to treat androgenetic alopecia.

Minoxidil is a topical medication originally designed to lower blood pressure. Minoxidil is applied to the scalp twice a day, and although it’s greasy and inconvenient, it has been proven to stimulate hair growth. It is sold over the counter (OTC), as a non-prescription drug under the brand name Rogaine. Rogaine is available for both men and women in a 2 percent regular strength and a 5 percent extra strength version. It is not known to have any side effects.

Hair growth is controlled by androgens. Androgenetic alopecia is usually caused by dihydrotestosterone (DHT) that is converted to testosterone by the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase. At sexual maturity, DHT causes the baby (vellus) pubic hair in males and females to be converted to longer, thicker and darker terminal hair. DHT also causes the facial hair of males to be converted to the longer, thicker, darker terminal hair we know as a beard.

Ironically, in androgenetic alopecia that occurs later in life, the same DHT causes the miniaturization of the terminal hair on the scalp converting it to vellus hair. At the same time, DHT stimulates the vellus hair on the rest of the body to become terminal hair that grows in thicker, longer and darker, especially on the upper arms and back.

Finasteride is an oral, prescription drug for men only sold under the brand name Propeca. Finasteride inhibits the production of 5-alpha-reductase, the enzyme that reacts with DHT to cause male pattern baldness. Although Finasteride is more effective and convenient than Minoxidil, possible side effects include weight gain and loss of sexual function. These drugs are available for men only and only by prescription. Women may not use this treatment, and pregnant women or those who might become pregnant are cautioned not to touch the drug because of the strong potential for birth defects.

LOW LEVEL LASER THERAPY
Low level laser therapy (LLLT) is also called red light therapy, cold laser, soft laser, biostimulation and photobiomodulation. Low level laser therapy diodes emit either red light in wavelengths from 630 to 670 nanometers or infrared radiation. In the last ten years, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has granted premarket approval to several low level laser therapy devices marketed to consumers for home use. These devices are available as hard and soft head caps, as well as, hand held brushes and large combs.

Although the FDA regulates low level laser therapy devices, FDA approval does not mean that a product is safe or effective. The FDA clears medical devices for marketing as long as they are substantially similar to a product already on the market.

Physicians have mixed opinions on whether or not low level laser therapy is effective. While some completely reject its effectiveness, others believe that low level laser therapy can provide benefit for some men and women. Company trials have been criticized as biased and can’t be relied upon because they are not independent. Individual consumer reports on effectiveness are disappointing.

Additional information about hair loss can be found on the American Academy of Dermatology web site:
https://www.aad.org/public/skin-hair-nails

And the FDA website:
https://www.fda.gov/

John Halal
john@chemistrysimplified.com

Resistant Hair

The term “Resistant Hair” refers to its ability to resist penetration by water and is an indication of the condition of the outer layer of the hair (cuticle). Although hair is naturally resistant to penetration by water (hydrophobic) and coarse hair is usually more resistant than fine hair, everything we do damages the cuticle which makes the hair less resistant. Over time the ends of longer hair become less resistant than the hair near the scalp. Shampoo, styling with a hair dryer and curling iron and sun exposure all make the hair less resistant.

The term “Porous Hair” refers to its ability to absorb water and is the opposite of resistant hair. Resistant hair has low porosity (hydrophobic). Hair that is less resistant has high porosity (hydrophilic). Slick, glossy magazine paper is resistant and has low porosity. Facial tissue is less resistant and has high porosity.

Resistant hair is more difficult to color or perm because it resists penetration, but resistant hair is often used as an excuse when a color or perm fails to achieve the desired results. Although gray hair is often believed to be resistant, gray hair is no more resistant than the pigmented hair on the same head. The structure of gray hair is identical to the structure of pigmented hair but requires more color simply because it is has no color.

A deposit color formula on gray hair must be a level six or lower and contain all three primary colors in the following proportions; three parts yellow, two parts red and one part blue to achieve a natural looking hair color.

Dirty, dry hair is more resistant that clean, damp hair. Shampoo and towel dry the hair prior to the haircolor application. Water swells the hair and draws the color into the hair due to hydrogen bonding

Is Olaplex the Real Thing?

 

Is Olaplex The Real Thing?

When I first heard about Olaplex, I assumed it was just another example of exaggerated marketing claims that overpromise and under deliver, but I’ve received so many positive comments and questions from salons all over the country that I decided to investigate.

I’m not done with my research, so I confess that I’m still not sure exactly how it works, but I can tell you that it is different and it is supported by real science. The ingredient in Olaplex should bond with free sulfhydryls in the hair, but that doesn’t mean that it does or that you need it.

Craig J. Hawker and Eric D. Pressly are the chemists who developed Olaplex. Click on the links below for more information.

Craig J. Hawker
http://www.faqs.org/patents/inventor/craig-j-hawker-santa-barbara-us-1/

Eric D. Pressly
http://www.faqs.org/patents/inventor/pressly-6/

Olaplex has applied for a patent. Click on the link below for more information.
http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20150034119

The chemists at Olaplex named the ingredient bis-(maleimidoethoxy) ethane, but the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) renamed it bis aminipropyl diglycol dimaleate, so that’s the name that appears on the product label. I appreciate the transparency and honesty of Olaplex, for voluntarily listing the ingredient, when it’s not required. The owner, Dean Christal, has been very candid and informative. Although I haven’t completed my research, here’s what I have so far.

Although bismaleimidoethoxyethane crosslinkers have been used in other industries for some time, and they do form stable thioether crosslinks that are not cleaved by reducing agents, they have never been used in hair products before. We’re in unchartered territory and there is no history or frame of reference when applied to hair.

The reaction is very specific to pH 6.5 to 7.5 and 1,000 times slower at a pH above 8.0. Since oxidative haircoloring is performed at a pH well above pH 8.0, I question how bonds would form when the product is added to haircolor.

For understandable legal reasons, the patent is deliberately ambiguous, so I can’t be sure of the exact structure of the ingredient, but the atomic weight seems to be about 246 amu. That’s big. Most haircolor ingredients are below 100 amu. I question how this can penetrate into the cortex.

The reaction is limited to reduced thios. Bonds that are broken during haircoloring are oxidized, not reduced. I question how bonds would form during oxidation or with the cysteic acid that is produced during lightening hair.

Since Olaplex produces thio ether crosslinks that are not broken by reducing agents, I wonder if you can you perm over hair treated with Olapex

Since Olaplex should not be able to bond with methionines, I wonder if it would work on hair treated with hydroxide relaxers.

Finally, if we took more care when we colored hair and didn’t damage it so much, we wouldn’t need a bond multiplyer to fix our mistakes.

The jury is out until I resolve the issues above. I will continue my research and keep you posted.

 

Ultraviolet Light and Sunscreens – Part 2

Ultraviolet Light and Sunscreens – Part 2 

In order to clear up the confusion about sunscreen products, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final ruling regulating sunscreen products that went into effect on December 17, 2013. The new FDA regulations include:

  • Sunscreen products labeled Broad Spectrum must provide protection from both UVB and UVA rays and have an SPF15 or higher.
  • Sunscreen products labeled Broad Spectrum may claim that they “not only protect against sunburn but, if used as directed with other sun protection measures, can reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.”
  • Sunscreen products not labeled Broad Spectrum may only claim to help prevent sunburn.
  • Sunscreen products that are not labeled Broad Spectrum must include a warning that reads: “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.”
  • SPF50 is the maximum SPF claim allowed. Products with an SPF higher than SPF50 must be labeled SPF50+. The FDA does not have any data to prove that an SPF above 50 provides any additional protection.
  • Water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating
  • The claims waterproof, sweatproof, sunblock, instant protection or protection for more than two hours, are not approved.

 

 TOP TEN TIPS FOR PRACTICING SAFE SUN

  • Make sure your sunscreen is labeled Broad Spectrum.
  • Do not use sunscreens over SPF30.
  • To avoid skin irritation, do not use sunscreens over SPF15.
  • To avoid skin irritation, use sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
  • Use sunscreen even on cloudy days.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally, two applications, 20 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Reapply sunscreen every hour. More frequently when swimming or sweating.
  • Avoid sun exposure from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, when the sun is the strongest.
  • The terms natural, non-chemical and chemical free are false and misleading.
  • The claims waterproof, sweatproof, sunblock, instant protection or protection for more than two hours, are not approved.

    Click Here for more consumer information from the FDA

 We welcome your questions and comments.|
john@chemistrysimplified.com

 

Ultraviolet Light and Sunscreens – Part 1

Ultraviolet Light and Sunscreens – Part 1

Over one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. 90 percent of those cancers will be the result of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and tanning beds.

In reasonable amounts, exposure to sunlight is beneficial. Natural sunlight has a germicidal effect and produces vitamin D in the skin. UV radiation can be used to treat rickets, psoriasis, and acne. Exposure to UV rays stimulates the production of melanin that causes a tan and although that tan will help protect the skin from further damage, a tan is a sign that your skin is being damaged and under attack from UV radiation.

About 35 percent of sunlight is visible light, 60 percent is infrared and 5 percent is UV rays (200nm to 400nm). There are two different types of UV rays that reach the earth.

UVB rays (290-320nm) are referred to as the burning rays and are responsible for erythema and tanning. Erythema (redness of the skin) is an inflammatory response, which usually appears within six hours of exposure to UVB rays. Erythema is used to measure the sunscreen’s ability to block UVB rays and determine the product’s Sun Protection Factor (SPF).

An SPF2 blocks 50 percent of UVB rays, which allows you to stay in the sun twice as long as you could without any protection. Increasing the SPF increases the protection but notice, from the chart below, that doubling the SPF from 15 to 30 doesn’t double the protection. It only increases protection by about 2 percent. The increase in protection from an SPF30 to SPF50  is only 1%.

SPF2 blocks about 50% of UVB rays
SPF15 blocks about 95% of UVB rays
SPF30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays
SPF 50 blocks about 98% of UVB rays

UVA rays (320-400nm) are commonly known as black light. UVA plays only a minor role in erythema and tanning, so although its affects are not as obvious or acute as UVB, UVA exposure is every bit as damaging. UVA penetrates into the dermis and contributes substantially to chronic sun damage and the risk of skin cancer.

Remember that SPF only indicates protection from UVB rays and does not indicate protection from UVA rays. A sunscreen with a high SPF may provide adequate protection from UVB rays but offer little or no protection from UVA exposure. Make sure the sunscreen you use is labeled Broad Spectrum.

Unlike organic sunscreens that absorb and react chemically when exposed to UV rays, Inorganic sunscreens physically, reflect UV rays. Inorganic sunscreens reduce the risk of skin irritation and eliminate concerns about unwanted chemical reactions caused by organic sunscreens, especially in the higher concentrations required for an SPF above 15.

Although UV radiation is often referred to as UV light, UV radiation is invisible. Since you can’t see the UV rays that cause sunburn, use sunscreen even on cloudy days. Although clouds block visible light, they offer little protection from damaging UV rays.

Self-tanning products make it possible to tan safely without the sun. Self-tanners contain the ingredient dihydroxyacetone that reacts with the proteins on the skin’s surface to turn golden brown and simulate a natural tan.

We welcome your questions and comments.

 

Lather, Rinse and Repeat

Lather, Rinse and Repeat

Most of us just follow directions without giving it much thought – Lather, Rinse and Repeat. We wet our hair, apply enough shampoo to produce a lather, rinse, and then lather again. Although that’s what we’ve always done, all hair isn’t the same and the same procedure will not produce the best results on different types of hair.

Fragile, dry hair, that was just shampooed the day before, is still relatively clean and should be treated differently than resistant, oily hair that hasn’t been shampooed in a few days or longer. The shampoo procedure should vary depending on the type and condition of the hair and how often it’s shampooed.

 A good shampoo usually starts by wetting the hair with water and even plain water damages your hair. Water breaks hydrogen bonds and swells the hair about 18%. Hot water swells the hair more than warm water. So always use warm or cool water, rather than hot. Although there is no reason to be uncomfortable, if you are willing to try a final rinse with cold water, your hair will tangle less and have more shine.

The surfactants in shampoo clean our hair in exactly the same way they clean our dishes and our clothing. Surfactants surround and enclose a drop of oil or speck of dirt to form a sphere called a micelle. The micelles attach to the water to form an emulsion and the emulsified oil and dirt is carried away with the final rinse.

Lather forms when surfactants form micelles around air instead of oil or dirt. It’s important to note that lather will not form until all the dirt or oil has been emulsified. At that point, any excess surfactant will produce lather. So, once you’ve applied enough shampoo to produce lather, you know that all of the oil and dirt is emulsified and your hair is ready to rinse.

Although everyone loves a rich, thick, creamy lather, it isn’t really necessary. A modest, uniform later indicates your hair is ready to rinse. Once you have obtained lather, there is no point in adding more shampoo. A thick, robust lather means you used more shampoo than needed and caused unnecessary damage to your hair. Excess surfactant may strip and damage hair. If you have fragile, dry hair and shampoo daily, a single lather may be enough. A second lather does nothing more than insure your hair is clean.

Oily hair should be treated differently. Oils, such as sebum, are insoluble in water. Sebum combines with dead skin cells and other dirt to form an oily coating on the hair and scalp that is difficult to remove. Wetting oily hair with water first, will make the oil more difficult to remove. Oily hair should not be wet with water before shampooing. Apply shampoo directly on the oily areas while the hair is still dry. Then add just enough warm water to massage the shampoo into the hair. Rinse thoroughly and apply enough shampoo to get a second lather. You’ll use less shampoo and get better results.

The same is true for removing peanut butter or any other oily substance from the hair. Always apply shampoo directly to the oily area on dry hair. Then add water and shampoo.

We welcome your comments and questions.
john@chemistrysimlified.com

 

Are Antibacterial Hand Soaps and Body Washes Safe?

Are Antibacterial Hand Soaps and Body Washes Safe?

If you’re like most consumers, you use antibacterial hand soap or body wash because you think it will reduce your risk of getting sick or passing on germs to others. But according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), that’s not necessarily true. In fact, “there currently is no evidence that over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial soap products are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water”, says Colleen Rogers, Ph.D., a lead microbiologist at FDA.

Moreover, antibacterial products that contain triclosan or triclocarban carry unnecessary risks, especially since their benefits are unproven. “New data suggest that the risks associated with the long-term, daily use of antibacterial soaps may outweigh the benefits,” Rogers says. “There are indications these soaps may contribute to bacterial resistance of antibiotics, and may also have unanticipated hormonal effects.”

A rule proposed on December 16, 2013 will require manufacturers to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their antibacterial hand soaps and body washes to determine if these products are more effective than plain soap and water in preventing the spread of disease and that the benefits are worth the risks associated with their use?

See FDA “Taking Closer Look at Antibacterial Soap” for more information
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm378393.htm

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate the use of triclosan and triclocarban. The EPA regulates the use of triclosan/triclocarban as a pesticide and the FDA regulates the use of triclosan/triclocarban in hand soaps and body washes. Both agencies are currently evaluating the use of triclosan/triclocarban both as a pesticide and an antibacterial agent. The two agencies will measure the exposure and effects of triclosan/triclocarban and how these uses affect human health.

The FDA is emphasizing that frequent hand washing with plain soap and warm water is one of the most important steps people can take to avoid getting sick and prevent spreading germs to others.

We welcome your comments and questions.

Ammonia Free Haircolor

Ammonia Free Haircolor

Is ammonia free haircolor better, more gentle or more natural than haircolor that contain ammonia? The answer may surprise you.

Ammonia has been safely used as an alkalizing agent in haircolor for decades. Ammonia is an inorganic alkali because it does not contain carbon. Ammonia is a small, volatile molecule that evaporates quickly, which accounts for its strong odor. Although ammonia is more effective for hair coloring and lightening than other alkalizing agents, its use has declined because of its strong, offensive odor.

The chemical formula for ammonia is NH3. Ammonia raises the pH by removing a hydrogen ion (H+) from water (H2O), leaving an alkaline hydroxide ion (OH). All alkalis derive their chemical reactivity from the hydroxide ion (OH).
NH3 + H2O → NH4+ + OH

Alkanolamines are used to replace ammonia and are gaining in popularity because of their low odor. These large, organic molecules contain carbon and are not as volatile as ammonia, so there is little odor associated with their use. Aminomethylpropanol (AMP) and monoethanolamine (MEA) are examples of common organic alkalis that are used instead of ammonia. Although they eliminate the ammonia odor, they are not as effective at lightening the hair as ammonia.

Alkanolamines are formed by a chemical reaction of ammonia with ethylene oxide. Even though alkanolamines may not smell as strong as ammonia, they can be every bit as alkaline and every bit as damaging to the hair, depending on the concentration. Many harsh chemicals have little or no odor. Remember that carbon monoxide is odorless, but it’s a deadly poison. Contrary to what your nose and the marketing department may tell you, ammonia free does not necessarily mean free of damage.

Alkanolamines raise the pH of a solution in exactly the same way that ammonia does. The chemical formula for monoethanolamine is HOCH2CH2NH2. The amino or amine functional group is NH2, which reacts just like ammonia (NH3). All alkalis derive their chemical reactivity from the hydroxide ion (OH).

HOCH2CH2 – NH2  + H2O → HOCH2CH2 – NH3+ + OH

All oxidative hair coloring requires an alkaline pH. Lightening hair requires a higher (more alkaline) pH and causes more damage than a deposit only hair color. Ammonia, AMP and MEA all perform the same function. The pH of the hair color or lightener is far more important than the alkalizing agent.

We welcome your questions and comments

 

Hair Lightening Without Scalp and Skin Damage

Hair Lightening Without Scalp and Skin Damage

Although allergic reactions can be caused by the dyes used in products that deposit haircolor, this article will be limited to damage to the skin and scalp caused by products that lighten natural hair color. The term bleach may still be used, but it is antiquated. The products used in today’s salons are marketed and sold as hairlighteners.

Hairlighteners have an alkaline pH and a high concentration of peroxide that oxidizes melanin and lightens the hair. Hairlighteners have a pH of about 10.0, which is 100,000 times more alkaline than the skin. Hairlighteners can contain a concentration of 9% (30 volume ) peroxide, which is three times greater than the 3% (10 volume) concentration used on the skin as an antiseptic. The oxidation reaction caused by the alkaline peroxide lightens the hair, but that same oxidation reaction can also cause chemical burns on the scalp. Oxidizing agents may be highly corrosive to the eyes, skin, and lungs.

The lightening effect of alkaline peroxide is limited, regardless of pH or concentration of peroxide. Powdered Off-The-Scalp hairlighteners overcome this limitation with the addition of persulfate salts: ammonium persulfate, sodium persulfate and/or potassium persulfate. Although persulfate salts increase lightening, they also increase scalp irritation. Persulfate salts are not stable with water, so they must be sold in powdered form, which is why most powdered hairlighteners are sold for off-the-scalp use. Persulfate salts may also be in powdered “activators” sold in small foil packages that are added to liquid hairlighteners before use.

When hairstylists fail to achieve the desired level of lightening, they usually add heat from a steamer, hairdryer or heat lamps. As a general rule, an increase in temperature of 18°F/10°C doubles the rate of most chemical reactions. This means that a haircolor service processed with a machine at 90°F will process twice as fast as it would at a normal room temperature of 72°F. The addition of heat increases the rate of reaction and also increases skin irritation.

Metals in the hair catalyze oxidation reactions. Metallic dyes (salts of lead, silver, copper, and nickel), iron (from well water) and copper (from home plumbing and swimming pools) catalyze oxidation reactions. The exothermic reaction can produce enough heat to physically burn the skin.

Men, women and children of all ages want to have lighter hair. “Blondes have more fun” and for some, it’s never blonde enough. Most hairstylists are simply trying to meet the demands of their customer.

Top Ten Ways to Avoid Skin Irritation with Hair Lighteners

1)      Do not use Powdered Hair Lighteners or Powdered Activators on the scalp.
2)      Do not add heat from a hairdryer, steamer or other source while processing.
3)      Do not shampoo the day before having an on the scalp hair lightener.
4)      Do not force your hairstylist to do something they are reluctant to do.
5)      Do process at room temperature.
6)      Do cover your hair with a plastic cap with several small holes.
7)      Do check your hair for a build-up of metals.
8)      Do have your retouch more frequently. The hair at the scalp is easier to lighten.
9)      Do have your hair highlighted off the scalp instead of on the scalp.
10)    Do accept the fact that more isn’t always better.

We welcome your questions and comments

 

Brazilian Keratin Treatments

 

Keratin smoothing treatments, also called Brazilian keratin treatments, originated in Brazil and first appeared in the United States in 2006. Although there are differences in the application, the technology is essentially the same as the process that was first developed in the 60’s to create permanent press fabrics for the textile industry.

Keratin smoothing treatments loosen curl and leave unruly hair smooth and frizz-free. It may seem like a dream come true for those with curly, frizzy and unmanageable hair, but the treatments are not without risk. Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) and the Center for Research in Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET) have concluded that there are meaningful risks from exposure to the high levels of formaldehyde that hairstylists and their customers are exposed to during the process.

Oregon OSHA and CROET have determined that the treatments (marketed under different brand names) contain unacceptable levels of formaldehyde; a known carcinogen as well as an irritant to eyes, lungs and nasal passages. Consumer and stylist complaints have ranged from difficulty breathing to skin irritation and nasal and throat problems.

The section below is from the Oregon OSHA, a Division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services and CROET at Oregon Health & Sciences University, report dated October 29, 2010.

The full report is available online at: http://www.orosha.org/pdf/Final_Hair_Smoothing_Report.pdf

A stylist at a Portland area hair salon contacted staff at the Center for Research in Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET) at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) as a result of difficulty breathing, nose bleeds and eye irritation when using a popular hair smoothing product. In evaluating the issue, CROET noted that the material safety data sheet (MSDS) accompanying the product listed no hazardous ingredients or impurities. The MSDS also indicated no respiratory hazards or related precautions.

 CROET asked for Oregon OSHA’s assistance in collecting a sample and determining the content of the product. The Oregon OSHA laboratory analyzed the sample using five different test methods. Each of the five separate analyses concluded that formaldehyde was present well above regulated levels, with the quantitative methods producing respective results ranging from 6.3 to 10.6 percent. In analyzing samples of a newer “formaldehyde free” version of the product, Oregon OSHA’s laboratory found it contained roughly 8.5 percent formaldehyde. 

The irritant effects of formaldehyde are well documented, with reports of eye, nose and throat irritation, loss of sense of smell, increased upper respiratory disease, dry and sore throats, respiratory tract irritation, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing.

Adverse effects of formaldehyde on the central nervous system include headaches, depression, mood changes, insomnia, irritability and attention deficit. Impaired dexterity, memory and equilibrium have been reported from long-term exposure. Special consideration regarding the exposure of pregnant women is warranted since formaldehyde has been shown to damage DNA.

The heat, up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, from a hairdryer and flat iron causes the aldehyde in the product to form oxymethylene crosslinks and side chains with the amino acids in the hair. These keratinous bonds are responsible for the majority of the softening and smoothing and are stable for three to four months, at which time the hair will revert back to its original configuration. Although the aldehyde does not break disulfide bonds, the extreme heat does break disulfide bonds and accounts for some of the straightening and smoothing.

Unfortunately, the extreme heat also releases aldehyde vapors that present a health hazard to anyone in the room. Even in a well ventilated room, the release of aldehyde vapors could easily exceed the maximum concentration allowed by OSHA of 0.75 parts per million (ppm) over an eight hour period, especially with multiple services.

 The American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) notes that “there is a substantial portion of the population, comprising up to 20%, for whom airborne formaldehyde at concentrations on the order of 0.25 to 0.5 ppm is troublesome” and that “it is plausible that a similar proportion (10% to 20%) who are more responsive, may react acutely to formaldehyde at concentrations as low as 0.25 ppm.” ACGIH further states that in consideration of these reports, “individuals who may already be sensitized or otherwise unusually responsive to formaldehyde may not be adequately protected from adverse health effects caused by formaldehyde exposures at or below the recommended Threshold Limit Values (TLV) ceiling of 0.3 ppm.”

 Although formaldehyde has been safely used as a preservative in cosmetics for decades, in 1984, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panelreported that cosmetics containing formaldehyde in excess of 0.2% are not safe.

The CIR report referred to “free” formaldehyde used as a preservative in cosmetics that are applied to the skin, not for the use of formaldehyde as a hardener in nail products. The concentration of formaldehyde needed for nail hardening is higher than 0.2%. The FDA has approved the use of up to 5 % formaldehyde in nail hardeners as long as shields are used to keep the product from touching the skin. The typical levels of formaldehyde used in nail hardeners are well below 5%.

The current safe limits of formaldehyde in cosmetics were intended for its use as a preservative or a nail hardener. They were never intended for solutions that use heat to vaporize the formaldehyde.

Aldehydes may be listed by many different names, including: formaldehyde, Formol, formalin, methanal, morbidic acid, formic aldehyde, methyl aldehyde, oxymethylene, glutaraldehyde, (glyoxal) ethanedial  n-octyl aldehyde, aldehyde C-8, caprylaldehyde.

Chemicals that release formaldehyde are diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, 2-bromo 2-nitropropane-1 (Bronopol), DMDM hydantoin (Glydant), quaternium-15 (Dowicil)

Some products contain formaldehyde’s cousins such as gluteraldehyde or glyoxal and are marketed as formaldehyde free, even though they react in exactly the same manner as formaldehyde. These formaldehyde substitutes expose the stylists and their customers to the exact same health risks as formaldehyde. Although gluteraldehyde or glyoxal are weaker than formaldehyde, they may be used in higher concentrations in order to achieve the same results.

The question has been raised as to whether it is scientifically correct to include methylene glycol when measuring the formaldehyde content of a solution. Based on an understanding of both the chemistry and the toxicology involved, CROET and Oregon OSHA have concluded that it is indeed appropriate to refer to methylene glycol as formaldehyde, finding the distinction to be of no relevance in the context of worker protection.

Methylene glycol is the hydrate formed when formaldehyde is dissolved in water. One molecule of formaldehyde plus one molecule of water equals one molecule of methylene glycol. When the hair is heated and dried, the water evaporates and releases formaldehyde vapors.

The hydrated formaldehyde portion of the solution effectively becomes a reservoir of gaseous formaldehyde. Describing the solution as containing only the amount of gaseous formaldehyde or “free formaldehyde” in the solution distorts the risks and dramatically understates the amount of formaldehyde that is readily available in the solution.

On October 8, 2010, Oregon OSHA issued an advisory suggesting “continued caution by salon workers” and noting that the federal OSHA standard applies not only to gaseous formaldehyde but also to formaldehyde in solution, including methylene glycol.

Salon owners who employ hairstylists have an added liability. Oregon OSHA is advising Oregon salons and stylists that smoothing treatments generally referred to as “Keratin-based treatments” should be treated as formaldehyde-containing products and the requirements of the OSHA Formaldehyde Standard must be followed.

The Formaldehyde Standard requires employers using products above the 0.1 percent threshold to assess actual airborne exposures, as well as to meet other requirements related to personal protective equipment and emergency eyewash, depending upon the exact hazards involved. The Formaldehyde Standard includes additional requirements that are invoked when employees are exposed to airborne levels above an eight-hour average of 0.1 ppm. The employer must institute an annual training program and must provide medical surveillance to employees reporting formaldehyde signs and symptoms. When employees are exposed to levels exceeding the action level or the Short Term Exposure Limit (STEL), the employer also must perform periodic air monitoring and institute a medical surveillance program. When exposures exceed the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), the employer must also establish regulated areas and provide respiratory protection.

The variables that affect the level of exposure for hair stylists applying hair smoothing products include the amount of product used, the length of time for each service, the number of services, the type and degree of ventilation, the size of the room and even the configuration of the stations.

Extra caution should be used when handling and storing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a flammable, colorless gas that is incompatible with oxidizers, alkalis, acids, phenols, and urea. Explosive reactions occur when formaldehyde comes in contact with hydrogen peroxide or haircolor developer.

CROET has received reports of hair loss from consumers who have had the treatment and more than seven or eight repeated applications may cause a non-reversible “plastification” of the hair. The Personal Care Product Council recommends that all keratin treatments be considered unsafe.

If all of this scares you, it should, but there is a bright side. Consumer demand for keratin smoothing treatments continues to grow and manufacturers are scrambling to develop a safe alternative to satisfy that demand.

The textile industry continues to develop promising new technology. In 1992 Haggar first began to employ (1,2-Dimethylol-4,5-dihydroxyethyleneurea) DMDHEU in wrinkle free garments. However, DMDHEU still releases some formaldehyde, so it is not entirely without health risks.

More recently, nanotechnology has been applied to the problem of wrinkles in clothing. In 1998 the Nano-Tex company was formed by chemist David Soane to apply a “nanotechnology” process to fabrics. Rather than coating the fabric with a formaldehyde resin, tiny nano molecules are permanently attached to the fabric. The new nanotechnology is used in clothes sold under major brands such as Dockers, Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Perry Ellis and Old Navy. It should come as no surprise that this technology would eventually be applied to keratin smoothing treatments and one cosmetic company already claims to use nano-technology in their keratin smoothing treatment.

Another newly reformulated “formaldehyde free” keratin smoothing treatment contains a thio compound similar to those used in permanent waving. Several other keratin smoothing treatments now claim to have “formaldehyde free” formulas, but since most companies aren’t willing to share proprietary information, many of the details are still rather vague.

One thing is clear, the technology for keratin smoothing treatments is still in its infancy and it’s changing fast. Stay tuned for the latest changes as they develop. I promise to keep you informed.

We welcome your comments and questions.