The Full Toxic Beauty Treatment?

by Vins
Published: Updated:

We get our hair done; we see our hairdresser mixing the hair dye, walking toward us, and our nostrils sense the pungent fumes well before she reaches us. We may wrinkle our nose a little, but what if we suffered more prolonged exposure to these chemicals?

Most people visit hair and nail salons, at most, only for a few hours a month. Beauticians, however, work in these often toxic environments all day, every day, breathing in fumes and absorbing chemicals through the skin. Hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail applications and other salon products contain ingredients associated with asthma, dermatitis, neurological symptoms and even cancer. Because these products are considered neither foods nor drugs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no responsibility to ensure the products are made safer.

Amid little attention from corporate media dependent on lucrative cosmetics advertising, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics seeks to correct this situation. One of its causes is the proposed Safe Cosmetics & Personal Care Products Act, introduced in Congress in 2013. This law would require all such products to be labeled with a full ingredient list and to be free of harmful substances. This act potentially affects every American who uses shampoo, moisturizers or deodorant.

Meanwhile, the unique health problems of salon employees – who tend to be uneducated women – are largely ignored by male-dominated corporate media. A patchwork of resources can be found online. A Health Hazard Manual for Cosmetologists, Hairdressers, Beauticians and Barbers, compiled by Cornell University researchers in the 1980s, is readily downloadable; more recently, activist group Women’s Voices for the Earth provides tips to beauty professionals on what products to use, how to store and use them more safely, as well as how members of the public can advocate for the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act.

Source: Stephanie Hallett, “The Beauty Industry’s Invisible Victims,” Ms. Magazine, November 11, 2014,

Student Researcher: Taylor Williams (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)