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Safety of Keratin-based Hair Straightening Products

The safety of keratin-based hair straightening products has been the centre of numerous lawsuits and debates on a global basis. Although these extremely popular products are still in high demand, salons and hairdressers may need to stop offering the treatments. Every UK salon owner and independent hairdresser must re-evaluate their own services and risk management programmes, if they offer keratin-based hair treatments. The salon owners and independent hairdressers may discover they need more insurance due to this dispute.

The Dispute

On one hand, governmental agencies and health authorities claim that at least a dozen keratin-based hair smoothing products on the market are unsafe. They allege that the manufacturers, importers, and distributors have mislabelled and in some cases, have misbranded the hair smoothing products. They also allege that the companies have used misleading adverts to promote the products on the market. These allegations are base on testing of the products according to current formaldehyde standards and regulations, after receiving hundreds of consumer complaints.

On the other hand, the accused parties maintain that their products are safe and that they haven’t violated any codes or regulations. These companies deny utilising any misleading adverts to promote their products on the market. They have also used testing by independent labs to prove the safety of their products and have banned together to form an industry watchdog organisation called Professional Keratin Smoothing Council (PKSC). PKSC is advocating for the current regulations and codes to be revised, claiming they have not kept up with modern science and technology.

Precautions UK salons and hairdressers should take

Since both sides have provided “expert” scientific-based opinions, it’s difficult for hairdressers to evaluate the safety risks involved. Taking certain precautions may help UK salons and hairdressers to avoid becoming entangled in the dispute and numerous lawsuits. These precautions are:

· Treat every keratin-based product as if it contained a high level of formaldehyde, even if the manufacturer claims it’s formaldehyde-free. Make sure every employee strictly follows the safety procedures for products containing high levels of air-borne formaldehyde when providing keratin-based hair straightening treatments.

· Be aware that the following ingredients may cause formaldehyde or formaldehyde-like fumes to be released during the hair smoothing treatment: CAS Number 50-00-0, formalin, formic aldehyde, methanal, methylene glycol, methylene oxide, oxomethane, oxymethylene, paraform, and timonacic acid (also called thiazolidinecarboxylic acid). These ingredients are the primary cause of the dispute, and products containing them should be avoided, especially if the ventilation system is not suitable for high levels of formaldehyde.

· Ensure every client and employee is informed that the safety of the treatment is being disputed and why. Make certain that they know how to recognise the symptoms of formaldehyde exposure before providing the treatment. Ask them to report to a manager or supervisor if they have any type of reaction to the treatment. Also make sure these incidents are accurately recorded and reported to proper governmental agencies and health authorities.

· Install and maintain the most sophisticated, up-to-date ventilation system, if at all possible. Always monitor the air level of the salon or home work area.

· Ensure the proper personal protection equipment is provided and properly used by employees and clients.

· Be very meticulous about getting a complete medical history of the client and every employee before providing any keratin-based type of treatment. All keratin-based products contain formaldehyde or some similar type of chemical ingredient. Don’t use the alleged unsafe keratin-based products on anyone who has asthma, respiratory ailments, allergies, cancer, immune system deficiencies, or anyone who is pregnant.

· Don’t use any product without first having a completely-filled MSDS, even if the manufacturer has to be directly contacted to obtain the information. Ensure everyone using the product fully understands the instructions and risks involved, and have the proper skill level to efficiently perform each step of the treatment.

Professional Treatment and Product Liability Insurance

There are some facts every salon owner and independent hairdresser should consider. These are:

· As long as some clients have frizzy, uncontrollable hair, they will seek out professional treatments to help manage their hair. These clients are willing to pay a high price for the benefits of the treatments, but may be unaware of the health risks involved.

· Due to the ingredients, lack of proper application, or lack of proper ventilation, hundreds of consumers will be negatively affected while giving or receiving these types of hair treatments.

. There have already been numerous lawsuits filed in several countries due to people becoming ill from the keratin-based hair treatments. As long as consumers are becoming ill from the treatments, there will be new lawsuits filed. Some of the new lawsuits could be from clients suing the hair treatment providers, as well as from employees suing salon owners.

· Salon owners, employees, and independent hairdressers are legally and morally responsible for ensuring the safety of their clients, as well as their own safety. This is mostly done by using safe products and maintaining a safe work environment. There are at least a dozen hair treatment products on the UK market that may or may not be safe. It is ultimately up to the salon owner or independent hairdresser to ensure that no one is harmed by these 12 products or any other potentially harmful product.

Owing to the aforementioned factors, all salons or independent hairdressers offering hair smoothing treatments must have excellent risk management programmes in place. Just one lawsuit can financially destroy even the most leading salon. Having a large amount of product liability insurance may be especially beneficial considering the unknown safety level of the products being used.

Adequate amounts of Professional Treatment cover will definitely be necessary if a treatment goes wrong. It may also be advisable to include a large amount of cover for legal fees and medical expenses. Every salon owner and independent hairdresser should carry adequate insurance despite the safety dispute. However, due to the dispute over the safety of keratin-based hair straightening products, some hair care product providers may need extra insurance cover.