Most of us are familiar with the smell of hair salons. Hot combs, marcel irons and hooded dryers all give off distinct ‘fragrances’ depending on your hairstyle. I, personally, can immediately pinpoint whether someone is getting a blowout or flatiron or even a relaxer as soon as I open the door
It turns out all of those smells might cause cancer. Brandeis students recently teamed with scientists to conduct an air quality test on of salons, finding that 70% don’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limits and aren’t being properly ventilated. All showed levels of benzene above the EPA’s carcinogenic target risk levels. In addition, carbon dioxide levels were also over recommended limits.
This isn’t the first study to show that traditional black hairstyling can be toxic to our health – and hair lines – with black hair products being more toxic than general haircare products. However, little attention has been done on black salons. So though levels are high, there’s no research on long term effects for not only you, but also for the stylists who are in the salon all day.
“Overall, there is a lack of research into environments where workers are primarily women of color,” said study leader and Brandies professor Laura J. Goldin. “We already have joined in collaborative grant proposals with a number of research- and community-based organizations to pursue further research into air quality in black hair salons. Our study provided critical data to support additional investigation.”
Until more is known, we definitely recommend asking for added ventilation (or open doors). Better safe than sorry.