Did you know that manufacturers of professional cosmetics are not required to disclose their ingredients? Unlike consumers, who can look at ingredient labels on their store-bought cosmetics, hair and nail salon workers don’t benefit from the same disclosure.
Salon workers use professional-grade products day in and day out, breathing in fumes, handling products and exposing ourselves as well as our clients to unknown chemicals. Our health pays the price — bloody noses, rashes, headaches and blurred vision.
Assembly Bill 2775, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Friday, will put an end to hidden harmful ingredients in salon products for Californians.
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I’ve been a hairstylist for 25 years. In 2010, I was unknowingly exposed to high levels of formaldehyde from a professional hair smoothing treatment called Brazilian Blowout. This product was marketed as “safe” with “no harsh chemicals” and “formaldehyde free.” There was no list of ingredients on the label.
After continued exposure to formaldehyde, my health issues worsened to chronic sinus infections, asthma requiring multiple inhalers, eye damage and respiratory infections that lasted for months. I even started to regularly cough up chunks of blood. Several co-workers and I were forced to quit our jobs.
At the time, I had never even heard of a safety data sheet. After searching the internet, I finally got my hands on one for the Brazilian Blowout product. Methelyne glycol was listed, but the manufacturers said it was not formaldehyde. When I called the company, it claimed no one else had reported symptoms. I had the FDA test my bottle of product, and it came back as 10.46% formaldehyde.
If formaldehyde had been listed on the label, I would never have used the product. I never even had the choice to avoid exposure or take steps to minimize the risk.
Manufacturers are supposed to alert us if there’s a hazardous ingredient through these safety data sheets, but they are not easy for professionals to obtain since they don’t typically come with the product and supply stores usually don’t have them available, either.
Today, I have opened a salon with three fellow stylists so we have more control over the products we’re exposed to. Still, without full ingredient listings it can be challenging to find safer products.
I thank Gov. Brown for supporting salon workers and our right to know what’s in the products we use every day by signing AB 2775.