Hair colour and cosmetics companies spend millions developing their products. One of the main reasons these products are so expensive to bring to market is the need to ensure that they’re safe to use. And that means they have to pass all sorts of tests required by regulators, the people who control what can and what can’t be sold to consumers in the markets for which they’re responsible.
But just because a product is passed safe for consumers to use, does that really mean that hair and beauty professionals are safe to use it too? And what exactly do we mean by ‘safe’? These were two of the key questions asked at a recent seminar hosted by the well-known and highly experienced toxicologist David Basketter for an audience of hair and beauty professionals.
The focus of the event was irritation and allergy, and the problems which some ingredients in hair and beauty products are causing for both consumers and professionals.
For example, we’ve reported before on the steep rise in allergic reactions to the preservative MI (full name: methylisothiazolinone) which is found in many leave-on and rinse-off products.
David Basketter listed some basic facts about allergy:
- everyone is at risk
- cosmetics are responsible for about 10% of skin allergy cases in eczema clinics
- there are many chemicals that can cause skin allergy
- it takes time for an allergic reaction to show itself
- once acquired, allergy is for life.
And he identified some of the main causes of allergy – known as allergens – for hair professionals:
- hair dye chemicals, particularly PPD and PTD
- perming agents like ammonium/glyceryl thioglycolate and cysteamine
- product preservatives.
The problem for professionals is that they can be repeatedly exposed to these allergens, with a frequency not necessarily anticipated or tested by the manufacturers or the regulators. And the way that each person reacts to an allergen can be difficult to predict. Rarely, they may show an allergic reaction after just a couple of exposures. More often it may take many exposures to cause the reaction to show itself – and that can give some people a false sense of security!
The seminar also focused on glove use in the profession, and how proper use of gloves can help limit exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. There was quite a debate amongst the delegates about the practicalities of glove use, and which gloves were best to use for which tasks in salon.
David Basketter’s central message was that the risk of developing allergy is a very real one, and that avoiding or limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals is key to avoiding an allergic reaction. Which seems obvious, but we all know that in the heat of the salon, and on a busy day, it’s all too tempting to cut corners.
So the message is: Be careful, be cautious. As David says: “Hairdressing safely is a challenge, but it can be done!”