Hairdressers and cancer – health hazard?


Hairdressers have been working for generations to maintain hair colour, so, understandably, they want you to know the facts about what they do. Hairdressers and cancer are topics very few people want to discuss. Wouldn’t you want to know whether your hairdressers are more likely to get cancer?

It is not as simple as just dyeing your locks a new colour. It takes time and skill to give clients the desired look. You may think that hairstylists are always in their element with glamorous celebrity clientele, but there is much more than meets the eye. There are many myths out there about hair dyes, hairdressers work, occupational hazards, safety in the salon environment etc. I will be exploring some of these topics and other interesting facts in this post.

Hair dye myths

Hair dyes used before 1980 contained tar-like compounds. Women who used these dyes had a higher risk of bladder cancer than those who didn’t use hair dye at all! These chemicals were also found to cause cancer in mice as well, and after many women refused this harmful practice, the cosmetics companies had no choice but to find new ingredients for darkening your hair.

Consequently, there was considerable research conducted assessing the link between using toxic substances like these on our scalps or near other areas that are constantly exposed (such as fingertips) and increasing one’s chance of developing tumours in organs you never knew about until it happened – studies were done were non-conclusive so it seems like there is very little link between hair dye and cancer but can this be true?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluated hair dyes in 2008 and concluded that they could be carcinogenic to humans. In a study done by the Yale School of Public health published in 2002, researchers found no strong link between using hair dyes over 10 years with cancers like uterine, breast, ovarian or skin melanoma.

The findings of a new study published in the BMJ medical journal have revealed that women who use hair dye do not experience an increased risk for most cancers or dying from cancer. The research was conducted on 117,200 female nurses at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston which included details on their exposure to hair dye. At the start of this 36-year long study, none of these females had any form of cancer; they were simply followed throughout time with no knowledge if there would be higher risks associated with using hair dyes over a prolonged period.

Studying the latest hair dyes is a tricky business. They are composed of thousands upon thousands of different chemicals, and it can be hard to keep track of which ones are safe for humans and animals alike! The subject has been controversial since 1978 when some carcinogens were found in those earliest formulas – thankfully their use was phased out by 1980.

In 2017 Health Day News reported that black women who use dark hair dyes are at a higher risk of breast cancer. The study found that black woman using darker shades were 51% more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than those in lighter hues, substantiating earlier studies which have shown how chemicals from these products can enter into contact with and invade skin cells.

In one of my earlier post, I mentioned that synthetic chemicals like hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, parabens and PPD are still being used in some hair dye products. These ingredients have been found to cause damage to your scalp while also damaging the environment. Hair dyes claiming to be 100% natural have these harmful ingredients mixed with organic products as a marketing ploy.

There isn’t an official governing body on how many of each ingredient you should use or what percentage they constitute out of this mixture which means that even if one product claims it all-natural based purely on percentages – it mightn’t necessarily provide any less harm than using synthetic dyes at high concentrations!


Work of a hairdresser

For years, the hairdresser has been a staple in society. Whether it is for upkeep or to make you feel more beautiful when going on that big date with your crush, these professionals have always stood by and helped out customers in their times of need. It’s important to appreciate what they do but also how often these people are exposed to chemicals like hair dyes, shampoos, hair straighteners etc which can be toxic if used without protection.

Hairdressers spent days in an enclosed environment full of chemicals. Exposure to these can have negative effects on hair and skin so salon owners must take measures like installing exhaust systems for ventilation or using safer products as much as possible. Even when the owner takes all precautions they never know what reactions their customers will experience because everyone reacts differently from different things!

As a customer, you should think about the health and safety hazards that your hairdresser faces, which could be biological hazards or contracting infectious diseases. There is very little regulation to ensure their safety and wellness; so spare some thought for them on your next visit.

Occupational hazard

When you’re inside of one of these salons, it is not only your haircut or style with which people should concern themselves but also the air quality. Air toxicity can come from harsh chemical substances such as acetone, ammonia and methyl methacrylate; all three being commonly found within many beauty shop products on shelves. Today, you have the added products of permanent wave solution (perm), acrylic nails product liquid formaldehyde for use between manicures/pedicure treatments etc., hair dyeing solutions-or even flat irons used after blow-drying / styling everyone’s locks. All having toxic chemicals!

Besides your favourite hairdresser having to face all these harmful and irritating products, you the customer is in the same boat as well. Air-conditioning units sometimes lack proper ventilation leading to a buildup of these hazardous materials which creates an unsafe environment for employees and customers.

The hair salon industry needs a major shakeup. With the help of medical professionals, volunteer groups and others in positions to influence governments, let’s hope all is not lost. We need better laws and best practices that will protect both customers and workers alike from potential harm.


The future of the industry

The hairdressing industry is changing and to keep up, they need to be innovative and look at it from a holistic health approach. In addition to traditional methods of hair dyeing & styling, prosumers are using digital media tools like social networking sites for marketing and conducting online courses on how to do their at-home hairstyling.

Technology has also enabled beauty brands to sell products directly from their website or through a mobile app which makes it easier than ever before for customers to purchase hair care kits that offer better quality ingredients with no harmful effects (such as sulfates). Hairdressers should consider embracing this new age by incorporating these technologies into their businesses so they can stay ahead of trends and provide more value when providing services to their customers.

The future of hair care products is looking a lot brighter with new regulatory measures in place to protect consumers and manufacturers alike. As the market for natural, eco-friendly beauty grows, more companies are investing in creating safer options.


The fact is that many hair dyes contain harsh chemicals like petroleum-based synthetics (e.g., PPD) that can be absorbed into your skin or inhaled in small doses if you’re using aerosol versions. These aromatic diamines can cause cancer cells to form on both internal and external parts of the body – it’s a scary thought! It may seem harmless because it affects only one person but how about all those people who use these products daily with no idea what they could potentially be putting their bodies through?

It’s up to consumers like you and me to voice our concern with government bodies, non-profit organizations such as Women’s Voices For the Earth (WVE) – a nonprofit environmental organization that advocates on behalf of women’s health and safety – so they can act accordingly by putting pressure on manufacturers who use unsafe ingredients for their dyeing processes until it becomes an industry-standard practice worldwide.

There is no one size fits all solution and you should do a little research before choosing what type of natural hair dye will suit you best.

If you want more information on how to go about finding safe, non-toxic hair products, be sure to leave a comment or share this post with friends if it has been useful!


Curly girl – the handbook (say no to shampoo & chemicals)  

Homemade hair care – 34 natural toxic-free by Donna Nolan

International Journal of Epidemiology – the risk of cancer among hairdressers and workers


Disclosure: Just a Heads Up: My posts may contain affiliate links! If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a cent more, but I’ll get a small commission, which helps to keep the lights on. Many thanks!

Disclaimer: These statements are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease. They are for information purposes only. They have not been evaluated by the FDA. If you suspect that you have a medical condition, seek help from your doctor.

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