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Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Healthy Hair Care and the Environment

Potential Health Impacts

There are many ingredients used in hair products. The list below of ingredients found in hair care products is meant to provide you with information to make healthier, informed choices when purchasing hair care products. This is not a comprehensive listing of all hair product ingredients and several of these ingredients are commonly used while others are found only in certain product lines. Examine the ingredient label or consult the resources page of this website to determine if the product you use contains these ingredients. Note that professional salon product ingredients are not required to be labeled.

Potential Health Impacts Associated with Overexposures to Ingredients
Used in Hair Care Products

Ingredient Product Potential Health Effects
1Lead** Hair Dye1 Lead has been associated with harmful impacts to virtually every organ system in the body. Elevated exposures are associated with severe central nervous system impacts and potentially irreversible neurodevelopment delays and behavioral changes in children. Elevated exposure levels have also been associated with increased rates of miscarriage and reproductive toxicity.
Other names:
PPD; P-Phenylenediamine;
1, 4 diaminobenzene;
1, 4 phenylenediamine;
Hair Dye Exposure could cause mild dermatitis in contact location including redness, pain, and swelling, and when in contact with the eyes could possibly cause swelling of the eyelids, blurred vision and possible permanent loss of vision. Inhalation of this chemical may be associated with cough, headache, dizziness and labored breathing. Possible severe reactions to PPD are urticaria and, rarely, anaphylaxis.
3Sodium Hydroxide**
Looks like this on a label:
Lye; Caustic Soda;
Sodium Hydrate
Hair Wave
Overexposure is corrosive to all tissues and mucous membranes such as in the eyes, nose, and throat. Concentrated exposures frequently result in extreme and severe irritation, edema (swelling) and acute dermal reactions. Direct contact with sodium hydroxide can result in constrictive scarring, and inhalation results in acute damage to the pulmonary system.
Looks like this on a label:
Formalin; formic aldehyde;
oxomethane; oxomethylene
Shampoo and
Elevated exposures have been associated with irritation and edema to the pulmonary system and mucous membranes. Overexposure also irritates the eyes, nose and skin, and repeated exposures have been associated with a hypersensitivity (allergic) responses in some individuals. The compound demonstrates carcinogenic activity.
1Dibutyl Phthalates*
Looks like this on a label:
DBP; Di-n-butyl phthalate; dibutyl
1,2-benzene dicarboxylate
Fragrance for
shampoo and
Overexposure has resulted in gastrointestinal distress in humans. The compound has caused birth, reproductive and developmental impacts in animals. Some phthalate compounds have carcinogenic activity in animals.
4Hydantoin DMDM***
Looks like this on a label:
1-3-Bis (Hydroxymethyl)-5,5-
Hydantoin; Dantogard; Glydant;
Gidol; Glycolylurea
conditioner and
Overexposure has resulted in irritation and edema in sensitized individuals. Irreversible damage to the eye has been reported due to its caustic nature. Considered harmful to human health because of toxic impact on developmental and reproductive systems. This compound is an antimicrobial formaldehyde releasing agent.
Colorants/Synthetic Colors***
Looks like this on a label:
D&C; FD&C; azo grenadine;
disodium 5-amino-4-hydroxy-3-
disulfonate; Acid Red 33;
Red 33; Naphthalene Red
Makeup and hair
products to create
color; some are
derived from coal
Some specific dyes and color compounds have been associated with carcinogenic activity at extremely elevated concentrations. Some of these compounds have also been associated with edema and irritation in hypersensitive individuals.
Looks like this on a label:
Lauramide DEA
Shampoos and
products that foam
Elevated exposures have been associated with irritation to the eyes, skin, nose and throat. These compounds have been associated with limited edema and irritation to the pulmonary system in some individuals.
Looks like this on a label:
1,4 Benzendiol
Hair bleaches and
skin lighteners
Elevated exposures are associated with tinnitus (ringing in the ears), nausea, shortness of breath, cyanosis and convulsions. Edema and irritation to skin, eyes, nose, mucous membranes and intestinal tract have also been reported.
1,3Propylene Glycol***
Looks like this on a label:
Propylene Glycol;
Styling gels/lotions,
shampoos, hair
Elevated or frequent exposure to propylene glycol is associated with dermal irritation and limited edema of the mucous membranes. Under repeated exposure conditions it is irritating to the eyes, nose and mouth. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is generally recognized as safe for use in food.

*Animal studies reported.
**Human studies reported.
***Human and animal studies reported.

References & Resources

  1. US EPA Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS)
  2. US EPA Toxic Substance control Act (TSCA)
  3. US EPA Technology Transfer Network
  4. National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH); Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
  5. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) Toxicological Profiles
  6. The Merck Index: an Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs & Biologicals, Merck & Co., Inc. Exiting EPA (disclaimer)
  7. FDA’s List of Ingredients That People Often Ask About
  8. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, International Chemical Safety Cards
  9. Phthalates and Cosmetic Products

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