A program of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

hair products


Hair products like shampoos, hair dyes, straighteners, and relaxers can contain many hazardous chemicals. These include octinoxate, an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen found in hair color products and shampoos, p-phenylenediamine through many forms of permanent hair dyes called oxidative dyes, quaternium-15, a known skin toxicant and allergen that releases formaldehyde a carcinogen, and resorcinol, commonly used in hair dyes and acne medication.

Hair salon workers, who are overwhelmingly women, are chronically exposed to these dangerous chemicals. In California alone, this means nearly a quarter million licensed hair salon workers are exposed to chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, and other chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm, respiratory, and neurological harm every day.


Professional hair salon works are at risk of numerous health effects due to their chronic, high exposure to toxic chemicals in hair products because they touch products and breathe them over a longer period of time. Several studies have found elevated rates of breast cancer among hairdressers and cosmetologists. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer lists “occupational exposures as a hairdresser or barber” as a probable carcinogen [1]. Studies show hairdressers experience an increased risk of miscarriage, giving birth to low-birth-weight babies, neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

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[1] IARC (2015). Agents Classified by the IARC Monographs, Volumes 1–111. Available online: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/ClassificationsAlphaOrder.pdf. Accessed online April 22, 2022.


Currently, manufacturers must list ingredients on the labels of cosmetics sold at the retail level—this is good for the people who sell, buy, and use those products. In 2018, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-authored California Professional Cosmetics Labeling Requirements Act (AB 2775) so that ingredients in professional cosmetics in California must be listed on product labels. Still, federal law does not require the uniform ingredient transparency that would enable beauty professionals to make informed choices about the products they use and how to protect their health.

The Safer Beauty Bill Package in U.S. Congress includes the Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act of 2021, which would create cosmetic safety protections for women of color and professional hair, nail and beauty salon workers. It also includes the CSC-cosponsored Toxic-Free Beauty Act of 2021, which would ban the most hazardous chemicals from beauty and personal care products. Take action to make beauty and personal care products safer for all!

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Products of Concern

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Hair dye
  • Hair straighter
  • Hair relaxer
  • Bleaches

Chemicals of Concern


  1. Read Labels: Check ingredient labels to avoid the above chemicals of concern found in body care products.
  2. Simplify: Choose products with simpler ingredient lists and fewer synthetic chemicals. Select products that fully disclose their fragrance ingredients by skipping products with “fragrance” on the label.
  3. Minimalist: Using fewer products is the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your risk by minimizing your exposure to harmful chemicals in cosmetics.
  4. Use an App: Get Clearya or Think Dirty to find out whether products are toxic as you shop.
  5. Look Beyond: Since the beauty industry is largely unregulated, there are no legal standards for personal care products that are labeled “clean,” “pure,” “natural,” or “organic.” Look beyond false marketing claims by reading ingredient labels.
  6. DIY: Many products are easy and fun to make yourself. Plus, you can customize your recipes to match your specific beauty concerns and favorites. Make your own moisturizer, sugar or salt scrub, body oil, and more using simple, organic ingredients.

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Looking for a Safer Alternative?​

Use Clearya’s app to find non-toxic products! Clearya alerts you to toxics and helps you find safe products.


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Get the Top 20 Toxic Ingredients to Avoid PDF FREE!

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