Popular hair care products contain ‘carcinogenic’ chemicals that can double cancer risk

Choosing a new hair product is never easy. Whether you choose a bottle that comes at a great price or choose one that promises to best complement your hair type, the back-printed ingredient list rarely plays a role in that decision-making process. It is worrying that chemicals in small black print may obscure the names of carcinogens.

Before you start frantically googling every supplement your shampoo contains, Dr. Deborah Lee of Dr Fox’s online pharmacy explained that hair straightening products seem especially dangerous.

The doctor said: “Hair straightening products contain harmful chemicals, including parabens, phthalates, bisphenol A, cyclosiloxanes, diethanolamine and formaldehyde – all of which have been found to be carcinogenic.”

Chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A are also known by another name – endocrine disruptors.

Dr. Li said, “Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the normal endocrine (hormonal) function of the human body.

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“These are usually industrial chemicals that, when ingested, act on certain cell receptors, such as estrogen receptors.

“Such foods, often known as xenoestrogens, are able to bind to estrogen receptors and stimulate estrogen production.

“Some authorities believe that xenoestrogens increase the risk of breast cancer.”

However, excessive and long-term exposure to estrogen has also been associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer.

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To make matters worse, the doctor explained that these “carcinogenic” chemicals do not have to be in food or drink to be “harmful.”

Cancer Research UK’s official stance is that hair care products in the UK do not cause cancer, as UK law is “very strict” on ingredients in cosmetics.

What do the latest studies say?

A 2022 American study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported an increase in uterine cancer in women who use hair straightening products.

Studying 33,947 people who had already been recruited for another study called the Sister Study, the research team asked women aged 35 to 74 about their use of various hair products, including hair straighteners.

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During the 10-year follow-up period, about 378 cases of uterine cancer were diagnosed, with the majority of women having endometrial cancer.

The research team found that the risk of developing uterine cancer was 2.5 times higher for those who used hair straighteners four or more times a year for the past 12 months.

In addition, about 59.9% of the women who used these hair products in the study described themselves as Black or African.

Dr. Lee added, “While these results are very interesting, medical research is always open to criticism and interpretation.”

How to protect yourself

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to reduce your risk if you want to be safe.

The expert said: “Due to the fact that hair straightening products can damage the hair and scalp, even causing scalp burns and hair loss, it’s always best to have it done by a suitably qualified professional stylist – don’t do it at home.

“The stylist will advise you on the best way to take care of your hair. You should not color your hair for at least two weeks after the procedure.

“You may prefer natural products that will help straighten your hair, such as coconut milk, hot oils, or milk with honey.”

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