Siloxanes, also known as silicones, have been linked to health issues in lab animals.
Researchers found that many haircare products like oils and sprays emit siloxanes.
They also found that using these products with heated tools increased these emissions.
There's no shortage of products for shiny, frizz-free hair. But the same cream that smooths flyaways produces emissions that might also impact your health, according to a study published in Environmental Science & Technology on November 16.
Taking place in a ventilated "tiny house laboratory," the study's researchers had healthy participants ages 18-65 replicate the hair care routines they did at home. The researchers found that many hair oils, gels, and sprays contain compounds called siloxanes that could harm human health — and heat tools could make the emissions worse.
Siloxanes are "ubiquitous" in hair products
Siloxanes, commonly known as silicones, are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are "ubiquitous" in hair products, according to the study. Because they are stable under heat and have a smooth texture, they can be found in everything from heat-protectant sprays to styling creams.
Previous research has found that exposure to VOCs has been shown to cause respiratory tract irritation, liver damage, and uterine cancer in laboratory animals. The study notes that the health impacts on humans, however, are still not understood.
In the study, researchers measured VOC emissions during participants' typical hair care routines. They also had participants use the same products with and without heat tools to see if temperature made a difference.
Heat tools increase emissions
Researchers found that using heat tools like straighteners and curling irons increased VOC emissions by up to three times as much when used at the highest setting. They believe the heat allows siloxanes to evaporate more easily.
The researchers also noted that these emissions might also affect urban atmospheres, though the degree to which they would impact the total outdoor environment is unclear.
More research is needed on the long-term effects
The study concluded that more research on siloxanes is "urgently needed," given how many hair products use them.
In the meantime, the study found that having ventilation, such as a bathroom fan, reduced VOC exposure. It also noted that exposure increased if participants stayed in the same room after finishing their hair care — so to be extra safe, do your skincare routine before your hair routine.
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