Teni Adewumi is on a mission. As an African American researcher working in environmental health sciences at the University of California Los Angeles Fielding School of Public Health, Adewumi is warning Black women everywhere about the documented negative health effects of the many chemical we commonly use on our hair.

hair product dangers and educate both salon professionals and patrons about the risks.Getty: Yellow Dog Productions

Both salon professionals and their clients face health risks from chemicals in hair products. (Photo: Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images)

Drawing on her own experiences growing up going to beauty salons, along with those of family members and friends, Adewumi partners with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Black Women for Wellness to investigate hair product dangers and educate both salon professionals and patrons about the risks.

“This is an industry that isn’t regulated, and many of the products include ingredients that are known to be possible carcinogens, endocrine destructors or allergens,” Adewumi said in a UCLA interview. “These professionals are exposed both from using the products on themselves and from using them on their clients.”

To learn more about the health impact of perms, dyes, the chemicals used to treat the hair used in wigs and weaves, as well as many hair treatment products, Adewumi and her team surveyed salon workers to learn what products they used and what types of health problems they had that might be linked to exposure to the hair product chemicals.

She found high rates of reproductive health problems among the hair salon workers, including miscarriages and uterine fibroids. Previous research has specifically show a link between relaxers and fibroids.  Other studies have found that chemicals like formaldyhyde, commonly found in straighteners and some wig adhesives contribute to abnormal tissue growth in the body.

Adewumi also reported horror stories about hair stylists who no longer had fingerprints after working with certain chemicals and heard about instances of stylists coming down with respiratory disorders from inhaling product fumes. Her surveys also revealed the need for more education about health risks and the use of proper protective equipment.

Healthy, Beautiful Hair

This new survey adds to the growing body of research on the dangers of using the wrong kinds of beauty products on hair. That said, it is still possible to have gorgeous locks without exposing yourself to toxic chemicals. Check out: “Don’t Let Weaves, Wigs or Extensions Leave You Bald” and “Beautiful Hair at Any Age: 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s & Beyond!”