the dangers of formaldehyde in chemical hair straighteners: what to do until the proposed bans come through

In a bad case of “it’s about time,” the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has recently proposed a ban on formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing ingredients in hair straightening products. This proposed ban is especially important for people of color and others who use chemical straighteners.

A 2022 National Institutes of Health study and 2023 Boston University study showed strong connection between frequent use of chemical hair straighteners or relaxers and increased uterine cancer diagnoses. Studies have also linked use of these straighteners to increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer. Formaldehyde is also linked to respiratory disease, and repeated exposure can irritate eyes, skin, lungs, and throat.

This ban is still in the proposal stage, no action has been taken, so formaldehyde-containing products are still available on the market. While it’s incredibly important to read labels, as is the case with many personal care products, labels can be unreliable. Some that are labeled organic or formaldehyde-free could still contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde releasers like DMDM hydantoin or quaternium-15.

Additionally, companies may use different terms for the same ingredient. For instance, methylene glycol and formalin are just liquid forms of formaldehyde and methylene glycol could be listed as methanal or methanediol.

Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers aren’t the only toxins included in chemical straighteners. Bisphenol, phthalates, parabens, and other dangerous ingredients may be included in product formulas. Refer to our ingredients to avoid list as a guide while shopping or consulting with your hair stylist.

But why stop at hair straightening products? Formaldehyde is also used in cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaners, and even some medicines as a preservative. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers are bad news no matter what product they’re used in, so why not ban use of these ingredients in cosmetics, personal care, and home products all together?

In October 2021 Congress introduced the Safer Beauty Bill Package and re-introduced it in May 2023. If passed, the Safer Beauty Bill “would protect consumers from toxic chemicals linked to hormone disruption, cancer, and other health problems; require full ingredient transparency, including closing the fragrance and flavor loophole, for consumers and brand owners; and protect the health of women of color and salon workers, who are among the most highly exposed to toxic chemicals because of the products marketed to them or commonly found in their workplaces.” This package includes a ban on toxic ingredients like parabens and formaldehyde, as well as an intent to codify legal definitions for terms like “natural” and “naturally derived.”

In the meantime, what can you do?

  • Avoid chemical straightening. Embrace your hair’s natural texture and care for it with nourishing, guaranteed non toxic hair care products.
  • Use a thermal protection hair mist with heat tools. It’s important to protect your hair from the damaging effects of heat styling, whether you’re using a blow dryer, flat iron, curling iron, or any other heated tool.
  • Talk with your hair stylist. Share what you’ve learned about the dangers of formaldehyde, ask what’s in the products they use, and encourage them to use a non toxic brand — for your health and theirs! You could even bring your own!
  • Shop a trusted manufacturer for non toxic products. All Pure Haven products are made with the safest, most effective ingredients — no toxins, no compromises.

Ask your Pure Haven Consultant about their favorite non toxic hair care products and other items to help you reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and keep yourself and your family safe.


Miller, M. 27 October 2023. Why Formaldehyde in Hair Straightening Products Is Dangerous (

Perkins, T. 10 November 2023. FDA proposes ban on hair-straightening products containing formaldehyde | Cancer | The Guardian.

24 May 2023. Schakowsky, Colleagues Reintroduce Safer Beauty Bill Package | Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (