Is Hairspray Bad For You? Ingredients, Effects And Dangers

Reading the label on your bottle of hairspray can make your head spin.

Hydrofluorocarbon 152A, Methoxycinnamate, Isoeugenol… are these chemicals even safe?

With this question in mind I grabbed my bottle of hairspray out of the bathroom cupboard and did some digging.

Read below to see if this everyday beauty product may be making you sick.

List Of Harmful Ingredients In Hairspray

There are many chemicals in hairspray that have the potential to cause harm. Although these ingredients have been approved for use in your beauty products, they still come with risks.

Normal use will not likely make you sick unless you have an allergy, but heavy use can be dangerous. Here are some of the ingredients you may want to avoid.

  • Fragrance. Many products hide ingredients behind this ‘catch-all’ term, so it’s hard to know exactly what you’re putting on your body. Whatever chemicals make up the fragrance might cause an allergic reaction.
  • Hydroxy citronellal. This chemical is man-made and is used for its floral scent. It can cause allergic skin reactions and serious eye irritations.
  • Isoeugenol. This sweet, woody fragrance comes from cinnamon or clove oil. Although it is natural, this chemical can be harmful if swallowed. It can also cause irritation if it comes in contact with your skin and can be a serious eye irritant.
  • Geraniol. Geraniol has a floral scent that comes from natural sources like geranium and lemon. It can cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, and serious eye damage if sprayed in the eye.
  • Amyl Cinnamaldahyde. This floral, jasmine-like fragrance is made from the bark of cinnamon trees. It is another possible allergen and can cause skin reactions in people who are sensitive to it.
  • Cyclopentasiloxane. This chemical has a smoothing effect on your hair. In some studies, it has been shown to be a hormone disrupter and may have negative effects on fertility.

Is Hairspray Flammable?

Many of the chemicals found in hairspray are extremely flammable.

When using hairspray, make sure to let it dry completely before using lighters or walking near open flames. Never spray near an open flame.

Does Hairspray Cause Lung Cancer?

The chemical Coumarin is found in many hairsprays and may be harmful when inhaled.

Coumarin is found in many plants and has a sweet scent. This fragrance, like many others, has the potential to cause skin irritation.

More importantly, it can act as a liver toxin and may contribute to the formation of cancerous tumors.

Hairspray containing coumarin is unlikely to cause problems on its own, but many beauty products contain coumarin. When using multiple products containing this chemical it is possible to absorb too much of it, leading to problems.

Does Hairspray Cause Hair Loss?

Hairspray will not cause your hair to fall out, but it may cause breakage.

Many hair products contain alcohol, which can be extremely drying to hair. When your hair is too dry, it can become brittle and break more easily.

Try to use a spray that does not contain alcohol and avoid brushing your hair after styling.

Always wash hairspray out of your hair and condition before brushing to avoid breakage.

Safe To Use When Pregnant?

Anything you put on your skin or inhale can potentially make its way to your baby when you’re pregnant.

Although there are no definitive studies linking hairspray to birth defects, there is a chemical commonly found in hair products that may cause problems.

Phthalates are found in many mainstream brand beauty products and have been shown in some animal studies to cause fertility problems, miscarriage, and gestational diabetes.

The effects of chemicals on animals are not always the same as they are on humans, but many mothers-to-be choose to eliminate phthalates them just to be safe.

Can Hairspray Cause COPD

Hairspray, especially the scented kind, can irritate COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

If you suffer from COPD, it might be best to use an unscented brand or even better, go without.

Hairspray has not been shown to cause COPD.

Does Hairspray Cause Dandruff?

Hairspray is not likely to be the cause of your dandruff, but it could be making it worse.

Sticky sprays will cling to your scalp, making your hair produce more oil. The dandruff will then stick to your oily, sticky scalp, making your problem worse.

Avoid sprays and other styling products if you have issues with dandruff.

Does Hairspray Cause Itchy Scalp

An itchy scalp can be made worse by hairspray or may even be caused by it. Many common ingredients found in hairspray are allergens that can cause skin reactions.

Hairspray can also cause build-up on the scalp due to chemicals called Siloxanes.

Clarifying shampoos may be required to remove these residues from your scalp. Avoid spraying directly on your skin to avoid itchy build-up.

Effects On The Environment

Chemicals called CFC’s, or Chlorofluorocarbons, were once included in most aerosol hairsprays.

These CFC’s were extremely harmful to the atmosphere and contributed to holes in the ozone layer. After discovering this, CFC’s were banned from all products used in the United States.

Aerosols are now made with propellants that do not damage the atmosphere.

Although CFC’s have been removed, chemicals are still present in hairspray that can be harmful to the environment.

Cinnamaldehyde, Cyclopentasiloxane, and other chemicals can accumulate in the environment and pose a risk to wildlife. These chemicals are especially harmful to fish and other ocean-dwelling creatures.

So Now What?

If reading this article has made you want to throw your hairspray in the trash, you’re not alone. Many people are giving up their harmful styling products and looking for healthier alternatives.

Styling gel or hair accessories are a great alternative for keeping hair in place instead of aerosols and spritzing sprays.

Homemade sea salt sprays or simple baby powder can add texture and body to your hair.

Mouse or curl enhancing cream can help your curls last longer and reduce your need for hairspray.

Takeaway Notes

  • Although many of us use hairspray every day, many of its ingredients can cause harm.
  • Common issues include skin reactions and allergies, but some ingredients may cause cancer.
  • Many of these ingredients are bad for the environment and can harm wildlife.
  • Try less harmful alternatives like gels and hair accessories.
Kelli Yates
Kelli Yates
Kelli Yates is a health and nutrition writer, dietetics student, and co-host and creator of The Nutrition Nerds Podcast. In her spare time she teaches the free class Well-Fed Survival: Eating Healthy After A Disaster, which helps people build nutritious emergency food supplies and prepare for natural disasters.
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