The Cost of Beauty: What Price Are You Willing to Pay?

We do a lot in the name of beauty; we iron our hair, glue on our nails and even burn our skin just so we can look a little more glamorous – but at what cost to our wellbeing? Unfortunately, certain beauty practises can actually incur some pretty hefty health concerns, and even undo the beauty wellness you were trying to achieve in the first place. Let’s take a look at the dangers of beauty products, as well as a few safer alternatives.

1. Keratin hair straighteners: The promise of salon-based keratin hair treatments is that they can deliver silky, smooth locks with no frizz. While these treatments are often marketed as formaldehyde-free, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have found high levels of the chemical in more than half of the samples they tested. The reason why this is so dangerous is that, on a long-term basis, exposure to formaldehyde can cause cancer.

Getting your hair straightened or “smoothed” once every few months be more of a risk to your stylist than to you, but if you want an alternative, go for conditioner and flat iron straighteners. Conditioner neutralises the impact of static electricity, which helps you fight frizz, while a flat iron can help eliminate kinks, albeit until your next shampoo. If that fails, ask your hairdresser to show you the best way to blow dry.

2. Permanent Hair Dye: There has been conflicting results as to whether or not permanent hair dye is linked to cancer. Some research has shown you’re more at risk of leukaemia or lymphoma if you use permanent hair dyes – particularly darker colours – but other studies have found there is no increased risk. The vast majority of research into hair dye and breast cancer has found no connection, nor does evidence suggest that hair dye poses a threat during pregnancy. However, to be cautious some health care providers recommend waiting until the second trimester.

Still, you can change your hair colour without harsh chemicals by using plant-based hair dyes, including henna and vegetable dyes. The drawbacks are that the colour change won’t be too dramatic and even these results will fade more quickly than a permanent dye. For the best of both worlds, get highlights at a salon. The special cap or foil hair wrappers they use prevent the dye from touching your scalp, so the chemicals won’t be absorbed by your skin.

3. Tanning Beds: Tanning salons are quick to say how safe they are, but the studies tell a different story. According to the research, frequently using a tanning bed will increase your risk of melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Plus, as the main emission of tanning beds are UVA rays, you’re basically sitting in a melting pot of premature ageing. Your skin may be golden for a while, but ultimately you’re damaging your skin and causing wrinkles and brown spots – who wants that?

When you consider how easy it is to fake a tan with lotion, it makes no sense to opt for a tanning bed. Sunless tanning lotions typically contain DHA, which reacts with amino acids in the surface of your skin to create a temporary “tan.” This colour additive has been approved by the FDA, albeit not for use in commercial spray tanning booths. These booths may cause you to inhale some of the spray or get it in your eyes, but topical application should be fine. However, as these lotions do not protect your skin from the actual sun, it’s vital that you use sun cream on a regular basis.

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