The U.S. Food and Drug Administration urged companies to cease the sale of certain hair straighteners and appliances, telling consumers that heat “may cause damaged hair and even baldness.”
The fall, 2016, warning against products such as keratin curlers, hot rollers and straighteners that use heat or harsh substances to create heat-assisted curl zones was not the result of serious medical findings of the dangers of these products, and it never became a formal rule.
At the end of October, however, The F.D.A. completed the first review in a half-century of its cosmetics regulation, moving forward with plans for a public hearing on whether or not hair straighteners should be classified as cosmetics, not medical devices.
The R&D and development of hair straighteners and related products began in the late 19th century, and the market for such devices exploded in the 1950s and 1960s. These products remained effective, and people sought to banish their tight curls with heat. Often this involved using a curling iron, a wand that heats metal plates and then produces the desired curl.
The R&D and development of hair straighteners and related products began in the late 19th century. The market for such devices exploded in the 1950s and 1960s.
“Hot rollers” — with metal coils instead of rollers — are equally popular, and have been around since the 1950s.
The end of the 1970s and the coming of the AIDS epidemic led to serious consideration of the use of heat in the grooming industry. Most companies sought to avoid AIDS-related public health concerns, and the FDA said hair straighteners and heat sources could not be used to intentionally kill the immune system.
In the late 1980s, the R&D and development of hair straighteners and related products began to decline, and then continued to decline.
People use hair straighteners as a way to smooth out their curls.
By the time that a 2012 Pyeongchang Olympics, where curling was still a popular sport, brought attention to the benefits of hair straightening, such devices had essentially disappeared from the marketplace.
In some ways, hair straighteners had lived out their era as fashion accessories; they no longer served a meaningful purpose to consumers.
Liliane Hayes, who retired from the FDA in June after a career in public health, served as a member of a three-person committee that considered and discussed the issue in 2010 and 2011. In early 2012, Hayes wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that the risks associated with hair straighteners and hair straightening techniques include heat-related burns to the scalp, burns and extensive use that can damage hair; rashes, sores and itchy/itchy skin, scalp and back of the head; and the potential for hair to chemically break down, or essentially snap off, due to the use of certain hair straighteners, often specifically designed for this purpose.
The cost of hair straighteners has declined, taking their place in recent years as fashion accessories.
In her 2012 article, Hayes cautioned that although hair straighteners were once an inexpensive option to straighten hair, “Rapidly declining cosmetic use has led to the fall in price of flat rollers to $3 from $40 in 2008.”
She added that “Hair straighteners have been discontinued from the market due to medical reasons and the decrease in aesthetic demand.”
With the aesthetic requirement for hair straightening waning and the cost of hair straighteners declining, the path forward for hair straighteners has been far more difficult than that of other consumer-facing cosmetics.
In September 2018, Hayes expressed disappointment with the cosmetics reformulation of hair straighteners as a cosmetic.
“This is an old fashioned industrial technology and I wish the F.D.A. did a good job,” she said. “I wish that the FDA had done this in 1975 and got rid of all the hot rollers and was serious about it.”
“But do you need them to find a new way to have hair straightening?” she added. “One hour of exposure a day at a young age is not going to cause permanent damage.”
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