Hair Salons & Formaldehyde Concerns

Several years ago, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and several State OSHA programs began investigating questions and complaints from hair salon owners and workers about possible formaldehyde exposure from hair smoothing products.

OSHA conducted air sampling at multiple salons and found formaldehyde in the air when stylists were using certain hair smoothing products. The agency reported that some of these products were labeled “formaldehyde free” or did not list formaldehyde on the product label or in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). In most cases, where the label did not state that the product had formaldehyde in it, OSHA found that hair salon owners using those products did not know that hair smoothing products contain or could expose workers to formaldehyde because manufacturers, importers and distributors did not include the correct hazard warnings on the product’s label or MSDS.

Some hair smoothing products containing formaldehyde may release it at levels above OSHA’s permissible limits during use, which could pose health risks to salon workers. Salons and other employers, such as beauty schools, that use hair smoothing products that contain or may release formaldehyde must follow the requirements in OSHA’s formaldehyde and hazard communication standards.