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Hair Dye and Hair Relaxers

woman mixing hair dye in a bowl

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Hair dye is used to color your hair. Hair relaxers are used to make your hair straight. Both hair dye and hair relaxers can hurt your skin, hair, and eyes, especially if you are not careful. Some of these problems can be prevented. Get the facts before using hair dyes and hair relaxers.

Tips to Keep You Safe

  • Follow all directions in the package.

  • Do a patch test on your skin before using dye on your hair. Rub a small amount of dye on your skin. Let it dry for 48 hours. If you get a rash, do not use the dye on your hair.

  • Wear gloves when applying hair dye or relaxers.

  • Do not dye your eyebrows or eyelashes at home. This can hurt your eyes and cause permanent discoloration. You might even go blind. The FDA has provided for the safe use of silver nitrate as a color additive, in professional-use only cosmetics, to color eyebrows and eyelashes. Use is restricted to up to 4 percent silver nitrate (by weight) in a viscous gel product. These silver nitrate containing cosmetic products are not intended for use on persons under the age of 16 or for application for longer than 1 minute. Furthermore, these products are not for distribution or direct sale to consumers.  

  • Do not leave the product on longer than the directions say you should.

  • Rinse your scalp well with water after using hair dye or relaxers.

  • Keep hair dyes and relaxers out the reach of children.  

Formaldehyde in Hair Smoothing Products: What You Should Know

Most hair smoothing or straightening products release formaldehyde gas into the air during the hair straightening or smoothing process. Formaldehyde gas is a known human carcinogen as classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and formaldehyde exposure can cause both short- and long-term health effects. Learn more about the steps you can take to be safer if you are considering using hair smoothing products here.

Report Problems

Most hair dyes do not need to be tested or approved by FDA before they are sold. FDA does monitor the safety of hair dyes and relaxers. Tell FDA if you have itchy or raw skin, scabs, hair loss or other problems after using these products.

If you have a bad reaction to hair dyes and relaxers, you should:

  • Stop using the product.

  • Call your healthcare provider to find out how to take care of the problem.

  • Report problems to FDA at: www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm  or 1-800-332-1088.

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