Hair is seen as a fashion accessory, and the beauty industry has armed consumers with a wide range of products and tools (both at home and in salons) that can change hair’s colour, shape and texture. Colouring and straightening hair are two common beauty practices, but using such hair products properly and safely is vital to avoid hair blunders and adverse reactions.

The following sections offer detailed information for some common questions and different elements of hair care.

To keep hair in the best condition, you need to treat it gently and keep it conditioned. Here are some things that can damage hair and may lead to breakage or hair loss.

Heat styling

  • Blow-drying, hot curlers, and using a curling or straightening iron will literally cook the hair; sun exposure can also cause heat damage.

Handling wet hair

  • Towel drying, combing and brushing wet hair can damage it since wet hair is more elastic and can break more easily than dry hair.

Styling products and other chemicals

  • Hair gel, spray, chlorine, and styling products that promise long holding times are especially damaging. Colouring, perming and relaxing products also have harsh chemicals that weaken hair and make it more prone to breakage.

Too much brushing

  • Instead of smoothing hair and bringing out shine, overbrushing can cause split ends.

Tying hair up

  • Braids, ponytails and any styling that causes pulling on hair can stretch it and cause breakage. In fact, wearing hair in a tight style regularly can lead to traction alopecia, hair loss caused by pulling on scalp.

Oily hair basically stems from an oily scalp. The hair follicles house sebaceous (oil-producing) glands that produce sebum (oil). The more oil that is produced, the greasier hair may look. Seborrhea is the name given to oily skin/scalp as a result of the glands putting out too much oil. This oily skin condition can be caused by excessive male sex hormones. It can lead to acne or seborrheic dermatitis. Washing hair daily may help by reducing the surface oil on the scalp. A doctor may also recommend retinoids (topical or oral) or hormone therapy to reduce androgen levels, which are involved in sebum production.

Hair relaxers are used to chemically straighten curly or wavy hair. Check with a salon professional about how often you can safely user a hair relaxer. Overly frequent use can weaken and damage hair. It can also potentially burn your scalp. Many products contain lye, an active ingredient that makes them work, but even products that are “lye-free” can still cause a burn.

Using Relaxers Safely

To ensure you use hair relaxing products safely, follow this advice:

  • Follow directions exactly and never leave on relaxer longer than instructed.
  • Ask for help applying and rinsing it just to be safer.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to scalp as added protection before using relaxer.
  • Rinse well and use a neutralizing shampoo.

Hair colour ranges from temporary washout formulas to permanent formulas. Both home and salon-quality products have evolved over the decades to less harsh formulas, but these are not completely free of risks. Problems can include burning, itching and/or redness of the scalp, hair loss, and severe allergic reactions that can involve facial swelling and trouble breathing.

PPD Contact Allergy

Are you allergic to paraphenylenediamine (PPD)? You need to know if you use permanent hair dye, since it is a chemical substance often found in such hair colouring products. Typical adverse reactions may include dermatitis. Severe allergic reactions can lead to urticaria and, in rare case, even anaphylaxis. That is why it is important perform a patch test each time you use a hair dye, even if you have used it before, since an allergy to a product ingredient can develop at any time.

Hair Dye Tips

To ensure you use hair colouring products safely, follow this advice:

  • Read all directions and warnings, and heed them.
  • Always do a patch test before using any colouring product on your hair.
  • Never use hair dye on your eyebrows or lashes—it may cause blindness.
  • Always wear gloves when applying dye.
  • Do not leave product on hair for longer than directed.
  • Be sure to rinse your scalp well.