Woman Develops Kidney Damage and Scalp Ulcers After Hair Straightening

The cause of the problem was revealed to be glyoxylic acid, which was included in the salon's hair-straightening product.
Hair straightening procedures have long been popular for achieving sleek hairstyles. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)
Hair straightening procedures have long been popular for achieving sleek hairstyles. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)

A shocking case has emerged where a 26-year-old woman suffered kidney damage after undergoing hair-straightening treatments at a salon. The incident, which was reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, emphasizes the risks connected with typical salon operations.

The woman, who had no prior health issues, experienced vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and back pain after each salon visit in June 2020, April 2021, and July 2022. Notably, she reported a burning sensation on her scalp during the treatment and developed ulcers on her head afterward.

Doctors discovered elevated levels of creatinine in her blood, indicating kidney malfunction. Despite no signs of infection or blockage in her kidneys, blood was found in her urine. The cause of the problem was revealed to be glyoxylic acid, which was included in the salon's hair-straightening product.

Glyoxylic acid, which has been promoted as a safer alternative to formaldehyde in hair treatments, has generated concerns about its potential health dangers. In this case, the acid most likely penetrated the woman's skin, resulting in scalp burns and ulceration before reaching her kidneys and causing damage.

Lab research on mice confirmed this theory, showing increased plasma creatinine levels and kidney crystals similar to the woman's condition. This condition, known as oxalate nephropathy, results from calcium oxalate crystal accumulation in kidney tubules, leading to acute kidney injury.

It would seem wise to ban the use of glyoxylic acid in these products and request that manufacturers find another, safer compound
Dr. Joshua David King, Associate Professor of Medicine and Pharmacy at the University of Maryland
While hair straightening products aim to temporarily reshape hair fibers for a smoother appearance, the potential health risks cannot be overlooked. (Representational image: Wikimedia Common)
While hair straightening products aim to temporarily reshape hair fibers for a smoother appearance, the potential health risks cannot be overlooked. (Representational image: Wikimedia Common)

Dr. Joshua David King from the University of Maryland emphasized the need for action, advocating for the discontinuation of glyoxylic acid-containing products in hair treatments.

Hair straightening procedures have long been popular for achieving sleek hairstyles. However, the safety of the chemicals used in these treatments is now under scrutiny. Formaldehyde, previously common in hair relaxers, has been linked to increased cancer risk, prompting its ban in several countries.

Glyoxylic acid, considered a safer alternative, has come under fire due to its association with adverse health effects. Reports from personal experiences suggest a potential link between glyoxylic acid and kidney damage, highlighting the urgent need for further investigation and regulation in the cosmetics industry.

While hair straightening products aim to temporarily reshape hair fibers for a smoother appearance, the potential health risks cannot be overlooked. Studies indicate an increased risk of various cancers and adverse effects on pregnancy and puberty associated with frequent use of these products.

In light of these findings, consumers are urged to exercise caution when opting for salon treatments, and regulatory authorities are called upon to prioritize product safety. The case is an important reminder of the significance of proper risk assessment and transparency in the cosmetics sector for protecting customers' health and well-being. As the debate continues over the safety of hair straightening products, it is imperative to prioritize consumer safety and explore safer alternatives to minimize the health risks associated with cosmetic procedures.

(Input from various resources)

(Rehash/Susmita Bhandary/MSM)

Hair straightening procedures have long been popular for achieving sleek hairstyles. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)
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