In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing a ban on using formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals as an ingredient in hair smoothing or hair straightening products.
Already regulated in the EU and Canada
Already banned in the European Union (Regulation (EC) 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Annex II) and limited to 0.01% in Canada (Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist – Health Canada) in hair straightening products, inhalation of formaldehyde  in the form of vapor when occur when the products are heated (by a hair dryer or flat iron, for example). It is therefore suspected to cause respiratory problems and to be linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.
“Use of hair smoothing products containing formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals is linked to short-term adverse health effects, such as sensitization reactions and breathing problems, and long-term adverse health effects, including an increased risk of certain cancers,” said the FDA in the proposed rule.
Last year, a research by the US National Institute of Health (NIH) found a link between the use of hair straightening products and a higher uterine cancer risk, with Black women potentially more affected due to higher use.
First step of the regulatory process
The proposed ban is the first step of the regulatory process. The FDA will now receive public comments on it, and after reviewing those comments, the agency will decide whether further action is needed.
The FDA currently discourages consumers from using hair-straightening products that contain formaldehyde and similar ingredients. “Breathing in formaldehyde gas can be harmful and cause immediate reactions ranging from irritation of the eyes and throat to coughing, wheezing, or chest pain to chronic or long-term problems such as more frequent headaches, asthma, skin irritation, and allergic reactions, and possibly cancer,” the agency wrote in a fact sheet published on its website.