18 August 2016

Press release, 18th Aug 2016, Helsinki, Finland

The urinary concentrations of endocrine-disrupting chemicals among hairdressers and the rest of the population were below the levels that cause clear health risks. However, knowledge regarding the health effects of resorcinol, parabens and bisphenol A is still partly incomplete, and there is no absolute health-based limit values.

“Hairdressers’ exposure to chemicals has been studied very little so far, despite existing concerns about the extent to which workers in the beauty industry are exposed to chemicals,” says Tiina Santonen, senior specialist at FIOH. Earlier research has focused more on environmental exposure among the general population rather than work-related exposure to chemicals that disrupt endocrine functioning.

“Every one of us can be exposed to these chemicals via food, drink and consumer products. Exposure is constant,” reminds Hannu Kiviranta, chief researcher at THL.

Allergies and asthma ‒ hairdressers’ occupational diseases

Hairdressers are, however, exposed to numerous other chemicals in their work, some of which have not been studied. Hairdressers’ occupational diseases include skin allergies and asthma caused by these chemicals. These diseases may even lead to hairdressers having to change occupations. Hairdressing may be unsuitable work for someone with asthma or atopic skin.

Parabens, which are currently under study, have been replaced in many hairdressing industry products by isothiazolinone compounds, which in turn have caused a great deal of  allergic dermatitis among consumers and beauty workers, as well as other professions.

“Hairdressers’ exposure to chemicals must be studied also in the future,” stresses Santonen. ”The risks of the chemicals currently in use must be assessed carefully on the basis of research results.”

The project was funded by the Ministry for Health and Social Affairs.

Source:  Porras et al. Occupational exposure of hairdressers to some endocrine disrupting chemicals in Finland (in Finnish), FIOH, 2016.

Want to know more?


Tiina Santonen
Senior Specialist
Tel. +358 30 474 2666
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
first name.surname@ttl.fi

Hannu Kiviranta
Chief Researcher
Tel. +358 29 524 6361
National Institute for Health and Welfare
first name.surname@thl.fi

  • Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics, personal care products and sometimes also foodstuffs. Exposure occurs through the skin or via food. Parabens are suspected of being allergenic and may also have a slightly estrogenic effect.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make polycarbonate and epoxy resin plastics, and is found in several plastic consumer products. Exposure is mainly via food. BPA is suspected of disrupting hormonal functioning.
  • Resorcinol is used as, e.g. a hair colouring substance in oxidative hair colourants, or can be found in cosmetic products for dying eyelashes, which are only for professional use. It also has other industrial uses.