Getting a perm is a fashionable and trendy, but should your visits to the hair salon be a cause for concern? While getting a new hair style or hair color at the nearest Art Noise or LeeKaJa hair salon might be a great way to reward yourself, it might be a terrible way to treat your lungs. Pampering yourself at a beauty spa is a great way to unwind in Singapore, but there’s a need to be cautious. Harsh chemicals are applied to your hair, nails and body, and these evaporate into the air. Even with proper ventilation, it’s all too easy for a beauty salon to turn into a health hazard.

A study published in the Journal of Atmospheric Environment monitored the air quality and emissions sources in beauty salons. The study found that, depending on the products used, the air quality can take a drastic turn for the worse.

Products such as spray lacquer and foam would contain harmful compunds like butane. Shampoo, balms, hair masks and oils had camphene, camphor, limonene, eucalyptol, alpha pinene, 1-methoxy-2-propanol, n-butanol and menthol. Hair dye contains benzyl alcohol, isopropanol, limonene, hexane and methyl ethyl ketone. Products that had these compounds were found to cause much greater concentrations of VOCs in hair salons. Unfortunately, these compounds are very commonly used in many hair care products.

The study found that indoor air quality was much worse compared to outdoor air quality just outside these salons. The study calculated the increased risk of exposure to these chemicals using two indexes: the Total Hazard Ratio Indicator (THRI) and the Cancer Risk Indicator (CRI).

The good news is that there was no significant increase in risk after inhalation for CRI, so it’s unlikely you will be developing lung cancer from a hair salon visit. On the other hand, the THRI index showed that, while outdoors the level for the air around the salons was mostly at a rank of 1, inside most of the salons the indoor air had a THRI index of 2 or greater. Some salons were observed at indexes of 3.8, and one salon studied went up as far as 7.5 and another was at 9.2 out of 10. That is a risk increase of 820% in the worst case scenario.

The inhalation risk for these air pollutants means that many employees at hair and beauty salons use dust masks to protect themselves from particulates like nail dust when filing a customer’s nails. While a customer may have limited exposure to the air, employees in particular may see adverse effects in the long run.

Current data suggests that occasional visits to these hair salons as a customer should have negligible health risk unless the air pollution levels are extremely bad, such as the 820% increased risk in the worst case scenario.

Regardless, it’s still important to be conscious of the kind of preventive measures the salons take with their employees. Be mindful of how your breathing feels in these salons; if you are feeling things like throat irritation or shortness of breath, that’s a sign that the salon may not have a good ventilation system in place. If employees are wearing dust masks, it could be an indication that the air is not at a standard that’s acceptable for long-term exposure.

Be sure to take the steps to protect yourself, and if you experience any symptoms, you may want to reconsider getting that perm in that particular hair salon. There will always be other salons with better ventilation, so be sure to find a place where you feel good. With a conscientious attitude your beauty salon visits can be the relaxing, worry-free experience they are meant to be.