Awareness, prevalence of hair smoothing products that contain formaldehyde and determinants of their harmful effects among women in Saudi Arabia

  • Yara Nasser Hameed
  • Rehab M Elgharabway Pharmacology and Toxicology Department, Faculty of Pharmacy, Qassim University, KSA / Pharmacology and Toxicology Department, Faculty of Pharmacy, Tanta University, Egypt.
  • Amira Saber Ahmed


Individuals who use hair smoothing products at home or in a salon work environment are at risk of exposure to various chemical compounds. Formaldehyde mixed with keratin as a hair straightening product is in common use by women in Saudi Arabia. The high temperatures used during blow-drying can release gas fumes that have several implications to include irritation of the skin, eyes and respiratory complications. Furthermore, formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen. The aim of this study is to assess the source of keratin hair treatment among women, demonstrate the symptoms related to formaldehyde exposure during keratin hair treatment process and determine the practices that can increase the exposure to formaldehyde and to evaluate the level of formaldehyde in the keratin hair treatment products. A national cross-sectional survey was first conducted during March-April 2017 on Saudi Arabian children and women aged between the age of 12 and 50 years old. A standardized, fully confidential questionnaire was provided to participating members. A total of 330 filled questionnaires were obtained within the study location. Moreover, 30 hair salons that used keratin-based products were visited in 3 different cities in Al Qassim province to check the location of keratin hair treatment, ventilation procedures and take samples of hair products that were later analyzed. Most commonly reported symptom was irritation of the eyes reported by 135 people. Other symptoms described include irritation of throat, burning sensation of the nose, headache and nausea. Argan e Ojon was one of the most famous product tested in this study with formaldehyde levels above 0.2% threshold (0.35%). It is worrying thatArgan e Ojon does not comply with GSO 1943 and SASO 1953 standards. A majority of salons demonstrated poor ventilation measures and failed to isolate their clients from the general public and salon workers. With the evident complications, more should be done to make people aware of the formaldehyde risks and prevent salons from using these products.


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How to Cite
HAMEED, Yara Nasser; ELGHARABWAY, Rehab M; AHMED, Amira Saber. Awareness, prevalence of hair smoothing products that contain formaldehyde and determinants of their harmful effects among women in Saudi Arabia. International Archives of Medicine, [S.l.], v. 10, oct. 2017. ISSN 1755-7682. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 19 nov. 2017. doi: