How Safe Are These Spa Services?

woman having massage( — You’ve probably heard that pedicure tubs are teeming with fungus. And you probably know that your waxer shouldn’t double-dip. And that hair-silkening keratin treatments, which likely contain formaldehyde (a possible human carcinogen) can cause burning eyes and a sore throat…or worse.

These and other dangers have been popping up at salons all across the nation, and it’s hard for clients, regulators, and even salon owners to keep up. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a limited ability to regulate cosmetic ingredients, says Claudia Polsky, a deputy attorney general in California’s Environment Law section. For instance, “the FDA cannot require ingredient labeling on products intended for salon use only,” she says. And there’s no federal body overseeing the safety of salons, or how well-trained employees are.

That means it’s up to you to get informed. Here’s what you need to know to stay safe.

Great hair can be dangerous

Walk into a salon offering a keratin treatment, and you may see stylists in masks with fans pointed their way. And with good reason: Formaldehyde has been ID’d as the key active ingredient in many hair-straightening treatments currently offered in salons. Recently, Oregon’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration found the chemical in samples of nine different products—one of which was actually labeled “formaldehyde-free.”