Is dry shampoo bad for your lungs?

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When you are running late for work or an appointment and need to get ready in a blink, having a dry shampoo at home can be a real lifesaver. Dry shampoos are commonly formulated in aerosols that can be evenly dispensed on the hair. This means these can easily get into your mouth or inhaled if care is not taken. Are dry shampoos then bad for your lungs? In this article, we honestly answer this question.

Harmful ingredients found in dry shampoos 

Dry shampoos are made up of propellents, abrasives, absorbents, preservatives and fragrance ingredients just to name a few.

Some of these ingredients belonging to either of these categories are potentially harmful (with some causing just mild irritations) when inhaled or in contact with the skin, or eyes. Examples  include :

  • Benzyl Salicylate
  • Fragrance
  • Cetrimonium chloride
  • Talc  
  • Propane
  • Butane

Is silica in dry shampoo bad for your lungs?

Silica is a white powder obtained from sand and other minerals. It is commonly used in cosmetics as an absorbent due to its ability to absorb moisture.

In dry shampoo, silica is used to absorb excess oil and to scrub off dirt from the scalp. Because most dry shampoos are produced in aerosol form, it means silica particles can get into the lungs. 

However, the silica particles present in the hair products are too fine to cause any irritations to the lungs. Except in cases of silica allergy.

This ingredient was assessed as safe for cosmetic use by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel and presented no risk to cause silicosis ( an interstitial lung disease caused by silica dust). 

Is butane in dry shampoo bad for you?

Butane is an odourless gas used as a propellant in dry shampoos. This gas is considered safe in the concentration currently used in the cosmetic industry.

When used as a compressed gas butane is not expected to irritate the skin or the eyes. Unlike what is commonly thought, butane used in cosmetics is considered non-toxic by inhalation over short term exposure.

Butane particles rather dissolve in the air too rapidly for a huge quantity to be absorbed and cause damage. All reports of butane-induced respiratory issues are related to an abuse of the substance over a long period of time. 

Is propane in dry shampoo safe?

Just like butane, propane is used as a propellant in aerosol dry shampoos and is considered safe to use and not to cause significant lung damage when exposed over short periods of time.

In this study, exposure to 10% propane gas for 10 minutes did not result in any irritation to the skin, eyes or lungs. However, it induced slight drowsiness in some volunteers.

What happens if you inhale dry shampoo?

If you inhale your dry shampoo accidentally you might experience coughing, burning sensations in the chest, or sneezing. These are common minor side effects of inhaling gases however, the propellants in your dry shampoo won’t cause you major harm. 

However, for people suffering from asthma, inhaling dry shampoo can trigger an asthma attack. This is because aerosols which are compressed gases can irritate the lungs when inhaled and trigger inflammation of the airways. 

Is dry shampoo cancerous?

Because some dry shampoos contain talc, they are believed to be linked to cancer. This is because talc when obtained in its naturals state contains an impurity called asbestos. This impurity is known to be carcinogenic hence, the general fear that dry shampoos may be cancerous. However, it should be noted that industry standards require that only pure forms of talc should be used to formulate cosmetic products. 

A study also linked talc to ovarian cancer but this study focused solely on talc used in feminine hygiene products and not dry shampoos. There is no scientific evidence that talc in dry shampoos can cause cancer but the American Society of Cancer advises people who are scared about talc to refrain from using products that contain them until more information is available. 

In 2021 a report of a cancer-causing chemical found in certain dry shampoos produced by the Propser and Gamble group rekindled the question of dry shampoos being cancerous. This substance was discovered in some aerosol products that were finally recalled in caution. It should be noted that this carcinogen was not listed as an ingredient in the dry shampoos but its presence was due to a transfer during the manufacturing process. Therefore, dry shampoos are not formulated with cancerous ingredients.

Conclusion – Is dry shampoo bad for your lungs?

In summary, dry shampoos are not harmful to the lungs when exposed over short periods of time as requires their usage. However, if you inhale them accidentally you might experience some temporary discomfort or it may trigger an asthma attack in asthma patients.

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