This Is How Hair Straightening And Kidney Failure Are Related

‘The New England Journal of Medicine’ talks about a woman’s kidney damage post hair-straightening treatment, in a recent study. Despite no prior health issues, she suffered from the straightening cream’s glyoxylic acid which caused scalp burns and kidney damage. 

What Happened?

‘The New England Journal of Medicine’, a weekly medical journal published by the Massachusetts Medical Society, published a recent study wherein doctors have reported a distressing case involving a woman who suffered kidney damage following a hair-straightening treatment at a salon. The study refrains from disclosing the identity of the woman. 

The study says that the woman, 26-years of age, underwent the popular hair treatment in June 2020, April 2021, and July 2022.  Although she had no prior health concerns, she began experiencing adverse symptoms after each visit to the salon, including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, back pain and a burning sensation on her scalp during the treatment and developed ulcers on her head.

Upon examination, doctors observed kidney malfunction indicated by elevated levels of creatinine in her blood and the presence of blood in her urine, although a CT scan revealed no signs of infection or blockage in her kidneys.

The woman then told the doctors that her hair had been treated with a straightening cream that had glyoxylic acid as one of the contents, which led the doctors to suspect that this chemical was responsible for her scalp burning and ulceration.

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What Is The Take Of Doctors?

Thorough investigation, such as experiments on mice, led the doctors to the conclusion that the glyoxylic acid was absorbed through her skin and subsequently reached her kidneys, resulting in damage upon breakdown.

The study identified the woman as suffering from recurrent episodes of acute kidney injury due to oxalate nephropathy, a rare disorder which is characterized by a decrease in kidney function caused by the accumulation of calcium oxalate crystals in kidney tubules. According to the findings, glyoxylic acid is to blame. 

An associate professor of medicine and pharmacy at the University of Maryland, Dr. Joshua David King, urged on the need for action, saying, “It would seem wise to ban the use of glyoxylic acid in these products and request that manufacturers find another, safer compound.

What’s The Key Takeaway?

Although the woman’s kidney function recovered swiftly after each salon visit, suggesting short-lived effects, the treating doctors caution against the use of glyoxylic acid in hair treatments, advocating for potential discontinuation due to its associated risks.

Despite the recent adoption of glyoxylic acid in hair-straightening products as a safer alternative to formaldehyde, evidence suggests a potential link to kidney disease. 

Moreover, a recent study in Israel involving 26 patients with kidney injuries revealed that some had used products containing glycolic acid derivatives, which metabolize into glyoxylic acid in the liver, the publication noted.

Image Credits: Google Images

Feature image designed by Saudamini Seth

Sources: The Economic Times, Times Now, Times of India 

Find the blogger: Unusha Ahmad

This post is tagged under: kidney failure, hair straightening, glyoxylic acid, treatment, New England Journal of Medicine, CT scan, Massachusetts Medical Society,University of Maryland, salon, University of Maryland, associate professor, acid 

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