Keratin-based hair straightening is a popular hairstyling treatment. In Israel, most of these products contain glycolic acid derivatives, often considered safe when used topically. These products have the potential for systemic absorption, and anecdotal reports have linked them to acute kidney injury (AKI). Researchers have presented a series of cases of severe AKI caused by hair-straightening treatment in Israel over the last few years.
Kidney Damage Linked with Use of Hair-Straightening Products
Researchers identified 26 patients from 14 Israeli medical facilities who had severe kidney damage and indicated prior use of hair-straightening products between 2019 and 2022.
How Hair Straightening Can be Detrimental for Health
The 26 patients who participated in the study had a median age of 28.5 years (14-58 years) and got severe acute kidney injury after having their hair straightened. The most prevalent symptoms were nausea, vomiting, and abdominal discomfort. A scalp rash occurred in 10 (38%) of the individuals. Following a repeat hair-straightening procedure, two individuals suffered a recurring bout of AKI. Seven individuals had kidney biopsies. The findings revealed intra-tubular calcium oxalate deposition in six people and tubular cell microcalcification in one person. Signs of acute tubular damage were observed in all samples, and an interstitial infiltrate was found in four of them. Three individuals required short-term dialysis.
However, the study was a retrospective-uncontrolled study with a small number of kidney biopsies.
The study paper reports acute renal impairment cases caused by earlier hair straightening treatment exposure. Acute oxalate nephropathy was the most common finding in kidney biopsies, which may be connected to glycolic acid derivative absorption and conversion to oxalate. This case series suggests a previously unknown etiology of AKI in a young healthy population. More research is needed to validate this link and determine the scope of this condition, as well as its etiology.
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