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I have been a cosmetologist for almost 20 years and have worked at many types of salons. I have worked at beauty supplies with salons in the back, large day spas, exclusive resorts, small intimate salons, and finally now my own private studio. The first 17 years of being a cosmetologist the only job hazard I experienced was tendinitis in my wrists. Two years ago, I went to a class for Brazilian Blowout with a few of my coworkers. We were very excited about the product, but skeptical about the things not being said. They would "beat around the bush" when asked about the ingredients and the safety. They never would give us a straight answer, which left us uneasy. I have used the product about 7 times, and experimented in different environments. After this product was banned in our salon, I went to a client’s house to perform this treatment. I applied the product inside and did the blow dry and flat iron outside. Instantly, I got a sore throat. That was the first time I got sick and it was the last time I used this product.

At that time, I had to change salons and I relocated to a “keratin free” salon. I have noticed that even though we don't allow this service in the salon, I am still getting sick. Stylists will go to their client’s house to perform these treatments. When those clients come back in the salon for other services and get their hair blown dry, that’s when I notice all my symptoms return. For 2 years now I have had dry, blurry, and burning eyes. I have spent hundreds of dollars at my Optometrist trying to get my eyes better. I wear contacts and have had to buy different types to sooth my painful eyes. With no luck, I've settled on having red blood shot eyes that burn while I'm working.  I have migraines weekly and headaches daily. When I'm around keratin treatments I get a sore throat and cannot breathe. My nose is so sensitive that it's painful to breathe through it. It feels as if my chest has a tight band around it preventing me from taking normal breaths. I can't take a deep breath at all and it's very painful too.

 In desperation, I left the salon that was “keratin free” to open my own studio with a separate ventilation system. However, my private studio is located in a large building with other studios surrounding mine. The ventilation system is designed only to work when our studios are sealed shut. I noticed one of my neighbors had her door open to her studio and was doing a keratin treatment by "Enjoy". I thought no big deal, I'll go in my studio and I won't be able to smell it. After only 5 minutes, I couldn't breathe and my eyes were burning with a sore throat. I had my eleven year old son with me and he noticed similar symptoms. Not being able to stay, we had to leave.

 I have now worked at three different salons since these products came into my life, and I have now gotten sick at all three salons. I cannot get away from this stuff. I try to educate my coworkers on the dangers of these treatments, but money talks and they want to make money or don't feel the negative effects yet. It has put me in a difficult spot. I can't get out of my lease at my new studio and I have to be careful not to upset the other studio owners. I have just gotten medical insurance and I will be going to the doctor with my new "fun" symptoms. I get to look forward to migraine medicine and possibly asthma. I'm very upset that these products have caused me to have so many medical problems. Unless you feel the effects for yourself, nobody understands the pain you feel. It's very unnerving.

Mandolyn Yohner