Is aerosol hairspray flammable? (A 5-point guide)

This article will answer the following question: “Is aerosol hairspray flammable?”. We will discuss the nature of hairspray ingredients and relevant safety data regarding some specific labels.

Is aerosol hairspray flammable?

Yes, it’s highly flammable. Most aerosol hairspray formulations have highly flammable organic solvents or propellants, which makes the whole product flammable. Although, hairsprays will not make our hairs catch fire unless there’s a source of ignition nearby.

What are aerosols?

Aerosol is a state of matter. We commonly name products as aerosols when they have the ability to propel aerosols out of a can.

An aerosol is a suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets, normally in the air. Essentially, we can say that aerosols are thin solid particles that hover in the air.

Aerosol is not a thing, is a class of things. Is a specific physical state a certain substance can present itself at some point.

For example, we input aerosols into the air every time we sneeze.

Aerosol hairsprays

Hairsprays, also known as hair sprays, hair lacquer, or spritz, are a type of cosmetic hairstyling product that’s applied directly to the hair. They protect against moisture and wind and act as fixatives.

The products are placed in an under-pressure can that allows the release of content through the squeeze of a button. 

Hairsprays are made with 5 basic ingredients: concentrate, plasticizers, luster agents, fragrances, and propellants.

When applied, the active ingredients will attach to hair, while the propellants will quickly evaporate. Since the propellants are the most flammable compounds in hairsprays, no fire hazard is expected after the product dries.

History

Hair spray products started being used during the 40s.

After World War II, the beauty industry realized that the cans used during the war could be used as dispensers for hairsprays.

The readily and easiness of simply spraying a product into the hair suddenly got many enthusiasts. The product became increasingly popular, so mass production started. By 1964, it became the highest-selling product in the beauty industry.

In the 70s, the hairstyle sprays market began to decline, but it resurged in the 80s thanks to the glam metal scene. Back then, nearly all hairspray brands used CFC gases in their formulas.

It started to change due to the efforts to banish them worldwide, due to the harmful effects on the ozone layer. 

Nowadays, no common aerosol uses chlorofluorocarbons anymore, they were replaced by Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). These are not harmful to the ozone layer and can be found in most hairspray products. 

HFCs are very flammable compounds. They’re used in hairsprays because they’re good propellants, they present a low reactivity, and can carry the active ingredients into the hair and run away right after.

Aerosol sprays overall flammability

A hairspray can become flammable depending on its ingredients. If most of them are flammable, all of the product will be. The same is valid for most kinds of aerosols.

Most hairspray products have alcohol and hydrofluorocarbons in their formula, compounds that are normally very flammable.

Although some formulas are alcohol-free, we can’t assume that they’re going to be less flammable. The only way we can know for sure that hairspray is not flammable is if it’s specifically written on the label.

Two main reasons make a combustible aerosol spray flammable. One is the amount of energy liberated through its combustion of it, the other is the weight percentage of flammable compounds in its formula.

There are many government and non-governmental organizations that establish systems, codes, and categories to express the overall hazards substances have. The following two are the most common.

The U.S Occupational Safety and Health Administration

The U.S OSHA, a well-known agency, establishes that a spray aerosol must have at least 1% (in weight) of its formula composed of flammable compounds, or there’s a minimum amount of heat that must be released so it fits under the category 2 of flammability.

To be considered a highly flammable compound, category 1, the aerosol spray must have over 85% of flammable compounds and liberate a higher amount of energy.

Normally, hairsprays are flammable and fit under one of the criteria. 

There are also other means to assess the flammability of compounds, but normally an aerosol is the category of 1 or 2 according to OSHA.

NFPA 704

Another important standard is the NFPA 704, used worldwide to establish overall hazards a substance might have.

Known as Safe Square and Fire Diamond, the standard uses a diamond with four divisions and colors. Each is rated on a scale of 0 to 4, known as Degrees of Hazard.

The four divisions have one color each. The red on top indicates flammability, the blue on the left indicates the level of health hazard, and the yellow on the right is for chemical reactivity. The white at the bottom contains codes for special hazards. 

Source:http://www.nyc.gov/html/fdny/pdf/cof_study_material/a_49_st_mat.pdf

The flammability of specific products

Suave Professionals Hair Spray 

All variants of this product have the same hazards, according to the manufacturer.

Suave hairsprays are considered flammable until they dry. When on the hair, the product will not enhance or allow auto-ignition, nor will become a fire hazard. 

Our hair is already flammable naturally, but a direct source of fire or intense heat is required for it to ignite. Hairspray shouldn’t change this hazard.

Ingredients:

  • Difluorethane (HFC 152-a): 35-45%
  • Dimethyl  Ether: 30-35%
  • SD Alcohol 40-B (Ethanol): 15-55%

The fabricant informs only hazardous constituents associated with the product. The polymers that make the hair stay in shape have negligible hazards.

Based on the NFPA scale (0 to 4), Suave hairsprays have a classification of 2. The substance is in somewhere between flammable and highly flammable.

TRESemmé Hairspray Aerosol

The following information is valid for the variants: Extra, Ultra Bold, Beauty-Full Volume, and Perfectly (UN) Done.

The manufacturer considers these products highly flammable.

TRESemmé hairsprays have only two hazardous ingredients: Alcohol (50-75%) and Hydrofluorocarbon 152a (25-50%). They’re both very flammable.

L’Oreal Aerosol Hair Fixatives

The following information is valid for several L’Oréal hairspray products.

All L’Oréal hairsprays are considered extremely flammable.

Ingredients (in weight percentage):

  • Ethyl alcohol: 54.5%
  • Difluoroethane: 43%
  • Dimethyl Ether: 35%
  • Butane: 8%
  • Aminomethyl Propanol: 1.2%

All these ingredients are either flammable or highly flammable. 

All L’Oréal hairsprays must be considered highly flammable unless the label says otherwise.

What hair spray is not flammable?

We can’t assume a hair spray will be nonflammable unless it’s written on the label.

Although, hairsprays that don’t use organic solvents as propellants/ solvents will surely be less flammable, especially if they’re water-based.

Conclusion

Hairsprays are surely flammable or highly flammable, depending on their formulation. We’ve evaluated products from 3 different brands in this article but it doesn’t really matter the brand, all hairsprays will be flammable unless the label specifically told otherwise.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS): Is aerosol hairspray flammable?

Is hairspray bad for your hair?

Hairsprays are not particularly bad for your hair, neither they will present any dangers to you as long as the instructions on the label are being followed.

Although the hairspray alone is not capable of damaging your hair, the way you handle it may do. If you’re going to use it more often, you must wash your hair frequently, don’t let get dry, sticky, or hard.

Hairsprays often have alcohol in their formulation, which can damage your hair in the long term if you use too much of it regularly.

Are hairspray cans recyclable?

Overall, yes. Empty bottles of aerosols are normally made of aluminum or steel, which have high recyclability. 

Hairspray cans must go with the metal garbage, but only if nothing more can come out of the can. If there’s still content in it, the can is considered a hazardous waste, which makes disposal a little more challenging. 

If that’s your case, you must check with your local waste company, authorities, or the chief in your condo about the collection of hazardous waste. 

Of course, you can also empty the bottle safely and then dispose of it, but you must be careful since the content is highly flammable. Never do it in a closed space and if there’s a source of ignition nearby.

Are hairspray cans allowed on airplanes?

It’s better to check with your airline before, the following information is only a heads up.

The TSA states that all liquids in your baggage must have a maximum volume of 100ml (3.4 ounces) each, in your baggage. This is a total volume, cans that are twice the volume but are almost empty are not allowed. 

If you need to take a bigger can with you, dispatch it in your checked luggage. Cans up to 16 fluid ounces (473.76ml) are allowed. 

Also, the total amount of all aerosols can’t exceed 70 ounces (around 2 liters).

Citations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hair_spray
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1,1-Difluoroethane
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/6368#section=GHS-Classification
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/8254
https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/11807#section=NFPA-Hazard-Classification
https://imgcdn.mckesson.com/CumulusWeb/Click_and_learn/MSDS_9UNLVR_SUAVE_HAIRSPRAY_AEROSOL_ALL_VARIANTS.pdf
https://beta.lakeland.edu/AboutUs/MSDS/PDFs/2732/Hair%20Spray%20[All%20Brands]%20(Unilever)%202-11-16.pdf
https://www.maritimebeautyshop.com/images/msds/LORE_CONSTRUCTR.PDF

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