Acute Kidney Injury and Hair-Straightening Products: A Case Series

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Rationale & Objective: Keratin-based hair-straightening treatment is a popular hair-styling method. The majority of keratin-based hair-straightening products in Israel contain glycolic acid derivatives, which are considered safe when used topically. Systemic absorption of these products is possible, and anecdotal reports have described kidney toxicity associated with their use. We report a series of cases of severe acute kidney injury (AKI) following use of hair-straightening treatment in Israel during the past several years. Study Design: Case series. Setting & Participants: We retrospectively identified 26 patients from 14 medical centers in Israel who experienced severe AKI and reported prior treatment with hair-straightening products in 2019-2022. Findings: The 26 patients described had a median age of 28.5 (range, 14-58) years and experienced severe AKI following a hair-straightening procedure. The most common symptoms at presentation were nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Scalp rash was noted in 10 (38%) patients. Two patients experienced a recurrent episode of AKI following a repeat hair-straightening treatment. Seven patients underwent kidney biopsies, which demonstrated intratubular calcium oxalate deposition in 6 and microcalcification in tubular cells in 1. In all biopsies, signs of acute tubular injury were present, and an interstitial infiltrate was noted in 4 cases. Three patients required temporary dialysis. Limitations: Retrospective uncontrolled study, small number of kidney biopsies. Conclusions: This series describes cases of AKI with prior exposure to hair-straightening treatments. Acute oxalate nephropathy was the dominant finding on kidney biopsies, which may be related to absorption of glycolic acid derivatives and their metabolism to oxalate. This case series suggests a potential underrecognized cause of AKI in the young healthy population. Further studies are needed to confirm this association and to assess the extent of this phenomenon as well as its pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52.e1
JournalAmerican Journal of Kidney Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Acute kidney injury (AKI)
  • acute oxalate nephropathy
  • adverse reaction
  • calcium oxalate
  • case series
  • formaldehyde
  • glycolic acid derivatives
  • hair straightening
  • nephrotoxic AKI
  • product safety
  • renal biopsy
  • renal toxicity


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