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Is It Time to Say Good-bye to the Brazilian Blowout?

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Beauty related image Photo: Getty Images

At my hair salon recently, I noticed a newspaper clipping scotch-taped to the counter. The headline referred to the dangers of Brazilian hair straighteners. I didn’t pay much attention to it because I don’t have my hair straightened.

However, above the headline, there was a hand-printed note in black marker that said, “This is why our hair salon doesn’t use Keratin!” Curious, I asked my stylist about it and she gave me the scoop.

Apparently, Brazilian style, hair-straightening products are bad for the health. Not necessarily the customer who’s getting the treatment, but the stylist who is performing the service.

WebMD reported, “The FDA has warned the Brazilian Blowout hair care company that its hair straightening products contain 'dangerously high levels' of formaldehyde. It ordered the firm to reduce levels of the liquid chemical or face removal of the items from the marketplace.”

Formaldehyde is a chemical normally used by morticians for embalming their victims, er ... patients, well ... dead people. With that said, can you imagine having that applied to your hair, let alone, the poor stylist applying the stuff?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had hair treatments in the past, perms, hair dye, etc., that were pretty darn hard on my eyes and nose as well as my stylist, but the idea of formaldehyde freaked me out a little.

The FDA has received a number of health issues as a result of the keratin-based straighteners including eye and nervous system disorders, respiratory tract problems, chest pain, vomiting, and rash.

The hair straightening process is well worth the cost for patrons who struggle with unruly curls and frizz. Customers can expect to pay anywhere from $250-450 for a treatment lasting 10-12 weeks. Unfortunately, some women may opt to ignore FDA warnings at the risk of giving up their beautifully processed straight hair.

Salon owners and stylists shouldn’t have to worry about health issues as a result of their daily working conditions. And, as a result of the controversy, new and alternative hair-straightening products containing plant-based ingredients instead of formaldehyde are becoming available.

Farouk Shami, founder of Houston-based Farouk Systems has been working on an environmentally-safe straightening products for three years. He even consumed the product during a television interview to prove its authenticity.

"If you can't eat it, you cannot use it on people's bodies or hair," Shami said. "We are a company that believes in environmental issues and to save the lives of hairdressers, not to kill hairdressers with formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is for dead people, not for living people."

Remember this the next time you visit your favorite beauty salon for any type of chemically-based treatment. Show an interest in her/his health. After all, your stylist is a living person, too.

Sources and related reading:

WebMD - Healthy Beauty - FDA: Brazilian Blowout Hair Straightener Is Dangerous. Web. 13, October, 2011

MSNBC - Skin and Beauty - FDA warning tries to untangle Brazilian Blowout claims. Web. 13, October, 2011

LA Times - LAT Home→Collections→Formaldehyde - New treatments to smooth and straighten hair. Web. 13, October, 2011

Reviewed October 13, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) most recent determination provides an opportunity and challenge to continue to improve product safety, as well as to enhance education programs. It is important to understand that the CIR has ruled that keratin-smoothing products CAN be used safely. However, they are not yet convinced that they ARE being used safely in salons. The CIR has expressed its concerns and The Professional Keratin Smoothing Council (PKSC) is listening very carefully. The CIR has requested additional information to demonstrate that these products can be used consistently in a safe manner in professional salon establishments.
The PKSC, an association of the leading manufacturers (Cadiveu, Keratin Complex, Marcia Teixeira, SalonTech, & Aerovex Systems.), distributors and salon professionals, has presented voluminous data to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel (CIR) showing that its members’ products are safe when used per manufacturer’s directions. PKSC members require licensed cosmetologists to participate in a comprehensive educational/certification program in order to have access to their professional-use-only products. It is also imperative to ensure that appropriate salon ventilation is being used in the salon to control vapors and minimize the potential for sensory irritation. Salons that are not equipped with the appropriate salon ventilation (chemical source capture system) needed to prevent sensory irritation should NOT provide these services until this situation is corrected.
View Full Press Release at: http://cleanairmadesimple.com/
Video: http://ow.ly/769JD

October 23, 2011 - 12:53pm

Glad to hear it. My salon switched too.

October 22, 2011 - 11:36am
EmpowHER Guest

As far back as 1987 the U.S. EPA classified FORMALDEHYDE as a probable human carcinogen and after more studies the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in 1995, also classified it as a probable human carcinogen. Further information and evaluation of all known data led the IARC to reclassify formaldehyde as a KNOWN HUMAN CARCINOGEN associated with nasal sinus cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer, and possibly with leukemia in June 2004.

As much as I am not for more government and regulation, privately funded studies have also shown the detrimental effects of formaldehyde. People shouldn't be restrained from exercising their free will, but there needs to be a CLEAR study (by gov't, or whomever.. because lets face it gov't isn't going anywhere) telling people the TRUTH about the ingredients in Brazilian Blow Out and the danger present when exposure to them.

The information alone should wake people up to not carry the product. Demand a safer more effective product and more than likely in a few years (or less) one will appear. The smoothing treatments that are formaldehyde free are gaining ground as a wonderful substitute good to the Brazilian Blow Out. This is simple supply and demand... lets create a market demand for a safer product and let innovation and a need for profit take its course!

Care about your health people!

Companies such as Organic Salon Systems ALREADY carry and distribute smoothing treatments that give fantastic results. KeraGreen is a wonderful product that smells like cherries and bananas (don't need a mask to breathe in that welcoming aroma!) and is made with organic ingredients.

October 21, 2011 - 2:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

Google “formaldehyde” and you will find it is used in many everyday cleaning products, personal cleansing /beauty products & building materials. Many of these industries are heavily regulated because they have been using formaldehyde and other similar chemicals for years and therefore understand the term “proper ventilation” to mean some type of industrial chemical source capture system.
Dependable keratin hair-smoothing companies have comprehensive training for the stylist and insist that salons provide chemical source capture ventilation before performing these services. These salon chemical source capture systems have been developed specifically for salons that offer keratin hair straightening to make these services are done safely and to help them comply with OSHA standards. Best advice is always to have proper training and safe practices.
Engineering Controls
Ventilation is the most widely applied engineering control method for reducing the concentration of airborne substances in the breathing zones of workers.

October 14, 2011 - 9:49am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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