Hair straightening with a side of…formaldehyde? If you thought your keratin hair straightening treatment was safe, think again. Commonly known as “Brazilian Blowouts” based on a popular brand, these treatments are injuring clients and making stylists sick…yet they remain in salons. What gives?
Back in 2010, Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology revealed that the Brazilian Blowout formula marketed as “formaldehyde-free” did indeed contain the dangerous toxin. Not trace amounts either—the original formula was reported to contain 11.8 percent formaldehyde.
Four years later, the Environmental Working Group is reporting that the keratin formulas still contain up to seven percent formaldehyde. In case the word “formaldehyde” isn’t enough to terrify you, it is indeed a toxic chemical that the federal government declared a known human carcinogen in 2011. And if the threat of cancer isn’t immediate enough for you, formaldehyde irritates the skin, nose, and throat. After repeated exposure, a person is highly likely to become sensitized and suffer allergic reactions like hives, blisters and asthma. The moral of this story is that any amount of formaldehyde is too much formaldehyde.
“Formaldehyde-based hair straighteners are banned in many other countries and expressly denounced by the personal care product industry’s own trade association, but they are still being sold to professionals for use in salons in the U.S.,” writes Tina Sigurdson, Staff Attorney of the EWG. “Despite their known dangers and countless resulting injuries, Brazilian Blowout has actually declared August 21st “National Brazilian Blowout Day.”” Did you celebrate with a blowout? I sure as hell hope not.
“Using the Freedom of Information Act, EWG obtained FDA documents showing that salon personnel and clients have filed numerous “adverse event” reports after hair straightening sessions, including massive hair loss, neck and face rashes, blistered scalps, nosebleeds, bleeding gums and loss of taste and smell,” Sigurdson continues. Because this reporting is voluntary and not well known however, these were probably only a small percentage of the injuries that occurred. In 2011, the FDA issued a stern warning letter to GIB LLC, the company who makes the product Brazilian Blowout, but they haven’t taken any further action in banning the product from the market. Several state agencies took up the mantel and won lawsuits against the company, but GIB has continued to skirt regulations and produce the formula at between three and seven percent formaldehyde.
“Executives in the personal care products industry often boast that they police themselves. Obviously, they don’t,” Sigurson writes. “The long-running Brazilian Blowout saga presents a frightening example of how profits trump public safety. Injuries are piling up. Many stylists have quit their jobs because exposure to formaldehyde has made them too sick to work.”
The EWG is calling on Congress to enact the Personal Care Products Safety Act, which would “ensure that the FDA has the power to take these poisonous products off of the market once and for all.” We stand behind them. And until then, please stay away from formaldehyde-based straightening. It is absolutely not worth it.