You know things have gone a little too far in the beauty business when the U.S. Department of Labor releases a hazard alert about a popular hair product. That is exactly what has happened with Brazilian Blowout - a keratin straightening treatment that “relaxes and transforms frizzy, curly, and wavy hair into a smooth, silky mane.” From preteens to celebrities, “hair challenged” sufferers have paid $200-$500 per treatment for what has been described as a life-changing solution for hard-to-manage hair. So what’s the problem with this miracle treatment? A lot. Among other things . . . Repeated use has been linked to lung cancer.
The BIG issue is that the Brazilian Blowout product contains formaldehyde
, which is a known cancer-causing substance according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). OSHA programs are investigating complaints from hair salon owners and their workers about problems caused by formaldehyde exposure. Even small amounts can cause eye and nose irritation, coughing and wheezing, and allergic skin reactions. Blindness can result if the chemicals get into the eyes and repeated formaldehyde exposure has been linked to lung and nose cancer
Even though the product labels state they are “formaldehyde free,” Brazilian Blowout and similar products may contain ingredients such as methylene glycol, methylene oxide, formic aldehyde, formalin and others, which are actually formaldehyde
according to OSHA's standard.
Any time a salon has to install special ventilation systems or supply hairstylists and their clients with respirators, it should be a definite clue that you're dealing with a dangerous product. When your hair stylist starts donning protective gear worthy of the geekiest lab tech at the CDC, you should run for the hills.
Despite the fact that various health agencies released analyses warning that Brazilian Blowout products had unacceptable levels of formaldehyde and recommended people stop using it, the manufacturers of Brazilian Blowout continue to stand by their product. They maintain it is safe and are suing over what they claim are false and misleading statements.The FDA’s position.
You may be wondering what the FDA has to say about all this. Not much, except that they “will continue to monitor this problem and report on any new developments.” Of course, if we were talking about a health or nutritional supplement here, you can bet they’d be all over it. That's probably because there are no set limits on the amount of formaldehyde personal care products can contain in the U.S. Still, ten U.S. Congressional members have asked the FDA to issue a voluntary recall for Brazilian Blowout and similar products. In a letter, they state:
“It is clear that the FDA needs to take decisive action. An investigation by the Environmental Working Group revealed that the FDA has received 47 complaints from salon workers and clients who experience adverse reactions and injuries (including hair loss, blisters, burning eyes, noses and throats, headaches and vomiting) as the result of giving or receiving hair straightening treatments.”
Fortunately, some U.S. salons saw the writing on the wall and stopped using Brazilian Blowout. But for the women who want sleek tresses despite the risk to their own health, where there is a will, there is a way. Some salon workers are offering to give the treatments in their own home to satisfy their more insistent customers. While these days it’s no surprise that people are more than willing to drop hundreds of dollars for an afternoon at the salon, when someone has to think twice about a choice between frizzy hair or lung cancer, well, that just takes paying a high price for beauty
to a whole new level.