FDA Says Trendy Smoothing Treatment is Toxic
Brazilian Blowout marketing materials.From someone whose hair often resembles a Chia pet on a good day, I admit a certain fascination with pin-straight, sleek, frizz-free hair. However, when there comes with it the potential for major harm to my health, that’s where I draw the line.
Though I personally have never had a Brazilian blowout, the treatment is certainly known to be popular among the celeb set, as well as numerous women flocking to salons seeking a sleeker style.
The trendy straightening treatment has taken some heat recently for the toxic chemical it contains. Namely, formaldehyde—a chemical that is classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
But this is not exactly breaking news. A year ago, the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) investigated the blowout following the reporting of various symptoms by salon stylists in that state. And an April 2011 report from the National Academy of Sciences found evidence that exposure to formaldehyde can cause cancers of the nose, nasal cavity, and upper throat.
Formaldehyde, a potent irritant, has been reported to aggravate the lungs, eyes, nose, throat, and skin. It is a widely-used chemical used in building materials and to create a variety of products. However, its use has been steadily declining due to its potential dangers. The commonly-used urea-formaldehyde foam insulation from the 1970s is mostly history now; and in 1987, OSHA enforced a reduction in the amount of formaldehyde exposure to workers in an 8-hour day, reduced yet again in 1992.
So, what the heck is it doing in a hair-straightening product? When heated, formaldehyde speeds up the salon procedure and basically keeps hair straighter for a longer amount of time. Brazilian Blowout contains methylene glycol (according to the FDA), a liquid form of formaldehyde, which is released into the air when applied to hair and then heated.
The FDA, which doesn’t keep a strict eye on cosmetics and their ingredients, did step up to the blowout—after a year of growing concern. It has warned the makers of Brazilian Blowout (located in California) that their product is “adulterated and misbranded” because it “contains a deleterious substance that may render it injurious to users.”
Formaldehyde exposure can cause burning of the eyes and throat, skin irritation, and nose bleeds, and is a threat to stylists and clients, as well as anyone close enough to inhale the vapors released into the air.
Brazilian Blowout has responded that their product does not exceed the formaldehyde guidelines established by OSHA. However, the FDA reported levels of methylene glycol between 8.7 to 10.4 percent in tests of Brazilian Blowout—well above a safe standard.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t end here. Formaldehyde may be lurking in a number of other cosmetics like nail polish, eye makeup, shampoos, and soaps.
To learn more about the safety of your products, check out the Cosmetics Database.