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Brazilian Blowout? No thanks, I’m cutting down on formaldehyde.

As a member of the curly-haired women of the world, I am always looking for ways to have a versatile and frizz-free hairstyle – particularly if I decide to travel to unruly climates that are NOT friendly to curly girls like me.

When I heard about the Brazilian Blowout system, I was amazed. Oh, FINALLY – after ALL these years of unsafe chemical straightening treatments, there is something that is safe and actually improves the health of my hair!

Well, you know what they say about things being too good to be true. As it turns out, Brazilian-Blowout certified salons are reporting that they now have to administer gas masks to their clients and to personnel because of unbearable levels of formaldehyde that are released into the salon as a result of this chemical straightening process.

Last week, California’s Attorney General filed suit against the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout, over alleged false advertising claims that the product is formaldehyde-free.

From the L.A. Times story:

According to the complaint, during ordinary use, Acai Professional Smoothing Solution contains high levels of formaldehyde, a chemical that can cause various ailments, including stinging eyes and respiratory problems, and is linked to cancer. The complaint seeks to remedy what it calls the defendants’ alleged “deceptive identification, advertising and promotion of the solution as ‘formaldehyde-free’, ‘hyde-free’, ‘salon safe’ or ‘safe.’ “

The story also references a report by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Commission, which determines the following:

Oregon OSHA and CROET have concluded that there are meaningful risks to salon workers when they are confronted with these hair smoothing products. Effective control of those risks depends upon accurate information regarding the potential hazards and the control measures available, which in turn begins with an accurate understanding of the ingredients and the potential harm they may cause.
In conjunction with this report, Oregon OSHA is advising Oregon salons and stylists that hairsmoothing treatments – particularly those generally referred to as “Keratin-based treatments” – should generally be treated as formaldehyde-containing products and the requirements of the OSHA Formaldehyde Standard must be followed when there are employees under the Oregon Safe Employment Act (OSEA). Further, employers should be advised that any product that contains “methylene glycol” will continue to be treated as a formaldehyde-containing product under the OSEA.

In response to the Oregon OSHA finding, Brazilian Blowout issued a press release noting that OSHA determined that the formaldehyde levels emitted from the product were “safe.” The company is still swearing up and down that its product is safe, even though the OSHA report clearly notes that salon owners should take extreme caution when using this product. It does not report positively on Brazilian Blowout.

At this point, I’m not ready to get angry and put out a call for all salons that are certified to use the Brazilian Blowout system to stop their practices. But at the same time, I do have to wonder the intentions of a company that first claimed their product contained NO formaldehyde and now is running back and saying “Weeeellll, it has formaldehyde but not BAD formaldehyde.”

If my concern lies with anyone, it is not with those who actually go in for this treatment as much as it is with the salon owners and employees who could possibly be inhaling these dangerous chemicals day in and day out. In that sense, I do think it might be wise for salons to reconsider their use of this product.

I talked to my hairdresser of five years about the Brazilian Blowout system way before the controversy came out. He said he’d never heard of it, but that no matter how brittle my hair gets or what climate I’m in, there’s a product for everything. I’ve been going to him for five years and he has yet to let me down.

As a salon customer, my best recommendation is that you research ANY permanent products you put on your hair, and remember that any chemicals have the potential of permanently damaging it. The best thing you can do is find a hairdresser who takes care of your hair and is educated in product use so you can look your best. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We’ll see if this Brazilian Blowout blows up or stays under the radar.

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