If you pine for pin-straight strands, chance are that you’ve heard of the keratin hair-straightening treatment made famous by Brazilian Blowout. But what you might not have heard is how controversial –and potentially harmful — the hair treatment can be.
Blasted by consumer safety experts for containing formaldehyde, a chemical commonly associated with embalming fluid, Brazilian Blowout products have recently come under fire by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to a formal warning letter issued by the FDA, the Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution (Brazilian Blowout), is an “adulterated” and “misbranded” product because it contains formaldehyde, while its labels say it is “formaldehyde-free.”
Michael W. Roosevelt, acting director in the FDA’s Office of Compliance states in the letter to the company, “Brazilian Blowout contains the liquid form of formaldehyde, methylene glycol; however, the product label declares that the product contains ‘No Formaldehyde’ or is ‘Formaldehyde Free.’ This declaration renders your product misbranded because it is a false and misleading statement.”
Roosevelt goes on to assert the product is considered an “adulterated cosmetic” because it may be “injurious to users under the conditions of use prescribed in your labeling.”
What can formaldehyde, which is inhaled during a Brazilian Blowout treatment, do to the average salon visitor? The list of side effects are stunning. The FDA reports that injuries associated with Brazilian Blowout include: eye disorders (irritation, increased lacrimation, blurred vision, hyperaemia); nervous system disorders (headache, burning sensation, dizziness, syncope), respiratory tract (dyspnea, cough, nasal discomfort, epistaxis, wheezing, rhinorrhea, throat irritation, nasopharyngitis), nausea hypotrichosis, chest pain, chest discomfort, vomiting, and rash. What’s more, the Environmental Protection Agency has classified formaldehyde as a possible cancer-causing carcinogen.
Not exactly what you’d expect as a result of going in for a hair treatment.
While the FDA’s letter requires Brazilian Blowout to take action to rectify the violations by Sept. 12, other industry watchdog groups believe stronger enforcements are in order. The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance has called on the FDA to take swift action with a national recall for Brazilian Blowout and similar products.
“Stylists need to know about the dangers of using this toxic product on a day to day basis,” said Women’s Voices for the Earth’s executive director Erin Switalski, on behalf of the Alliance.
Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, concurs. “Brazilian Blowout can no longer lie to the public about their contents and continue to claim their product to be safe,” she said.
Unfortunately, the FDA’s warning to Brazilian Blowout may be more “bark” than “bite.” Currently, the FDA can only issue a “voluntary recall,” meaning that the government cannot mandate the removal of dangerous products from the market. However, that restriction is under scrutiny and is proposed to be rectified in the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 being debated in Congress. If passed, the new law would set safety standards for chemicals used in personal care and salon products before they reach the marketplace, while phasing out toxic ingredients in existing products,such as formaldehyde found in the Brazilian Blowout.
“If consumers have been wondering why they’ve still been able to get Brazilian Blowouts despite so much troubling news, the answer is because our regulatory system is broken,” says Anuja Mendiratta, a representative of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. “Even when a product has clearly been shown to poison people, the FDA has little authority to take immediate meaningful action in the case of cosmetics.”
To support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, urge your local representative to take action by simply filling out this form via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.