Hair straightening treatments may be more damaging than we realize. (Photo: Kenneth Willardt / Trunk Archive)
When it comes to the hair-straightening treatments known as the Brazilian Blowout or keratin smoothing formula, the Environmental Working Group is not giving up the cause.
Four years after it first published a report on the dangers of such treatments, the nonprofit organization is releasing an article today charging that the treatments still contain as much as 7 percent formaldehyde, a toxic chemical that the U.S. government in 2011 designated a known human carcinogen. Formaldehyde is said to cause allergic reactions like hives, blisters and asthma after repeated exposure. There is also the risk of cancer. The original Brazilian Blowout formula was reported to contain 11.8 percent formaldehyde.
The controversy first erupted in 2010, when Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology revealed lab results showing that the formulas contained formaldehyde although they were being marketed as formaldehyde-free.
EWG is releasing the report to coincide with what Brazilian Blowout has dubbed “National Brazilian Blowout Day.”
“Many people underestimate or are not fully educated about the short-term and long-term risks posed by these treatments,” said Tina Sigurdson, staff attorney at EWG. “While the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cracked down on many salons for using these products without adequate ventilation, OSHA can’t inspect every salon in the country. Moreover, consumers are buying these products online and applying them at home.”
The report comes at a time when Congress is placing increasing scrutiny on the cosmetics business. Since the enactment of the 1938 federal law governing cosmetics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has largely left cosmetics companies to police themselves. But the regulatory environment is getting tougher, domestically and internationally. And in April of this year, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins introduced a bill called the Personal Care Products Safety Act that looks to strengthen the FDA’s regulation of cosmetics ingredients by requiring the agency to evaluate a minimum of five ingredients per year to determine their safety and appropriate use, beginning with formaldehyde.
As of press time, Brazilian Blowout did not respond to calls for comment.