You may have heard about the controversy surrounding the Brazilian Blowout.
The trouble started September 2010, when an Oregon salon submitted complaints regarding nosebleeds, lung, eye and mouth irritation, and hair loss to CROET (Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology).
First off, what is a Brazilian Blowout?
It is, essentially, a hair straightening solution heated with flat irons. The process is alleged to cause no permanent change to the hair structure, allowing curl to return after approximately 10-12 weeks.
Several tests performed by CROET, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Health Canada and an independent firm hired by Allure magazine found up to 42 times the healthy and accepted amount of formaldehyde in several of these “Formaldehyde Free” products. Manufacturers disregarded tests on the grounds that the samples had not come directly from the manufacturer, claimed that all forms of testing are creating formaldehyde in their product, and stated that testers are confusing methylene glycol with formaldehyde. The discussion continues, involving manufacturers, salon owners, OSHA, FDA, CROET and, of course, consumers.
A quick brief on formaldehyde
“Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen and mutagen. Formaldehyde is also corrosive and can severely irritate or damage the skin, mouth, eyes and throat. Formaldehyde may cause a skin allergy and an asthma-like allergy.”
Any employer whose employees work with formaldehyde is subject to the OSHA Formaldehyde Standard, which requires “training, air monitoring, personal protective equipment to prevent exposure, and in some cases, medical surveillance.” OSHA requires manufacturers to list on the material safety data sheet anything containing more than 0.1% formaldehyde. The Cosmetic Ingredient Board (CIR) sets the standard at less than 0.2% free formaldehyde, meant to be minimized and not intended to be aerosolized.
A Testing Timeline
September 16, 2010 -An Oregon salon contacts CROET regarding difficulty breathing, nosebleeds, and eye irritation in stylists using the product as instructed.
CROET tests the original product and finds concentrations of 4.85% formaldehyde along with unmeasured amounts of methanol, ethanol, beta hydroxyl ethyl methacrylate and hexadecanol. CROET emphasizes caution to consumers and salon owners.
September 24, 2010 -Four different testing methods reveal concentrations of 10.6%, 6.3%, 10.6% and 10.4% formaldehyde. CROET requests that Oregon and California OSHAs (Occupational Safe and Health Administration) evaluate tests for accuracy, alerts federal OSHA, and submits a report to the FDA and the California Department of Public Health.
October 1, 2010 – A second sample, also labeled “Formaldehyde Free,” shows concentrations of 10.6%, 6.3%, 10.6% and 10.4%, along with ethanol, 1-hexadecenanol and phenol. A third “Formaldehyde Free” solution tests at concentrations between 8.4% and 8.6%. OSHA emphasizes caution and accountability.
October 7, 2010 – Health Canada releases a warning regarding “unacceptable levels of formaldehyde” after studies found concentrations as high as 12%, validating levels at 8.4%, which is 42 times the accepted limit.
So what do the manufacturers say?
Brazilian Blowout Solutions, AKA Cadiveu, disputes these tests, arguing that the tests are confusing methylene glycol with formaldehyde and that tests are creating formaldehyde in their products. They also argue that the product samples are only valid if they come directly from the company, though the samples were picked up and delivered by an occupational safety and health specialist and certified industrial hygienist at OHSU’s (Oregon Health and Science University) Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology.
Cadiveu argues that this is “gross negligence” on OSHA’s behalf. Cadiveu later posts a release declaring that OSHA tests on air quality performed on October 29, 2010 “are not inconsistent with” Cadiveu’s air tests and emphasizes that some of OSHA’s air tests fall below the OSHA Action Levels of .5 PPM.
The release does not address liquid solution tests and states that OSHA also found concentrations both higher and lower than Cadiveu’s air tests. They contend that their formula is still “Formaldehyde Free” and suggest ”increased safety for stylists and clients” via “appropriate air filtration” and training for stylists, though it’s not clear whether any of these topics are addressed in training materials or videos.
While this discourse continues, so do Brazilian Blowouts – what’s going on?
At the end of the day, several tests find high concentrations of a probable carcinogen and mutagen in beauty products. One company denies these tests because the product samples didn’t come directly from the company. Other companies seem to be tight lipped on the topic. In the meantime, Brazilian Blowouts remain available to the American public.
Ultimately, all we can do is look at the facts and vote with our minds, our mouths and our money. I’m interested to know – how are you voting?