I went to the doctor because I had a severe cough that was causing me to vomit... I had lung scarring from the pneumonia... developed scabs in my nose that will not go away... I would like to get out of this toxic work environment, but right now I have no place to go. I love my career and coworkers and this is all I know how to do. - Gina Griffin
What is Brazilian Blowout?
Brazilian Blowout is a professional hair straightener designed to straighten curly or frizzy hair for up to three months. It is applied by a stylist with the use of a flat iron. It is not meant for consumer use at home. Hair straighteners like Brazilian Blowout are also known as keratin hair smoothing products.
How is it harmful?
Though it is labeled "formaldehyde-free," Brazilian Blowout and several other leading brands of hair straightening products have been found to contain high levels of formaldehyde (also referred to as methylene glycol). Formaldehyde gas is a dangerous pollutant that can be severely irritating to the eyes, nose and throat, and long term exposure to formaldehyde in the workplace has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. It is released during the heating process used in the application of the product.
What is being done?
In 2011, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert against the use of hair straighteners containing formaldehyde and refuted Brazilian Blowout’s false assertion that OSHA air tests showed formaldehyde at safe levels. Also in 2011, the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to the company stating its product is adulterated and misbranded, and demanding immediate corrective action. Additionally, the Cosmetics Ingredient Review, an industry-funded panel of scientists tasked with reviewing the safety of cosmetic products, declared that they could not conclude that formaldehyde exposure from these types of products is safe.
On January 30, 2012, the California Attorney General settled a lawsuit against Brazilian Blowout. Under the settlement, the company must cease deceptive advertising practices and put caution stickers on their products advising users that the product releases formaldehyde gas. The company must also pay $600,000 in fees, penalties, and costs. Read more about the settlement here.
The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance has been instrumental in alerting federal agencies to the harms caused by Brazilian Blowout, securing national media on this issues and in making recommendations for stronger national regulation of such products.
Brazilian Blowout Advocacy Timeline
- 1/30/12: California Attorney General settles lawsuit against Brazilian Blowout. The company must cease deceptive advertising practices and put caution stickers on their products advising users that the product releases formaldehyde gas. Advocates call on the FDA to remove keratin hair straighteners from the market.
- 12/15: OSHA launches new webpages dedicated to formaldehyde in hair straighteners
- 12/8: OSHA issues press release stating that in 2011, 23 salon owners received citations with up to $17,500 in fines for formaldehyde overexposure to their workers.
- 9/23: The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent a letter to the FDA thanking them for warning Brazilian Blowout, and requesting the agency make Brazilian Blowout’s response public. If the company does not respond, we urged the FDA to recall Brazilian Blowout products.
- 9/22: OSHA issued an updated hazard alert on formaldehyde in straighteners and refutes Brazilian Blowout’s false claim that formaldehyde falls within safe limits.
- 8/11: The FDA warned Brazilian Blowout their product is adulterated and misbranded. The FDA demanded immediate action from the company to remove ingredients that are harmful when used as directed and to brand the product correctly (the company claims Brazilian Blowout is formaldehyde-free when it clearly is not). Read the FDA’s letter.
- 8/11: Brazilian Blowout executives sent a letter to salons claiming that the product is still safe and offering a new loyalty program.
- 8/11: New York’s Department of Public Health issued a consumer health alert and a hazard alert for stylists and salon owners.
- 7/11: The cosmetics industry concluded that levels of formaldehyde in Brazilian Blowout are unsafe.
- 5/11: Congressional leaders ask the FDA to protect the public from toxic hair straighteners. 10 members of Congress sent a letter to the FDA asking the agency to take immediate action to protect workers and consumers.
- 4/11: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert warning stylists against the use of hair straighteners containing formaldehyde.
- 4/11: The National Academy of Sciences released a report confirming that formaldehyde causes cancer in humans.
- 11/10: The California Attorney General requested an injunction against Brazilian Blowout to require health warnings on their products, noting that levels of formaldehyde emitted by the smoothing solution exceed Proposition 65 safe exposure limits “by up to a factor of more than eight for salon workers.”
- 11/10: France has removed eight hair straighteners from the market.
- 10/10: Canada has issued a public health advisory and is working with Canadian distributors to stop the distribution of the products.
- 10/10: Ireland has issued a recall of the Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Solution following their own test results.
(Women’s Voices for the Earth, 30 Jan 2012.)