FDA warns Brazilian Blowout to straighten up

A potentially dangerous product that hair salons use to straighten curly hair is reportedly sickening salon workers and customers. The Food and Drug Administration has warned makers of the Brazilian Blowout straightening treatment that their defective product contains liquid formaldehyde, a known carcinogen also known as methylene glycol. Formaldehyde helps bind keratin to hair, allowing stylists to permanently straighten it.

Stylists apply the Brazilian Blowout solution to the client's hair and use heat to dry and iron the hair, releasing a formaldehyde-laden mist into the air. After exposure to the chemicals, stylists and their clients have suffered from ailments such as breathing problems, nosebleeds, chest pain, vomiting, headache, eye and throat irritation and dizziness.

Makers of the Blowout insist that their product is safe. "We have never exceeded a safety standard, ever," one maker said, in an interview with National Public Radio. On the product's website, a statement advised salons and stylists to continue to "confidently offer the Brazilian Blowout treatment" to their customers.

The Cosmetics Ingredient Review Expert Panel recommends that hair treatments contain no more than 0.2 percent formaldehyde. In FDA tests, the Brazilian Blowout contained 8.7 to 10.4 percent formaldehyde. At those levels, the hair serum could have been used as embalming fluid. In spite of its high formaldehyde content, the FDA found that labeling on the product claimed that it contained "No Formaldehyde" or was "Formaldehyde Free."

The FDA issued a warning letter to the Brazilian Blowout, asking manufacturers to take prompt action. The treatment has already been banned in Canada, and a U.S. ban may not be far behind.

Sources: Time, "Brazilian Blowout Gets Blowback From the FDA," Sora Song, Sept. 9, 2011

FDA.gov, "Brazilian Blowout Warning Letter," Aug. 22, 2011

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