Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Brazilian Blowout: Straight Hair Via Formaldehyde



I recently read on a hair blog about how the popular Brazilian Treatment- no not the bikini zone one- can place users at risk for harm. Known as the Brazilian Blowout, it uses chemicals to straighten frizzy, curly, poofy and kinky strands. I've been seeing signs at local Dominican Doobie shops in my neighborhood for a couple of years now. At one shop, I was encouraged to try it as an alternative to my usual relaxer with assurances it was much safer and healthier for my hair. I had to admit I was impressed by the pictures, but I wasn't buying how a relaxer, by any name, would somehow be great, and I turned it down.

This year I said goodbye to all creamy crack, and just as I expected, the Brazilian Blowout is chock full of chemicals- including formaldehyde. Yup, this Blowout blows. From MSNBC:

“Suffer for beauty” has been taken to a whole new level with recent controversy surrounding a trendy hair treatment called the Brazilian Blowout. 

The product, used in pricey salons, turns frizzy, unmanageable locks into the luxurious pin-straight looks made popular by celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

The catch? Tests conducted by the state of Oregon earlier this month determined that the product contains unsafe levels of formaldehyde — as in, embalming fluid — a known carcinogen. 

But that’s not deterring some from the pursuit of fabulous wash-and-wear locks. 

“Chemicals are a way of life now,” says Stefeny Anderson, a 36-year-old event planner from Renton, Wash., who got her first Brazilian Blowout two weeks ago in an effort to tame “corkscrew curls” that frizz at the slightest hint of rain (a given in Washington state). “It’s not like you’re putting it in your hair every day.” 

Introduced at salons a few years ago, the Brazilian Blowout costs about $250. But after the two-hour treatment — which involves coating the hair with the chemical, then flat-ironing it — coarse, kinky hair becomes soft, smooth and straight for two to three months. 

Sort of an anti-perm, the Brazilian Blowout has been touted as more effective and less time-consuming than other hair-straightening methods such as conventional relaxers, Japanese thermal processing or other keratin-based treatments (there are several available), although concerns have been raised about the product’s possible formaldehyde content in the past, when Allure magazine did an exposé.

These concerns soon dissipated, though, once the company began distributing bottles labeled “formaldehyde-free.”

Formaldehyde-and-seek Earlier this month, though, Oregon Health & Science University issued two public alerts after tests performed by the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found up to 10.6 percent formaldehyde in the product (.2 percent formaldehyde is considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel). 

Brazilian Blowout responded with a press release Oct. 8 saying the Oregon tests were incorrect. "Flaws in the testing methods used by Oregon’s division of OSHA actually cause the creation of additional formaldehyde that is not normally found in the product," the press release said. The company also issued a statement saying that formaldehyde gas levels emitted during the hair-straightening process are safe for both clients and cosmetologists.

In other tests a couple of weeks ago, Canada's health department found up to 12 percent formaldehyde and warned people to stop using it, citing consumer complaints of “burning eyes, nose, and throat, breathing difficulties, and one report of hair loss associated with use of the product.”

To read the entire story, click here. This story isn't surprising to me, but it is disturbing to read that women like Stefeny are so cavalier about exposing themselves to carcinogens for the sake of straight strands. It reminds me of my neurologist's warning to quit relaxing my hair because of the possible toxic poisoning. To each their own, but I know if I want my hair straight, I'll just take the flatiron sans the cancer-causing serum, thank you.

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