For those new to the site, one of our kind-of claims to fame is for being early to sound the alarm, if you will, on the dangers of the Brazilian Blowout. Our book opens with a scene of us sitting in a fancy West Hollywood salon, choking on the formaldehyde fumes of this now infamous hair treatment. It marked the beginning of our journey into clean beauty—without the BB, there would be no book and no site.
Behind closed doors, we were later told that the negative attention brought upon the blowout, by us and other clean-beauty and public health advocates, helped serve as a catalyst for the lawsuit thrown down by California’s Attorney General back in November 2010. California has this nifty law called Prop 65 that stipulates products that contain carcinogens must feature a warning label on it. And now it’s been enforced for the first time.
Because not only was Brazilian Blowout not warning consumers and salon workers about the high levels of formaldehyde—as much as 10% according to some lab tests—in their treatment, they were also claiming some versions of the product were formaldehyde free. We’ve covered the story extensively and posted the original filing here. A few days ago the saga reached its conclusion. For now.
In a settlement, GIB, LLC, the company that makes Brazilian Blowout, must stop its deceptive advertising and pay $600,000 in fees, penalties and costs. Remember, though, as Virginia at Beauty Schooled points out: This applies to one brand and one brand only for now. There are countless other companies also making similar Brazilian blowout (lower-case b) formulas, and this doesn’t yank the procedure or the products from salons, either. It just slaps it with a CAUTION label.
Is it enough? No, but it’s something.
For those interested we’ve listed the settlement requirements below.
Requirements as listed by a Department of Justice press release:
- Produce a complete and accurate safety information sheet on the two products that includes a Proposition 65 cancer warning; distribute this information to recent product purchasers who may still have product on hand; and distribute it with all future product shipments. The revised safety information sheet — known as a “Material Safety Data Sheet,” or MSDS — will be posted on the company’s web site.
- Affix “CAUTION” stickers to the bottles of the two products to inform stylists of the emission of formaldehyde gas and the need for precautionary measures, including adequate ventilation.
- Cease deceptive advertising of the products as formaldehyde-free and safe; engage in substantial corrective advertising, including honest communications to sales staff regarding product risks; and change numerous aspects of Brazilian Blowout’s web site content.
- Retest the two products for total smog-forming chemicals (volatile organic compounds) at two Department of Justice-approved laboratories, and work with DOJ and the Air Resources Board to ensure that those products comply with state air quality regulations.
- Report the presence of formaldehyde in its products to the Safe Cosmetics Program at the Department of Public Health.
- Disclose refund policies to consumers before the products are purchased.
- Require proof of professional licensing before selling “salon use only” products to stylists.
To this day we still get letters and comments on old posts about women who have lost their hair, damaged their scalps or suffered in some way from the Brazilian blowout. Have you done it? Please continue to share your experiences. This this is far from over.
If this news is any indication, salons may soon require hazmat suits for its workers… That’s hyperbole, of course, but:
The Department of Labor has issued an official immediate safety warning about formaldehyde-containing hair-smoothing products like the Brazilian Blowout. This is big news—HUGE*—and speaks to how much things really are (slowly) changing when it comes to the wild west of chemicals used in cosmetics and cosmetic procedures.
Federal OSHA is recommending that salons that carry out the procedure follow the following guidelines:
- Give workers respirators
- Give employees appropriate gloves and other personal protective equipment (e.g., face shield, chemical splash goggles, chemical-resistant aprons)
- Post signs at entryways to any area where formaldehyde is above OSHA’s limit**
- Tell workers about the health effects of formaldehyde
Recent reports from Oregon OSHA, California OSHA, and now Federal OSHA should alert salon owners and stylists to look closely at the hair smoothing products they are using to see if they contain methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, or CAS Number 50-00-0. All of these are names for or treated as formaldehyde under OSHA’s Formaldehyde standard. Products containing them can expose workers to formaldehyde; employers who manufacture, import, distribute, or use the products must follow OSHA’s formaldehyde standard.
The Environmental Working Group also has a new report out called Flat Out Risky that is loaded with information we haven’t had a chance to sift through yet (we just wanted to get this information out to you!).
Also, note that the hazard warning cites new lab reports in which “formaldehyde-free” products proved to contain formaldehyde after all. So in case you were still wondering about whether or not you should do it, and whether or not that “greener” Brazilian blowout really is, consider this your answer!
*Big kisses to anyone who gets that reference.
** OSHA’s limit is 0.75 parts of formaldehyde per million parts (or ppm) of air during an 8-hour work shift or 2 ppm during any 15-minute period.