We’re just full of questions today, aren’t we?!
We’ve actually been meaning to ask you this one for a while now, because when it comes to clean beauty everyone has had what we call the “a-ha moment”—and it can make for great story telling. Of course, you’ve heard ours about a billion times now: We got the Brazilian Blowout, found out we’d put ourselves through toxic trauma, started reading the labels on our products, and freaked the frig out.
Seems her mother has a habit of cutting out newspaper clippings for her, and a recent one was from the Sunday Telegraph. This particular piece featured our guy Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and a clean-beauty pioneer, spelling out why our beauty products may be doing us harm. Laura’s reaction:
I read it. I worried about it. And then I started reading the labels on my lotions and potions…and worried even more.
A little further down she realizes that she uses an average of 14 products a day—despite considering herself pretty low maintenance—and that’s before nail polish and makeup. Going down her list:
My body moisturiser (Palmer’s), face wash (Simple) and leave-in conditioner (Keihl’s) all contain methylparaben and propylparaben, which are used as preservatives. They are suspected hormone disruptors and may interfere with male reproductive functions.
My expensive shampoo (Aveda) has cyclomethicone, used to soften, smooth and moisten. It’s another suspected hormone disruptor and reproductive toxicant that’s known to be harmful to fish and other wildlife.
My face wash and toothpaste (Macleans) contain sodium laureth sulfate, a widely used foaming agent that can be contaminated with a chemical confusingly called ‘1,4-dioxane’, which may cause cancer.
Pretty much everything I use contained fragrance, which can also be referred to as parfum, both of which are catch-all terms that can include any of 5,000 ingredients, some of which are linked to cancer or can trigger allergies and asthma.
Oh, we know honey, we know! And boy can we sympathize—right? Go give the girl some support, but also tell us here about your own moment of truth.
We know we’ve covered the Brazilian Blowout ad nauseam, but bear with us: It feels important to keep a catalogue here of the most important news related to the ongoing controversy. Also, and just by coincidence, we got this comment from a salon worker this morning:
“I am so happy you are continuing on the horrors of these products…They are preforming this treatment all over South Florida with zero reguard for the toxicity…I have been a hairdresser for 24 years and have never seen anything this bad….please keep fighting…I am fighting on the state level!!!!!”
So with that in mind, here’s the latest on the Brazilian Blowout: The Wall Street Journal has published an excellent piece summarizing what has happened thus far and the latest developments. We already posted about the California’s impending injunction, but now members of Congress Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.) and Ed Markey (D., Mass.) have sent a letter to the FDA asking them to move on this. From the piece:
“These dangerous products are still available and used on a daily basis in salons across the United States,” the representatives wrote to the FDA. The lawmakers want the FDA to test chemical hair straighteners and recall those with high levels of formaldehyde.
Shocker, the FDA says it needs more time—they don’t like being rushed to act. And Mike Brady, chief executive of Brazilian Blowout, is claiming that the letter is “not based on any fact. It’s just based on emotion.” Really, dude? The old you’re-being-emotional line that so many women have been told by men at some point in their lives? That kind of mysogeny-laced language makes me want to barf in my mouth slash it’s the exact same thing the super-mean (and physically intimidating) BB hairdresser pulled on me when I called into question the treatment he’d given me. Which of course made me cry and feel like a total ass.
At a Congressional staff briefing taking place today, salon workers are going to be describing some of the adverse health effects they’ve experienced on account of working with the Brazilian Blowout. We only did it once and felt pretty wacked out, so we can imagine what these workers will have to report. And speaking of complaints, if you haven’t checked out the EWG’s report yet you should: They collected page up page of complaint filed with the FDA. But, you know, they need more time.
Here’s a question for you all: Do you think the FDA should test and recall these treatments, or is up to consumers and salon workers to make the choice for themselves?
Image via the WSJ article
What’s that rule about things always happening in threes? Well, first the Department of Labor issued a warning about the Brazilian, and now California is preparing an injunction, both of which are covered in TIME Magazine (where we also weigh in). But the thing likely to get the most attention is this: The treatment made Mary Louise Parker’s hair fall out.
In this Q&A with T Magazine, Parker talks about how she’s become more conscious about what goes in and on her body. She’s eating a primarily vegan diet (veggie glow much?) and being careful to avoid parabens. Oh Mary, if only you knew what else was in there! (Can someone get her the book?)
But in a statement that will likely get a lot of traction (we hope), Parker is advising women against getting a Brazilian blowout.
T: Have you had any beauty mishaps lately?
MLP: Yes. Not trusting my instincts — letting my vanity take over — and having the Brazilian Straightening Treatment. I’ve experienced hair fall-out in the past, and it is not fun. This treatment resulted in more. My advice: don’t do it!
Halle-frickin-lujah. It’s great to hear a little straight talk from a celebrity, and she’s not the only one. Last week Lady Gaga divulged how frequent bleaching and styling is making her hair fall out, and we did an interview with Bliss Tree about natural remedies for it that went up today. Hair, hair, everywhere.
Have you experienced hair loss? Do you know the cause?
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.
Last week I met a strikingly pretty girl—the kind who has it all going on: skin, eyes, lips. I’m going to call her Kelly. Like myself, Kelly’s a natural beauty enthusiast, and she and I had such a fun girly convo—that is until it turned to hair.
See, Kelly is of mixed race—Scottish and African decent if I’m remembering (her ethnicity is almost impossible to pinpoint visually)—and she grew up in an all-white neighborhood HATING her curly hair. She told me she has never worn it the way I dare to wear mine (and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t meant as a compliment). In fact, Kelly has spent her life wrestling with her curls: As a teenager she did a treatment that made all of her hair fall out—literally—and up until a year ago she was never without a weave. These days she just straightens it religiously and, you know, avoids pool parties. She also tries to avoid rain, sweat, and humidity—and by her own admission plans a lot of her life and movement around keeping her hair straight.
We talked about Chris Rock’s incredible documentary Good Hair, which explores the relationship between black people and their hair—especially what little girls are taught to think about their curls and kinks. Kelly told me that she had something of a meltdown when she watched the movie, seeing her own painful and complex hair relationship reflected back at her. When I expressed how much I’d love to see her with her natural curls, she slit her eyes at me and said flatly: “It will never happen.” OK, got it.
And I do get it. I too dreamt of straight hair and, like Kelly, went to an all-white elementary school where curls were uncommon. I was the only kid of Jewish decent for miles where I grew up, and I got picked on for it by some notorious mean girls and boys. Jokes about my big nose and even bigger hair weren’t uncommon, and extremely painful. As were the nightly brushings and braids I succumbed to because my mother didn’t quite know what to do with my mass.
So, I’m not here to tell everyone they have to accept themselves and love their curls or get all preachy—because I know it can be far more complicated than that, and also not all: Some people just want straight hair. But when I saw this article, The Taming of the Curl, from last week’s Wall Street Journal, I kind of wanted to throw my laptop at the wall.
Sure, it’s just a trend piece, reporting how women long for straight hair and beachy waves instead of curls and frizz. It gets into the dangers around treatments like the Brazilian blowout (though it’s careful not to really condemn it) and quotes an image expert who talks about how professional women just can’t wear their hair in “extremes.” And then it offers up a curly-to-straight slideshow featuring Sarah Jessica Parker (Jewish), Beyonce (black), and Julianna Margulies (Jewish again!). Maybe I’m projecting, but I feel like this slideshow says: Don’t they look so much better? (Oh sorry, Taylor Swift was in the there too because apparently her beachy waves are curls too. I’m calling BS on that one.)
Suffice to say, it’s very hard for me to overlook the racial implications of the war on curls. I’m not saying that this is always the case, or that when it is it’s even conscious, but to my mind ethnicity is part of this complicated curly equation—and not just in Brazil, guys. Right here.
So if the Wall Street Journal is going to take this on, they should be smart enough to realize the implications (they’re the WSJ after all)—and bold enough to acknowledge them.
I’d love to know what you think (and hear any of your stories too).