It’s another point for team Europe, folks. France’s health agency (Afsapps) is warning consumers and hairdressers about hair straightening treatments that use high levels of formaldehyde, and they’ve pulled eight products off the market that were in violation of European standards.
The current EU Cosmetics Directive stipulates that formaldehyde levels should not surpass 0.2 percent, but according to Afsapps’s investigation many of those tested fell between 0.61 per cent and 5.87 percent. But here’s our favorite part, as reported by the this industry site:
…the words ‘contains formaldehyde’ must be present on the product label, if levels fall between 0.05 and 0.2 per cent.
That’s right, even products that are not in violation need to warn of formaldehyde’s presence on the label. Talk about a deterrent!
Many of the products pulled off of France’s shelves were from the US. Yeah.
Well, well, would you look at this—if it’s not our old friend formaldehyde making news once more! A New York Times article about the presence of formaldehyde, or more accurately formaldehyde releasers, in the finish on wrinkle-free clothing held steady on the most-emailed list all weekend long. But read at your own risk…
The truth is that Siobhan and I have been avoiding the subject of chemicals in clothing like the plague. Why? Because, similar to certain women with their cosmetics, we just don’t want to think about it. We’ve even joked with our lit agent that the next book we write could be called No More Dirty Laundry… except that neither of us is ready to throw out all of our clothes. As the article points out:
The United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, most of which is now made overseas. Nor does any government agency require manufacturers to disclose the use of the chemical on labels. So sensitive consumers may have a hard time avoiding it (though washing the clothes before wearing them helps).
And we have a sneaking suspicion that formaldehyde is not the only chemical being used in clothing manufacturing that’s either: 1) dangerous to the people making the clothes, or 2) something most of us don’t want on our skin all day. Ugh. As a first step though, we’re definitely going to avoid any “wrinkle-free” fabrics. Those always seemed weird to us anyways.
How about you? Have you given any thought to the chemicals in your clothes?
Last weekend I got married, and for the sake of transparency here, no, it was not an all-natural affair. Siobhan and I have long conceded that industrial strength antiperspirant, waterproof mascara (we all had a good cry), and long-lasting foundation have their place at special occasions. And while the smell of the super-hold hairspray gave me pause, I was very happy not to worry about my do’ collapsing mid-evening.
The other thing I did for the event, which I have not done in nearly two years now, is polish my nails. If you read the book you know that nail polish and remover are among the worst offenders when it comes to nasty chemicals. While many brands have taken out the big three—formaldehyde, toluene and DBP—it’s pretty impossible to make functional nail polish from clean ingredients.
At a certain point during our research for the book I began to buff instead, and I’ve just never turned back. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a weird obsession with long nails, and when I stopped polishing mine something incredible happened: They stopped breaking.
Recently though I’ve wondered if that phenomenon was a figment of my imagination. Maybe it wasn’t the nail polish, but a change in my diet that had strengthened my claws? Not so.
While I loved the ritual of having my nails done last Thursday with my mom and sister, and the manicurist used OPI (which is big-three free), almost every single nail on my hands has since chipped, peeled or broken.
So, of course, now we want to know: Do you polish your nails? Did you stop because of chemicals? Have your nails changed? Telltell.
UPDATE: We now have a LOT of responses to this and wanted to bump it up to share the comments with you guys. You can probably skip to the comments if you read this site with any frequency. It’s really all about you, the readers, with this puppy. So read! And add!
Hello! Let’s have a little fun, since we know we are not the only ones who have gone down the Brazilian blowout road. As the bad press continues, we want to hear your Brazilian blowout stories:
1. Did you do it at home or in a salon?
2. Did your eyes hurt/nose bleed/hair smell funny? Or did nothing bad happen?
3. What was it called: keratin styling, old standby “Brazilian” or something else?
4. Did you do it again? (Do you still do it?) Did your hair get dry and weird two months later, as ours did?
For those of you who have not read the book or listened to us talk about this ad nauseam, a recap: We wrote the book because we went for Brazilian blowouts, had a sort of scary experience—much coughing, protective goggles, and hair that smelled like toxic chocolate for way, way too long—and decided we should investigate what was in it. We also noticed that after a few weeks, our hair looked like garbage, and it was a long time before it went back to normal.
But right after we did it? Boy were we excited. The pic of me up top is from right after the treatment: I look grumpy, but not because of my hair. That’s what my hair looked like without a blowdryer for a while, in the August humidity. Swoon! Except not really. That’s Alexandra’s hair about a month or so in—and the magic of the blowout was already beginning to reverse itself (you should see the pictures she took at two months).
Anyway, we want to hear your experiences. Please answer our questions in the comments section (or tell us a different story about it) and if, like us weirdos, you saved your post-Brazilian pics send them to us at nomoredirtylooks (at) gmail (dot) com.
Back in October Edith Zimmerman, the site’s founder, wrote a funny rant about her adventures with natural deodorant. (Like us, she finally discovered Lavanila, and was able to sweat in peace.) More recently we’ve been enjoying a series called Outdated Beauty Advice which chronicles the tales women were told from vintage beauty guides.
Among the creepy things we’ve learned from this column: Formaldehyde was once recommended as a deodorant (what can’t this stuff do?) and ammonia at bath time. Apparently ammonia’s “delightful effects can only be compared to a plunge in the surf.” Other crazy things women were told? “If you have been ten pounds overweight for the last ten years, you are officially obese,” and that “overweight women should never wear slacks.”
I’d love to talk about how far we’ve come… But between our formaldehyde hair treatments, our chemical peels and our vaginal facials, I’m not so sure. Hopefully one day young women will be shaking their heads at these ridiculous beauty rituals. Oh wait, hopefully that day is here.