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.
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.
Concern about the Brazilian blowout has reached the Attorney General’s office in the state of California, which just today registered a formal complaint in the courts about it.
We were curled up last night with the new issue of Glamour and a cup of tea when we came across a reader-submitted questions page. Should I, the reader asked, do an at-home Brazilian blowout? Or is this something best left to the pros?
We were so excited! Here was a great opportunity for a major women’s magazine that we read every month (though, really, we read them all) to say something meaningful and instructive about the dangers of this sometimes-formaldehyde-laced hair treatment.
Finally, we thought, the issue has gone mainstream, and now, even the majors have been compelled by the incontrovertible evidence that the Brazilian, even when it’s labeled formaldehyde-free, can contain dangerous amounts of a dangerous chemical.
That’s not what the article said. Instead, the expert said yes, in most cases, hair straightening treatments are best left to the pros (which is true, but there was no mention of maybe not doing it at all, despite the squawking headlines all over town about how potentially dangerous it is). They went on to say that if price or convenience was a concern to try some at-home blow-dry kits instead. Specifically one by Garnier.
Clearly, Glamour really, really likes this one in particular. They wrote about it in their September print issue, too.
Now, granted, this is not the same thing as a Brazilian blowout, and from the ingredients list we just read, it is formaldehyde-free. Yes, there may be a lesson to be learned from the recent events in Oregon, and we know that labels don’t always tell the truth. But let’s assume this label is telling the truth, because we have absolutely no reason to suppose it isn’t. There are still a half-dozen or more chemicals in this at-home treatment that we would never go near, and don’t think you—or Glamour’s readers and editors—should either.
Now ethics and chemicals aside, there’s one more problem: We admit that neither of us has tried this product but we’ve read enough beauty-blog comment sections to know that a lot of women are very disappointed with the results. One of our own readers even sent us a note a while back to say it didn’t deliver—making it hard for us to believe that this is really the be-all end-all of smooth hair.
Here’s to doing a better job next time.
Note: We originally linked to some ad-editorial stuff on Glam.com accidentally mistaking it for Glamour. Stupid us, seriously. We apologize. But we stand by everything else we said.
There was an interesting article this morning on MSNBC about how some women just don’t care about formaldehyde if they can get frizz-free hair. From the piece:
“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.”
One thing we’ve tried to make abundantly clear is that if you know what’s in your products, and you want to go ahead and use them anyways because you like the cosmetic result, we think that’s fine. What is tricky about the Brazilian blowout, though, is that even if somene is cool with some formaldehyde, the workers are the ones being exposed to those fumes on a daily basis—to say nothing of the other clients in the salon at the time, who didn’t sign up for the BB.
Now if Brazilian blowouts were always done in glass boxes, like the weird smoking room at the airport, and everyone who walked in knew what they were signing up for—well, hey, that would be a different story.
What’s your take?