Brazilian blowouts continue to receive more scrutiny and in fact the California attorney general filed a formal complaint today. Stacy Malkan with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry told us that "Canada has already pulled the products from salons here in the U.S., FDA has done nothing." She says it's an example of why we need to pass the Safe Cosmetics Act.
The below story was previously published on 10/21/10:
Much can be said about what women (and men) will do in the name of beauty, but in the case of the Brazilian blowout which has been big in the news lately that's not totally fair. Take Alexandra Spunt and I, who together went for this hair-sleekifying, "keratin" treatment two years ago, thinking we were doing something good for our hair.
It wasn't altogether wishful thinking it's what we were told. Keratin is in fact the protein in our hair, and so putting more of it into our hair must be good, right? Turns out, not so much.
When we discovered the magic ingredient in our Brazilian was formaldehyde and when our hair started looking a lot more drab we were compelled to write a book about it and about the other health- and beauty-unfriendly chemicals used in everyday personal care products. Since we wrote No More Dirty Looks, however, countless other keratin styling treatments have hit the market explicitly promising to be formaldehyde free.
As we learned last week, however, those claims were just that. Responding to complaints from hair stylists at a Portland salon who reported difficulty breathing, nose bleeds and eye irritation when using the product as directed, the Oregon Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology took the solution to the lab. Their findings startled many and resulted in a warning and an import ban from Health Canada.
We were skeptical about the formaldehyde-free claims to begin with, assuming that more often than not, formaldehyde was being replaced with one of its chemical cousins that may not sound as bad, but may be just as toxic. As it turns out, we were being too generous. The Oregon OSHA laboratory analyzed the sample using four different test methods. Formaldehyde was reported to be detected by each method at 10.6%, 6.3%, 10.6% and 10.4% of the product.
Why should we care? Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported on the health effects of formaldehyde exposure, quoting the California Department of Health toxicologist Michael J. DiBartolomeis, who was one of the experts we relied on for our book. He said that "short-term symptoms from breathing formaldehyde vapors include headache; watering, burning, irritated eyes; a severely irritated inner lining of the nose or a bloody nose; and restricted breathing, similar to an asthmatic attack. Longer-term exposure can cause reduced pulmonary function or lung damage and raises the risk of cancer."
Sounds like a high price for bad hair, no? The silver lining, in our opinion anyway, is that this will result in greater consumer awareness. Buyers, be aware.
Siobhan O'Connor and Alexandra Spunt are the authors of No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics. They blog daily at nomoredirtylooks.com, and weekly at GOOD.is. You can can also follow @nodirtylooks on Twitter and Facebook.
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