Expressing concern that the combination of formaldehyde and heat in hair-straighteners like Brazilian Blowouts "may not be safe" even in salons with ventilation, the Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel has voted to label use of these products "unsafe."
"Based on the unique circumstance of formaldehyde/methylene glycol use in hair smoothing products intended to be heated, the likely production of substantial amounts of formaldehyde gas, and the absence of any assurance that adequate ventilation could/would be available, the Expert Panel determined such use of formaldehyde and methylene glycol to be unsafe," the panel writes.
The industry board's decisions are non-binding, but represent the latest in a long list of warnings about the products. Formaldehyde was recently declared a known carcinogen by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recently joined several states in warning salon workers about the dangers of keratin hair straightening treatments. Members of Congress have called for an investigation. The California Attorney General has filed a formal complaint against the maker of Brazilian Blowout-brand hair straighteners. And watchdogs like the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have been raising alarms for months. A Good Housekeeping Research Institute investigation, among others, found worrying levels of formaldehyde even in products labeled formaldehyde-free. (See details of the investigation in the video below.)
The industry's Cosmetics Ingredient Review Panel, in the same decision, deemed current uses of formaldehyde (and mehtylene glycol, a related chemical) in skin treatments as "safe," and cited insufficient data for assessing the safety of the chemicals in nail hardening products.
The Environmental Working Group accuses the industry's Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel of being inadequate to police the industry. It and other watchdogs have long called for more government regulation of ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 was recently introduced in Congress, addressing those longstanding concerns, but it is unclear when or if it will come up for a vote in either house.
Environmental Working Group has published a guide to keratin hair straighteners, including some safer alternatives, so consumers can identify and steer clear of those products known to contain formaldehyde.
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