The Brazilian Keratin Treatment: Is it Safe?

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By now you've no doubt heard women sing the praises of the Brazilian keratin treatment, aka the Brazilian Blowout. It leaves hair sleek and without need of a blowout for up to 12 weeks after treatment, with proper maintenance. But recent testing and the reactions of salon-goers and stylists seriously questions whether this treatment is actually as safe as it claims to be!

Here's what we know:

Oregon Health & Science University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET) tested the brand Brazilian Blowout's Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, which is labeled 'formaldehyde free.'  Why did they conduct the test?

The laboratory analysis update says, "Since September 16, 2010, CROET has been contacted by a number of stylists expressing concern about health effects they report having experienced while using both of the hair formulations."

These health effects include eye irritation, difficulty breathing and nosebleeds.

The first test result showed 4.85% formaldehyde in the product, as well as methanol, ethanol, beta hydroxyl ethyl methacrylate, and hexadecanol. Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen and mutagen and can cause severe irritation.

A second sample sample, analyzed with four different methods of testing, showed formaldehyde levels of 10.6%, 6.3%, 10.6% and 10.4% in this product.

Now, the test was done on a particular product from the Brazilian Blowout brand. There are other Brazilian keratin treatment brands out there. But my suspicion is that all of them use the same active ingredients and come with the toxic exposure risks.

I'd say that at this point the 'formaldehyde-free' label just can't be trusted. And the serious allergic reactions of stylists and customers is enough evidence for me that the "Super Nutrient Complex" in the product, as well as the " essential amino acids" described by the company aren't really what is straightening and smoothing your hair!

UPDATE: On Thursday October 8, Health Canada, the Canadian federal health department, asked hair salons to stop using the Brazilian Blowout Solution immediately. They also advised customers who suffered adverse effects from the product to contact their doctors.

From the Health Canada advisory:

"Testing conducted by Health Canada found that the Brazilian Blowout Solution contains 12% formaldehyde.  Formaldehyde is permitted in cosmetics at less than 0.2% when used as a preservative.  Formaldehyde is a known irritant, sensitizer, and is linked to cancer in humans when inhaled chronically over a long period of time.  Health Canada believes that the reactions are being caused by formaldehyde becoming aerosolized during the blow drying and flat ironing stages of the treatment. Any procedure containing formaldehyde above the allowable limits places clients and stylists at increased risk."