Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dangerous Beauty: Brazilian Blowouts and Formaldehyde

Fact: Brazilian Blowouts actually have the same concentrations ( 8 - 10%) of formaldehyde that embalmers use. A hair product with at least some formaldehyde and a flat iron at 450 degrees (which is also hot enough to create steam, which is breathed in) does gorgeous things to your hair for about three months: hello shine, goodbye frizz. I loved it. Very disconcerting to read the Brazilian Blowout  silly promise to sue OSHA for something I'm not sure they've thought up yet, promising to disburse the award (ahem) to the stylists who used the product (I would not be surprised to discover that there are legions of product liability lawyers gathering to begin a class action suit); the company has refused to acknowledge the formaldehyde with ever-more ridiculous reasoning.

It's banned in Europe but not here. Some salons are doing it after hours so that other stylists and clients aren't affected, a few are offering air filtration systems in special rooms and other stylists are scouring the world of hair care for safer alternatives.

The major candidates are the Coppola System, Keragreen, Kerasure and Global Keratin. My last Brazilian was in July and with the beautiful beach mist my hair has reverted to puffery, frizz and all that sleek shine was gone; brillo hair. All my googling convinced me of the importance of sulfate-free shampoos and the longer you can get away without shampooing, the better (especially to stop the after coloring fade). There was no clear best choice to replace the Brazilian.

I almost went with the Kerasure, which claims to be organic (I think it uses a 3% permanent solution to open the hair shaft; not sure, conflicting information).Kerasure and Keragreen have no formaldehyde but the ironed in product must stay in your hair for up to four days; very unappealing to me.

Global Keratin comes in three formulas - a wee bit of formaldehyde, 2% and then 4% for very course curly hair. I just want to kill the frizz and a wee bit, admitted to, was acceptable (formaldehyde is even used for dry-cleaning, it's everywhere). It lasts up to five months with a two day wait before you can shampoo. The application is very similar to the Brazilian;  clarifying shampoo, brushing the solution on, blowdrying it and then ironing (450 degrees) which leaves your hair shiny and sleek although plastered to your head. No unpleasant odor, no eyes burning; mildly uncomfortable leaning my head back during the ironing.

 I used the Brazilian Blowout Shampoo after the required forty-eight hours to shampoo twice, catching a faint whiff of the chemicals going down the drain. A ton of conditioner which did not leave my hair soft (worry, worry); four squirts of MorrocanOil cream and brushing (Aveeda paddle brush which is excellent for course or curly hair) before blowing it dry. The end result was thick and soft hair with minimal frizz and movie star shine.

There was no odor during the two days and maybe I imagined a chemical smell as I washed my hair. While it's advised to do color before the treatment, color can safely be done after a week without changing the results (you couldn't color after a Brazilian). The charge (Beverly Hills salon) was 150.00 plus a tip.


  1. Good info. I have to ask my hairstylist which formula she used last. Didn't smell at all. Much less smelly than a curly perm too.

  2. I've been doing coconut oil treatments for my hair to infuse it with moisture and get rid of the frizz, 100% natural and really cheap.


  3. I want to know about different types of wigs of Remy lace and hair pieces . I hope your blog is very helpful for me in this purpose. Your close cooperation will remain for ever, thanks.
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  4. You're brave. I always wait a bit to try stuff, cuz something always ends up coming out it in the end (dangerous to your health). The results would be nice tho!

  5. You're right, Cupcake. I was at a fashion event Saturday and Paul Mitchell was there explaining the completely natural Awapuhi Ginger treatment that does this too but for about four weeks.

  6. See the latest info regarding Brazilian Blowout controversy here. Hint: it includes scientific evidence, a lawsuit and a full list of ingredients.

  7. Such great information here! I love it. Though I am sure the movie star shine is a guarantee the small percentage of formaldehyde is enough to scare me!

    Haha. I laughed at your "brillo hair" comment.


  8. Here's the actual OSHA report ...

    It's deceitful to parse this as Brazilian Blowout is now seizing on the quantified air quality examination which indicates that the particles after ONE treatment are not at unsafe levels but OSHA goes on to note that the effect of formaldehyde poisoning is cumulative and stylists exposure far greater than an individual test.

    There is no question as to the mislabeling - the bottles contain formaldehyde at dangerous levels, up to 12%.

    I'm not a chemist but it's clear to me that Brazilian Blowout is like a bad boyfriend that just happens to be a liar.




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