Stylists & Stylish Beware: The Toxic Truth About Brazilian Blowouts

Posted on 02. May, 2011 by in Products

By Christopher Bay

For many, the Brazilian Blowout is a semi-permanent hair straightening ritual that allows for convenient, fashionable “hair-apy” without breaking the bank. But just as with many other high-tech, convenient innovations, there is a toxic catch.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert earlier this month warning that popular hair straightening products such as “Brazilian Blowout” can cause serious health problems.  Although the company has claimed that their products are free of toxic chemicals, government audits have indicated the presence of formaldehyde, a volatile organic compound (VOC) and human carcinogen, in Brazilian Blowout  and a variety of other products that are packaged as “formaldehyde-free”.   Methylene Glycol has been touted by some manufacturers as a healthy alternative to formaldehyde. According to the American Chemistry Council and Personal Care Products Council, this “miracle” ingredient is nothing more than formaldehyde mixed with water.

So what’s the problem with a little formaldehyde in the air and on your hair?

Well, with enough exposure, formaldehyde has been credibly linked to cancer of the nose and throat and leukemia by the National Academy of Sciences and the US Environmental Protection Agency. New salon tests by OSHA have detected formaldehyde vapor levels exceeding federal standards. Tests by state health agencies and companies have detected significant vapor levels in salons using Brazilian Blowout, Cadiveu and Trichovedic hair straighteners.

“This is an outrageous situation that illustrates the failure of our ‘trust the companies’ regulatory system,” noted Stacy Malkan, co-founder of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and author of the book, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry”. “Brazilian Blowout has been falsely advertised as formaldehyde free and yet it is exposing people to dangerously high levels of formaldehyde. Canada pulled these products off the shelves six months ago but they are still being used in salons across America.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) underwent a sizable investigation of chemical hair straightening treatments, turning up numerous complaints of hair loss, blisters, burning eyes, noses and throats, headaches and vomiting in people who had been given or had applied Brazilian-style straightening treatments.

“These dangerous products need to be pulled off the market, as they have in Canada and elsewhere,” said Alexandra Gorman Scranton, director of science and research at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “Workers in salons across America are getting exposed to potentially unsafe levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde every day”.

While state agencies and NGOs are campaigning to increase product regulations, we as smart and informed consumers and practitioners can be an important part of the solution by simply saying no to “The Blowout”. Convenient straightening today is not worth chemo tomorrow.


To learn more about the current risks associated with the Brazilian Blowout, check out these additional links:

Environmental Working Group:

US-EPA Intergrated Risks Information System:

OSHA Release:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:

The Story of Stuff Project:


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One Response to “Stylists & Stylish Beware: The Toxic Truth About Brazilian Blowouts”

  1. habpm

    03. Jun, 2013

    Now this is scary. I know a lot of women who spend a lot of money for this treatment, not know that it has carcinogenic substances. Are all Brazilian Blowout products unsafe or do they have a particular brand or line which should be avoided?  Anyway, please visit my site for more beauty products. Women would love this.

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