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Brazilian Keratin Treatment - A tangle of love, lies, and denial

Is a Solution for:
Dry or Brittle Hair, Limp Hair, Dull Hair
November 8, 2010 Reviewed by admin 7 Comments
Are you in denial about your cosmetic’s danger? A New York Times article recently reported on the risks of “hair relaxing.” Under a disturbing photo depicting two women equipped with respirators, the article goes on to describe the hidden dangers of the Brazilian Keratin Treatment (technically mislabeled “hair relaxing,” a process that uses caustic chemicals to change the texture of the hair). What is striking in the Times’ piece is not the health hazards of this hair treatment - which have been known for years - but the laissez-faire attitude among many of those involved.

With the controversy that erupted in 2007 regarding the Brazilian Keratin Treatment’s risks, a number of formulations free of formaldehyde became available. As it turns out, these so-called safe alternatives were too good to be true. The less potent versions proved to be less effective (as chronicled in this personal account), and the formaldehyde-free formulas came out not as clean as they claimed.

While some salon owners responded responsibly by banning the chemical-laden brands, others responded by retrofitting their salons with equipment to block out the noxious fumes and relegating the Brazilian process to a separate section. Meanwhile, clients have continued to shell out hundreds to subject their hair and scalp to toxins over and over again. The salons can be accused of not caring about their clients’ well-being, but how do enlightened clients justify abuse to their bodies?

It seems to be the nature of our society. Botox brings the possibility of the botulinum toxin traveling beyond the injection site and spreading throughout the body, but its surface benefits are irresistible to some. The same goes for all manners of potions and lotions we spread on our skin, seeking short-term results and ignoring the risks of suspect ingredients. Outside the realm of beauty, self-destructive behavior runs rampant. We know that cigarettes kill; yet some just can’t kick the habit. We know that junk food is bad or our bodies, but it tastes too good to resist.

The Brazilian Keratin Treatment is a highly lucrative procedure. Many salons aren’t going to ensure that their hair-straightening products are clear of harmful chemicals if it comes at the cost of their business. As the occupational health agency discovered in Oregon, manufacturers are not to be trusted despite good marketing to the contrary. If the hair-smoothing solution by Brazilian Blowout was found to contain significant amounts of formaldehyde, other lines touting “formaldehyde-free” formulas (i.e. Simply Smooth Keratin Treatment) might be tainted as well. It also remains to be seen whether formaldehyde derivatives (i.e. formalin) are safe.

On top of the damage done to a person’s own health from applying these sorts of products, just think of the environmental harm. Exposing corrosive chemicals to a scalp for long periods of time poisons the air we breathe, while rinsing them down the drain pollutes our planet’s water supply. Why do you think salon owners are investing in special ventilators and respirators for their clients? Whether their approach is to air out the hair-straightening process area or to quarantine it, the reason is the same: to escape the noxious effects of the chemical - odor, eye irritation, breathing problems, nosebleeds, and cancer.

Of course, the Brazilian Blowout manufacturer, salon workers, and paying clients are all complicit in leaking formaldehyde into the environment. But what about innocent bystanders - fellow clients surrounded by fumes in the salon, pedestrians walking past the salon’s exhaust vent, swimmers in the body of water that functions as a receptacle for the straightening solution rinsed out of hair? The impact is far greater than the Times' article implies.

Do you turn a blind eye to potentially harmful beauty treatments because you can’t live without them? When your health is at risk, ignorance is not bliss; it’s backward. In the case of formaldehyde-laced hair products, both customers getting their hair straightened and salon workers regularly handling the chemical as a means of income should be fully informed. All parties deserve to know the full ramifications of giving and receiving the treatment. And because the beauty industry is often fueled by self-denial, it behooves the manufacturers to produce safe cosmetics, and government agencies to enforce them.
  • January 27, 2011

    by deb

    i am going to learn to love my frizzy hair....temporarily and just as soon as I can afford to have ultherapy on my neck....i'm going to cut it about an inch long. :-)

  • November 24, 2010

    by Jen

    Daniel: Your sister should try her best to cleanse her system out of all that junks he inhaled. If there are any mountains or forests she could go hiking or biking. That pure air does wonders for one's health.

    Also tell her to look into vitamins and supplements that strengthen her immune system so her body can better defend itself of the harm she caused it.

    Lots of green tea will help, too. Even doctors that are pill-poppers and have little knowledge of nutrition recommend green tea to cancer patients and people with a lot of stress in their lives or with suppressed immune systems. There's just too many studies out there that prove how powerful green tea is to fight toxins and harmful chemicals we breathe. So not even doctors can ignore it's benefits.

  • November 16, 2010

    by marta

    Quick update: The CIR, the industry body has just said that it will discuss in December whether it should review formaldehyde in these products. If it does, there will be a new report on their safety next year.

  • November 13, 2010

    by Daniel

    My sister is a hair dresser and started doing these blow dry things and always for days after doing one had a sore throat and a bad chest . I watched her doing it and when the straighteners touched the hair it let off a woosh of steam like vapour that made everyones eyes water . In the Uk they can charge upto £300 for it !!! What a rip off considering a huge bottle of the stuff enough for a 100 plus treatments cost my sister £150. It's the money making side of the treatment that attracts salons toxic gas or no toxic gas !!! Who knows in 20 years time we may find that a massive groupl of hair dressers get really poorly with chest complaints or the big C !!! It could happen !! My sister has sent the product back now and is using a different system . Formaldehyde If u ask me should only be used the preserve dead things and hopefully not those of the hair dressers that use the products .

  • November 13, 2010

    by Jaysie

    I've read about the class action suit also. It stopped me in my tracks of looking into this option as a frizz remedy.

    Brandi - yep, that's a major indictment of formalin.

  • November 12, 2010

    by Brandi

    I actually took the class required by Simply Smooth Brazilian Keratin Treatment. The company claims one has to be certified to preform the their services. The instructor claimed that there was only formaline (spelling questionalbe on my part) in the product line, not Formaldehyde. She later contradicted herself by claiming that Formaline only turns to formaldehyde when heated making in a gas. Well, you have to "cure" the product into the hair shaft with a flat iron heated to about 400 degrees, which, in turn, evaporates the excess product on the hair. Doesn't that make the heated gases the harmful formaldehyde?

  • November 9, 2010

    by marta

    I just read that a class action has been filed against Brazilian Blowout by Health Canada.

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