FDA: Brazilian Blowout Hair Straightener Is Dangerous

Agency Warns That Product Has Too Much Formaldehyde

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 7, 2011 -- The FDA has warned the Brazilian Blowout hair care company that its hair straightening products contain "dangerously high levels" of formaldehyde. It ordered the firm to reduce levels of the liquid chemical or face removal of the items from the marketplace.

The FDA says in a news release that Brazilian Blowout products are "adulterated" and misbranded, containing misleading labels and advertising that falsely claim the products are formaldehyde-free.

The FDA told the company it has until Sept. 12 to comply with the agency's directive.

It described Brazilian Blowout as a "notorious hair straightening products company" and said it found levels of the liquid form of formaldehyde ranging from 8.7% to 10.4%.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires an occupational hazard alert at levels higher than 0.1%, the FDA says.

Mike Brady, chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based company, tells WebMD that its products contain "a separate substance from formaldehyde" and are safe. He says "the hair smoothing category is extremely popular" around the country and that the company's products meet OSHA standards and can still be used.

But the FDA in its statement disagrees that the company's products are safe or that anything other than formaldehyde is used.

"Formaldehyde, commonly found in a number of 'Brazilian style' keratin-based hair straighteners, is extremely dangerous and a known carcinogen," the FDA says.

It says salon workers and consumers have reported a number of injuries to the FDA due to use of the products, including eye and nervous system disorders, respiratory tract problems, chest pain, vomiting, and rash.

Risks for Hair Stylists

Erin Switalski, executive director of Women's Voices for the Earth, thanked the FDA "for issuing this highly anticipated warning" and said stylists "need to know about the dangers of using this toxic product on a day-to-day basis."

Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, says in the FDA's news release that Brazilian Blowout "can no longer lie to the public about their contents and continue to claim their product to be safe."

Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, and Germany have banned Brazilian Blowout and similar products.

Earlier this year the National Academy of Sciences released a report on formaldehyde, confirming the determination of the Environmental Protection Agency that "formaldehyde causes cancer in humans."

"If consumers have been wondering why they've still been able to get Brazilian Blowouts despite so much troubling news, the answer is because our regulatory system is broken," Anuja Mendiratta of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative says in the FDA statement. "Laws that are supposed to protect consumers and workers simply aren't enough. Even when a product has clearly been shown to poison people, the FDA has little authority to take immediate meaningful action in the case of cosmetics."

The statement says a new law under consideration in Congress would set safety standards for chemicals used in personal care and salon products and phase out formaldehyde and other toxic ingredients.

Brazilian blowout says on its web site it was working with the FDA "to clear up misinformation" about its products and claims it "complies with both state and federal guidelines."


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SOURCES: News release, FDA.News release, Brazilian Blowouts.Mike Brady, chief executive officer, Brazilian Blowouts.Erin Switalski, executive director, Women's Voices for the Earth. ©2011 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.