FROM THE FRONT | The dirty secret of the Brazilian Blowout


IT SEEMS the business of straightening unruly follicles a la Brasileira is coming clean about its dirty little secret. The formaldehyde-free Brazilian Blowout? Possibly not as free from the cancer-causing chemical as you've been led to believe.


A month ago, while chatting with the creative director of Tela salons during Fashion's Night Out, Nadine Jolie, said creative director and I had a hushed discussion about the Brazilian Blowout's dirty little secret. Actually, it was more like Jolie and the creative director had a discussion about it and I listened intently, having been cursed with stick-straight hair (read: FLAT, FINE and THIN... grass is not always greener, ladies. Naturally straight hair is often lifeless too), I've never ever given straightening treatments a first thought, let alone a second. In fact, I generally give them a wide berth all together, fearing that even physical closeness to shelves of products like John Frieda's Frizz Ease will further flatten hair that seems to cling to my scalp for dear life.


Jolie wrote about the possible formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout a couple weeks ago (released into the air during the treatment, to be inhaled by customer and stylist alike) after an independent test in Oregon found – after a stylist administering the treatment complained of adverse reactions – that the formaldehyde-free treatments actually contained – gasp – upwards of 10% formaldehyde!


Jolie further points out that those claiming to be Keratin treatments are betting on the ignorance of the customer? Because, as she points out, “Keratin does not straighten hair; it’s a fortifying protein which can make the hair look shinier, but will in no way produce the dramatic, very long-lasting straightening and sleekifying results common to the Brazilian. Keratin, in fact, requires a reactive agent to bond to the hair…like formaldehyde.” Dr. Jessica Wu says the same thing with regards to Keratin's lack of straightening power in an article about the pros and cons of the treatment. Which brings me to yet another claim that needs debunking. Such blowouts cannot (contrary to what the company claims) restore your hair to health. By their very nature they're weakening the protein structure so that strands can be trained into a different shape (e.g. straight instead of curly). Last time I checked, making something weaker – other than my evening cocktail – was not health restoring.


Brazilian Blowout has issued two releases standing behind their products. But we wonder if, like Jolie touches on, it's a matter of verbiage? For example, their releases stand behind their products as being formaldehyde (in name) free but they don't claim that they are free from formaldehyde derivatives or formaldehyde in varying states (which take on different names). Sort of sounds like carefully crafted legalisse, doesn't it?


Why don't you want formaldehyde in your hair treatments? Let's make a list, shall we? It might be naturally occurring (and in everything from smog to facial tissues) but that still doesn't make this aldehyde something you want in your haircare:

  • Known (key word here) carcinogen in humans as per the EPA and WHO

  • Associated with sinus and throat cancers and possibly Leukemia

  • Can make asthma worse

  • Irritates eyes, skin, nose and throat

  • Because there are few to to no regulations on ingredients in or claims for many cosmetic products

  • Because OSHA suggests using goggles and even respirators if you deal with more than .1% Formaldehyde in the workplace

And, really, you won't believe it, but all of us naturally straight-haired girls would give anything -- particularly our limp locks -- to have your voluminous, sexy curls.

Image taken from Beauty Blitz.

Originally written by Jessica Teas for the Smarter Beauty Blog. Text has been altered.