Hair Scare: FDA Issues Warning Against Brazilian Blowouts

The quest for shiny, straight hair has taken on a dangerous curl with the FDA’s first official warning against the Brazilian Blowout treatment. Not only may the brand be putting consumers in harm’s way but they may also be indulging in false advertising.

The Brazilian Blowout is a hair-straightening treatment that was first introduced in Brazil in 2005. It is a method of temporarily straightening hair using a mixture of keratin and other chemicals with a flat iron. In North America and Europe it is available in several brands and the process often contains varying levels of formaldehyde. The EPA classifies formaldehyde as a carcinogen. It is not only harmful to the customers who opt for the treatment but it also affects the stylists.

Formaldehyde is easily absorbed by the body when inhaled, ingested, or comes into contact with the skin and eyes. Exposure to formaldehyde can lead to death, blindness, eye and skin irritation or burns, respiratory problems, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and cancer. It is also known to cause birth defects. When used in the Brazilian Blowout, where it gets aerosolized, it facilitates easy inhalation into the lungs and contact with skin.

In April, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an alert to hair salon owners and employees about formaldehyde exposure. Time reports that “the FDA has finally sent a warning letter to the makers of Brazilian Blowout. Now the FDA has sent a warning letter to the makers of Brazilian Blowout confirming that the product is “adulterated” with the liquid form of formaldehyde (methylene glycol), “which, under the conditions of use prescribed in the labeling,” releases dangerous levels of the chemical into the air to be inhaled.”

The letter also states that the treatment is “misbranded” because the product’s label falsely declares that it contains “No Formaldehyde” or that it is “Formaldehyde Free.” Through independent tests, the FDA found that the formulation contains about 8.7% – 10.4% formaldehyde which is far higher than the safe limit of 0.2%.

The makers of the Brazilian Blowout, GIB LLC, continue to maintain that their products are safe. However they have refused to release their product’s ingredient list, as required by law. Despite providing no evidence to support their “safe” claims, Brazilian Blowout continues to aggressively market their products.

GIB LLC now has 15 days to respond to the warning letter and correct violations including selling an adulterated cosmetic and misbranding. Lack of appropriate action could result in seizure and injunction. The treatment has already been banned in Canada and it is quite possible that it will be no longer be offered in America, at least under the same formulation and/or brand name.

The beauty industry is by and large unregulated. It is therefore a step in the right direction for the FDA to come down hard on the Brazilian Blowout because it will soon put a spot-light in other cosmetic products that claim to be “100% safe.”

Image Credit: Brazilian Blowout

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also