Brazilian Blowout Maker Agrees to Warn Consumers About Formaldehyde

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The maker of Brazilian Blowout, a popular line of hair-straightening treatments used in salons, has agreed to warn consumers and hairstylists that two of its products emit formaldehyde gas, California’s attorney general said on Monday.

The company also agreed to pay $600,000 in penalties and fines for failing to inform consumers that a chemical in its products can cause cancer. Formaldehyde — the stuff that’s also used in embalming fluid — is a known carcinogen. (It’s used in hair products because it helps bind keratin to hair, straightening it.)

The actions are part of a settlement between GIB, which makes Brazilian Blowout, and the state of California, which sued the company last November for violating five state laws, including deceptive advertising.

Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution and Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution were being sold as “formaldehyde free,” but both products release formaldehyde into the air when used according to the instructions.

Healthland reported in September:

Salon workers and customers using the hair-straightening solutions have suffered side effects like eye and throat irritation, headache, dizziness, burning sensations, breathing problems, nosebleeds, chest pain, vomiting and rash, according to the FDA. Formaldehyde is released when hair treated with Brazilian Blowout is heated with a blow dryer and then with a hot flat iron, as the product’s labeling recommends.

“California laws protect consumers and workers and give them fair notice about the health risks associated with the products they use,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement on Monday. “This settlement requires the company to disclose any hazard so that Californians can make informed choices.”

GIB will also supply salons with a pamphlet detailing safety precautions, the Associated Press reported. The company has already made the requisite labeling and advertising changes, and the products will continue to be available in California.

Brazilian Blowout products are available widely, however, and many salons across the U.S. use these treatments or other curl-taming solutions like it. In response to the settlement, Heather White, EWG’s general counsel noted: “Today’s action was directed only at the makers of Brazilian Blowout products sold in California, but our investigation found 16 companies include formaldehyde in their hair-smoothing products.”

And as Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), told Healthland contributor Bryan Walsh last year: “We surveyed 41 top salons and found that almost all of them are using hair-straightening treatments. We look across the industry, and the fact is if you’re using a Brazilian-style keratin treatment, it’s almost certainly releasing formaldehyde.”

For its part, GIB said in a statement, “We believe the settlement reached with Attorney General Harris represents a fair and equitable resolution. … We are pleased to have this matter behind us and are confident these new practices will provide certified stylists who use our products each day and their loyal customers clarity and confidence.”

But the larger question still remains, Why is a hair product containing formaldehyde on the market in the first place?