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Hair Straightening Products Could Release Formaldehyde

Elizabeth Renter
by
April 12th, 2011
Updated 06/30/2013 at 11:37 pm
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hair straight 263x164 Hair Straightening Products Could Release FormaldehydeWhile natural beauty is free for everyone, it’s true that salon-made beauty comes at a price. And while it’s true a visit to the salon can put a dent in your savings, it can also cause significant harm if you aren’t aware of the products your stylist is using. According to recent warnings, hair straightening and smoothing systems like Brazilian Blowout use formaldehyde, which can cause illness and even cancer.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) became aware of the potential problem when salon workers began complaining of their air quality. Subsequent analyses by the agency found levels of formaldehyde that exceeded national health standards. And worst of all—the products often weren’t labeled as containing the gas or were even labeled “formaldehyde free”.

Formaldehyde occurs naturally in very small amounts. But the levels used in Brazilian Blowout, for instance, are far above the amount found in nature. Exposure can cause nose and eye irritation as well as skin and lung reactions. But formaldehyde is also linked to cancers of the nose and lungs.

Canada, after learning of the inclusion of the strong-smelling chemical, pulled Brazilian Blowout from salon shelves. A few states have issued warnings against such hair smoothing treatments. In California, the Attorney General filed an injunction requiring the labeling of the chemical. In that injunction, the AG said such hair smoothing products exceeded safe levels by more than eight.

Some of the first reports of adverse reactions came to OSHA from the state of Oregon. There they found a stylist who was having nosebleeds, eye irritation, and difficulty breathing when using a product that was actually labeled “formaldehyde free”. They subsequently tested numerous different hair straightening products. In addition to Brazilian Blowout, other products containing the chemical include: Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy, Marcia Teixeira, and Brasil Cacau Cadiveu. (For a complete list, check the official OSHA website).

Formaldehyde isn’t limited to hair smoothing products—it can be found in wood composite furniture, building materials, rugs, textiles, personal care products, clothing, car exhaust, cigarette smoking, and more. Purchasing products that are truly formaldehyde free can reduce your exposure, but so can:

  • Frequently airing out your home
  • Not smoking indoors
  • Wash new clothing before wearing it
  • Wear a mask and good ventilation when sanding furniture
  • Don’t mix household cleansers
  • Be cautious of personal care items to ensure they are formaldehyde free (hair smoothers and nail polish are frequent offenders)

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