Hair treatment contains formaldehyde
By Melissa Chavez
Beauty came with a cost, according to recent findings confirming that the popular Brazilian Blowout hair treatment contains high doses of the chemical formaldehyde.
Hundreds of samples of the product, which salon workers must become certified to use, were confiscated by OSHA officials from dozens of salons across the state for testing. Specific salons were also selected to undergo an air quality test, where workers performed the treatment while officials gathered air samples to see what exposure to formaldehyde levels occurred.
Though OSHA released its final findings confirming the unsafe chemical in the hair treatment on Friday, it had reported initial concerns in September.
Anette Lucius Halek, a manager at Toni & Guy in Lloyd Center, said that after seeing a local TV report on the product, the salon emailed their corporate headquarters.
“Within days, they made the call to take it out of every (Toni & Guy) salon across the country,” she said. “It was actually scary.”
Formaldehyde in any dose can cause immediate irritation of eyes, skin, nose and upper respiratory tract, cough, chest pain, and asthma-like reactions of shortness of breath and wheezing. If a product used in a workplace contains more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde, OSHA requires the manufacturer to list it. Findings for Brazilian Blowout showed that multiple samples contained between 6.3 percent and 10.6 percent of the chemical.
Halek said one client did have a reaction to the treatment.
Over the past few weeks, salon owners across Portland have been scrambling to reassure customers and employees about the safety of the popular service, while trying to find out how a product labeled “formaldehyde-free” could contain it.
“My sample came back from the lab containing 8.5 percent formaldehyde,” said Escapade in Hollywood owner Doreen Clark. At her Hollywood neighborhood salon, she and two other stylists were certified in the treatment. Typically costing $250, the 2-hour Brazilian Blowout gained national attention after celebrities Halle Berry, Lindsay Lohan, and Nicole Richie endorsed it. The treatment turned “really curly, coarse, fuzzy, or thick hair” a straight, super shiny appearance, said Clark.
“The Brazilian Blowout was probably more popular than any other service I’ve offered in here,” she said. “You could run around in the rain and it would stay straight. You wouldn’t have to even comb it.”
Though Clark loves the results, and even used the treatment on her own hair, she has had to turn away clients recently because of the findings.
“I’ve had several say ‘I don’t care, I want it.’ We have awesome clients. But I don’t care. I’d rather lose them than kill them,” Clark said. “I can’t ethically keep doing it. Morally, I can’t keep using it.”
Despite the confirmed hazardous findings, salons could still offer the treatment.
“We don’t actually ban products,” said Melanie Mesaros, a spokesperson with the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, which operates under a state-plan agreement with federal OSHA. “If you do use products with hazards, then you have to take measures to protect workers.”