Straightening Your Hair Could Send You Straight to the Hospital

Have hard to tame, curly locks? Wake up looking like you stuck your finger in the electric socket?

Some people, after learning humidity and their hair doesn’t mix, turned to Salons for help with their hard to do do’s.

Subsequently, many of these patrons began a chemical romance with a phenomenon known as the Brazilian Blowout.

The Brazilian Blowout keratin-based semi-permanent hair treatment looks simple enough – a gel like mixture is painted onto the hair.

Then twenty minutes later after a blow out, some flat ironing and you’ve coughed up upwards of $250, former frizz-balls are rewarded with silky smooth tresses worthy of a Pantene commercial.

So what’s the problem?

Oh that’s right, a little ingredient called Formaldehyde.

This nostril burning, cancer causing chemical is also the treatment’s active ingredient.

Formaldehyde is a colourless, strong-smelling gas that is commonly used in bonding plywood and embalming bodies for funerals.

It is a highly toxic substance.

And countless Australians may have been unknowingly exposed to this damaging chemical during their visit to the hairdresser.

Haircare Australia, a company that provides products to more than 5500 hairdressers across the country, has recalled 158 bottles of ‘Brazilian Blowout’ after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) discovered its high formaldehyde content.

So how high are we talking here?

More than 50 times the safe level of formaldehyde was found in the hair-straightening product.

Although Brazilian Blowout was advertised and promoted as “formaldehyde-free”, independent testing revealed it was up to 10% formaldehyde.

How can they get away with this?

Loop holes, misleading labels and hidden safety information have a bit to do with it.

For instance, products may contain a small amount of formaldehyde and still legally be labelled ‘formaldehyde free”.

Companies can also get really sneaky and list other chemical names on the label that are all essentially formaldehyde. These include methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform or CAS Number 50-00-0.

Consumers and salon workers often don’t realise that their products actually contain formaldehyde that is dissolved and chemically reacted in water and other ingredients.

That is not until their eyes start burning and their hair falls out.

The infamous Brazilian Blowout has also gone from hugely popular to hugely controversial in the US due to reports of potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde and a hazard alert issued by the US Department of Labor.

In a letter from US Congress to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), members asked the agency to issue a voluntary recall for these products and pointed out that formaldehyde-based straightening treatments have already been banned in six countries.

The letter states: “It is clear that the FDA needs to take decisive action. An investigation by the Environmental Working Group revealed that FDA has received 47 complaints from salon workers and clients who experienced adverse reactions and injuries (including hair loss, blisters, burning eyes, noses and throats, headaches and vomiting) as a result of giving or receiving hair straightening treatments.”

In Australia, ACCC documents revealed that the commission was concerned due to “a substantial degree of scientific evidence that formaldehyde can be a dangerous substance, can be toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic, and when inhaled can cause headaches, a burning sensation in the throat and difficulty when breathing”.

ACCC finally issued this recall after recalls of seven other hair-straightening products over the last two years in Australia due to excessive formaldehyde.

Unfortunately this may be too little too late for some consumers, like Helen Brown, 51 year old, from Victoria, Australia.

Ms Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, thirteen months after having her hair straightened with a product that has since been recalled due to it’s high formaldehyde content.

Ms Brown told her story to The Age last week, and said that after receiving the treatment that smelt like “burnt flesh” she lost half of her hair over several months.

Then this year she was was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Although it is difficult to prove that formaldehyde exposure was the direct cause of her cancer, Ms Brown fears this is the case.

“I haven’t got any family history of cancer or anything, so you have to wonder, don’t you?”


Emed's Comment

According to WWD (the authority for breaking news, comprehensive business coverage and trends in the worlds of fashion, beauty and retail), hair-smoothing treatments represent “hundreds of millions of dollars, if not 1 billion” in revenue per year for salons that offer them.

No wonder Mike Brady, the CEO of Brazilian Blowout, told the Wall Street Journal that Brazilian Blowout is “a perfectly safe product that gives people the hair of a lifetime and generates money for the economy”.

What a joke.

The fact that the beauty industry is knowingly performing a service that can be devastating for your health is bad enough – but misleading consumers with formaldehyde pseudonyms and “formaldehyde-free” lies on the label is deadset disgraceful.

We all know that humans today carry more toxins in our bodies than our ancestors did.

Pesticides, heavy metals and a dizzying array of other chemicals are used in our water, food, meat, medications and household goods and have many ways of seeping into our organs.

So where do we draw the line?

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says that there are over 10,000 different chemicals used in cosmetics and only 10-15 per cent of them have been tested for safety.

Cosmetic companies typically use “trade secret” screens to keep their ingredients under wraps.

And then of course, the consumers’ health becomes collateral damage.

Beauty is pain alright.

But is it what we really want?

Many people swear by the formaldehyde treatment, and although the recent complaints and recalls have lead to a decline in sales, the infamous Brazilian Blowout still has fans as well as foes.

Not that we should be surprised.

This is not the first time people have jeopardised their health in the name of beauty.

Throughout history, men and women from various cultures have slathered on and adorned themselves with all sort of fashionable, harmful substances.


Doesn't Queen Elizabeth look simply resplendent in her white, lead-based make-up?


I wonder why her hair is falling out in clumps…




What Else Can I Do?

Fight the toxic onslaught with an army of antioxidants!

Antioxidants can help repair the damage done by harmful chemicals and toxic substances.

Emed Recommends:

Cell Logic GliSODin – one of the most powerful antioxidants, it contains the body's natural first line of defence against damaging free radicals.


Use natural hair care where possible and always read the label!

As we now know, companies can claim that their product is 'All Natural' or even 'Formaldehyde-Free' and then on closer inspection we find the complete opposite is true.

Your best bet is to always read the label and do your homework – your health will thank you.

Emed Recommends:

Emed's Best Skin and Hair Care Products – All Al'chemy products are free from sulfates, ethoxylates, paragons, propylene glycol, petrochemical cleansers, silicones, phthalates, DEA and artificial colours.



Did You Know?

It is thought that a mortician in Brazil discovered the original hair straightening formaldehyde treatment when he noticed that the embalming fluid he was using was straightening the hair of the corpses.

Now that's dead straight hair.