Brazilian hair straightening

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Brazilian hair straightening (also called Breezilian straightening, Brazilian Keratin Treatment, BKT, Brazilian Blowout, Escova Progressiva, Keratin Cure) are a semi-permanent hair straightening method done by temporarily sealing a liquid keratin and a preservative solution into the hair with a hair iron. Some versions of these treatments with an excessive amount of formaldehyde have been banned in several countries including Canada[1] and the European Union.[2] It is performed in the United States,[3] though there are regulations and have been controversies regarding the treatment.


Brazilian hair straightening treatments eliminate frizz, straighten the hair and last about three months.[citation needed] They cost about $150–$600 depending on the hair length. These keratin-based treatments are performed on all types of chemically-treated (bleached, hi-lights, coloured, permed, relaxed or previously straightened) and virgin hair. The technique of the application is similar to the Japanese Yuko System in the way that heated flat irons are used to close the product into the hair cuticle.[citation needed]

These treatments aim to straighten curls and waves and to reduce frizz. The treatments do guarantee completely straight hair if done correctly, with 85 to 100 percent of the curl gone depending on the original hair texture. Treatments last around 10–12 weeks and repeating the treatment every few months will allow for treatment of new growth. Depending on the treatment used, downtime after it is performed ranges from no-wait to a 72-hour period in which the recipient cannot wash or wet the hair, exercise, tuck the hair behind the ears, or pin it up with any hair clip, pony tail holder or headband, as doing so may compromise the result of the treatment.[citation needed]

It is known in the European Union as Alisado brasileiro, which has increased its popularity over the last four years, bringing up more beauty salons practicing this technique which has a price up to €400 a session. It is also confused or mistaken for keratina, another hair treatment.[citation needed]

Long-term effects on hair[edit]

Although the Brazilian hair straightening method does leave the hair with an overall straighter and smoother appearance, treatments must be done consistently in order to maintain the desired look. If treatments were to be discontinued, the hair would begin to have a dry, damaged, and brittle texture. Returning to original hair wave patterns would be possible, as long as the treated hair is grown out or most of it is cut.[citation needed]

Occupational safety and health hazard alert[edit]

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert[4] and created an informational site[5] in response to an investigation into complaints from stylists and hair salon owners about exposure to formaldehyde while using hair smoothing products such as Brazilian Blowout (Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, Professional Brazilian Blowout Solution), Brasil Cacau Cadiveu, Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy (Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment, Express Blow Out, Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment Blonde), and Marcia Teixeira (Advanced Brazilian Keratin Treatment, Extreme De-Frizzing Treatment). OSHA conducted air sampling at multiple salons and found formaldehyde in the air when stylists were using hair smoothing products. Some of these products were labeled "formaldehyde free" or did not list formaldehyde on the product label or in the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). In most cases, where the label did not state that the product had formaldehyde in it, OSHA found that hair salon owners using those products did not know that hair smoothing products contain or could expose workers to formaldehyde because manufacturers, importers, and distributors did not include the correct hazard warnings on the product’s label or MSDS.

During Federal OSHA investigations, air tests showed formaldehyde at levels above OSHA's limits in salons using Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, labeled "formaldehyde free," and Brasil Cacau Cadiveu. Both Federal and State OSHA have found violations at several manufacturers, importers, and distributors (GIB LLC dba Brazilian Blowout, Keratronics Inc., Pro Skin Solutions, M&M International Inc., Copomon, INOVA Professional). The violations include failing to list formaldehyde as a hazardous ingredient on the MSDS (the hazard warning sheet) provided to downstream users (e.g., salon owners, stylists), failing to include proper hazard warnings on product labels, and failing to list the health effects of formaldehyde exposure on the MSDS. Labels must include ingredient and hazard warning information and the MSDS must provide users with information about the chemicals in a product, the hazards to workers, and how to use a product safely.

If salon owners decide to use products that may contain or release formaldehyde, they must then follow the requirements in OSHA's formaldehyde and hazard communication standards to protect worker safety. Requirements include steps such as testing salon air during treatments to determine formaldehyde levels, providing adequate ventilation and appropriate personal protective equipment for workers performing treatments, and training workers on the hazards of formaldehyde. Failure to follow the requirements of the formaldehyde and hazard communication standards has consequences. As part of OSHA's enforcement duties, the agency issues citations to five manufacturers, three distributors, two beauty schools and 42 salon owners.[6] Citations were issued for reasons including, but not limited to: failing to communicate the hazards of exposure to formaldehyde, formaldehyde levels were above the OSHA 15-minute short term exposure level, and not following the requirements of OSHA's formaldehyde standard.

California safety and health investigation[edit]

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a settlement with GIB LLC dba Brazilian Blowout requiring a payment of $600,000 in fines and changes to Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution and the Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution MSDS and labeling.[7] Under the terms of the settlement, GIB is required to:

  • Produce a complete and accurate safety information sheet on the two products that includes a Proposition 65 cancer warning; distribute this information to recent product purchasers who may still have product on hand; and distribute it with all future product shipments. The revised safety information sheet will be posted on the company's web site.
  • Affix "CAUTION" stickers to the bottles of the two products to inform stylists of the emission of formaldehyde gas and the need for precautionary measures, including adequate ventilation.
  • Cease deceptive advertising of the products as formaldehyde-free and safe; engage in substantial corrective advertising, including honest communications to sales staff regarding product risks; and change numerous aspects of Brazilian Blowout's web site content.
  • Retest the two products for total smog-forming chemicals (volatile organic compounds) at two Department of Justice-approved laboratories, and work with DOJ and the Air Resources Board to ensure that those products comply with state air quality regulations.
  • Report the presence of formaldehyde in its products to the Safe Cosmetics Program at the Department of Public Health.
  • Disclose refund policies to consumers before the products are purchased.
  • Require proof of professional licensing before selling "salon use only" products to stylists.

Health concerns[edit]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that Brazilian Blowouts are hazardous to the health of those who use them and the hairdressers who apply them.[8]

Concerns over the presence of formaldehyde in various hair smoothing products at significant concentrations centered whether methylene glycol could legally be synonymous with formaldehyde. Anhydrous formaldehyde gas readily dissolves in and reacts with water to form an equilibrium solution of methylene glycol. When heated, the equilibrium shifts and favors the production of formaldehyde and water. Thus, the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout argued that methylene glycol is in their products, not formaldehyde, and therefore they can claim that their product was formaldehyde-free. The first involves nomenclature. The second issue is the method by which formaldehyde concentration is measured. The third involves measurements of formaldehyde concentration in bottles of the product in which the reported concentration is dependent upon both the method of measurement and nomenclature. However, the company reached a settlement with the state of California and is no longer claiming their products are formaldehyde free.[7]


The Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS)[9] lists formaldehyde (50-00-0[10]) and methylene glycol (463-57-0[11]) as two different substances. The compounds have two different chemical structures, exist in two different chemical families and exhibit different physical properties. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas with chemical structure HCHO. Formaldehyde is a listed carcinogen.[12] NTP notes methylene glycol as the primary chemical form of formaldehyde in water. When heat is applied in the Brazilian blowout process causes the methylene glycol to dehydrate, yielding formaldehyde gas and water vapours.

Method of concentration measurement[edit]

The Brazilian Blowout company (GIB LLC) has argued that Eastwood's lab and government labs in California and Oregon performed improper tests to determine formaldehyde concentration, arguing instead that an NMR Spectroscopy test is superior.

Inclusion of methylene glycol as formaldehyde in reported measurements[edit]

Some manufacturers of products containing formaldehyde and methylene glycol have complained that the method of testing for formaldehyde—which does not distinguish between formaldehyde and methylene glycol—is not a reliable indicator of the toxicity of the product.

The American Chemistry Council issued an official statement, where they stated the following: "Formaldehyde content—in both gaseous and aqueous forms—should be accounted for when measuring the formaldehyde content of a product. ... Federal OSHA correctly defines formaldehyde as 'formaldehyde gas, its solutions, and materials that release formaldehyde.' This comprehensive standard is the cornerstone for the protection of people who work with and around formaldehyde."[13]

Performing air quality monitoring tests to detect the levels of formaldehyde gas in the air at the place of application can give an indication to the seriousness of the health problem the salon workers and customers are (sometimes involuntarily) exposed to.

Controversy regarding Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division Advisory[edit]

In September 2010, the Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (CROET) received complaints of difficulty breathing, nose bleeds and eye irritation from stylists in one salon who claimed to have used one such hair treatment as directed. CROET, renamed the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences in 2014, requested consultative assistance from Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (OR-OSHA) to chemically analyze the hair straightening product.[14] Oregon OSHA conducted air sampling in salons during this product's treatments. The 8-hour average exposures ranged from 0.006 parts per million (ppm) to 0.33, below the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 0.75ppm. The short term exposures ranged from 0.11ppm to 1.88ppm, also below the short term exposure limit of 2.0ppm.[15]

HPLC tests on batches of this product from three different Oregon hair salons allegedly determined that there were high levels of formaldehyde.[15] Oregon OSHA subsequently broadened their warning to include other hair-smoothing products, particularly those described as "keratin-based", and said employers should take steps to protect their workers, while still relying on improper testing and nomenclature methods.[16]

One manufacturer responded by issuing a statement to Good Morning America in which it accused Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division of gross negligence because OSHA violated the proper testing protocol by using HPLC rather than using NMR Spectroscopy and using incorrect nomenclature, thereby invalidating the findings. It subsequently filed a suit against Oregon OSHA.[17] In the lawsuit, the manufacturer maintains that their products, when used as directed, fall well below the federally mandated action level (AL), permissible exposure limit (PEL), and short term exposure limit (STEL) safety levels. They released their own material safety data sheet (MSDS), which have been disputed by several subsequent tests of their products by the FDA, Environmental Working Group, and OSHAs.[18][19]

Aldehydes and related compounds[edit]

Several products contain other aldehydes and other derivative compounds that when heated to a temperature of 230 °C are chemically converted into formaldehyde as well as other toxic compounds.

Reported health effects[edit]

Adverse events have reported the following injuries associated with Brazilian Blowout: eye disorders (irritation, increased lacrimation, blurred vision, hyperaemia); nervous system disorders (headache, burning sensation, dizziness, syncope), and respiratory tract (dyspnea, cough, nasal discomfort, epistaxis, wheezing, rhinorrhea, throat irritation, nasopharyngitis). Other reported symptoms included nausea, hypotrichosis, chest pain, chest discomfort, emesis, and rash.[20]

Class action lawsuits[edit]

Girard Gibbs' false advertising lawyers have filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Brazilian Blowout violated California law by advertising its Brazilian Blowout hair straightening product as safe and formaldehyde free, when it has been found to contain significant amounts of formaldehyde, as NTP defines a "known to be human carcinogen". Other companies have also filed class-action suits against producers of Brazilian Blowout treatments.[21][22][23]


Products containing reaction products of acetophenone, formaldehyde, cyclohexylamine, methanol and acetic acid (EC No 406-230-1), 1,2,3,4,5,6-hexachlorocyclohexanes. Products containing any aldehydes more than 0.001% in leave-on products or 0.01% in rinse-off products must list the ingredients explicitly in their product labels.[24]

Other studies[edit]

ChemRisk, LLC Study[edit]

In October 2011, the consulting firm ChemRisk, LLC published a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene that also found that some hair-smoothing products, including some labeled formaldehyde-free, contain formaldehyde and could expose workers and customers to formaldehyde at levels above OSHA's short term exposure limit (STEL).[25] ChemRisk's tests showed that Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution contained 11.5% formaldehyde, Global Keratin Juvexin Optimized Functional Keratin contained 8.3% formaldehyde, and Coppola Keratin Complex Blonde Formula contained 3% formaldehyde. Of these, only Global Keratin lists formaldehyde on its label. However, the Global Keratin label indicated it contained less than 4% formaldehyde, less than half of what was found in the product during testing. ChemRisk also tested the air while a stylist performed a simulated treatment process using each product. Formaldehyde was found in the air during all three simulations. During the simulation with Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, formaldehyde levels were above OSHA's 15-minute STEL during blow drying.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration report[edit]

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on October 8, 2010 that it "was working with state and local organizations, as well as OSHA, to determine whether the products or ingredients would be likely to cause health problems under the intended conditions of use. The composition of the products and the labeling, including use instructions and any warning statements, will be factors in this determination. One safety issue we’ll be evaluating is whether formaldehyde may be released into the air after the product is applied to the hair and heated."[19]

On August 22, 2011, the FDA issued its first warning letter to this same manufacturer, telling the company to stop labeling its products as formaldehyde-free, which it considers misleading, and stating that its products are "misbranded" and "adulterated".[20]

The manufacturer responded with a ten-page letter to the FDA, challenging the FDA's assertions that the product was not adulterated because it did not contain formaldehyde, but methylene glycol, and that the FDA was also relying on incorrect nomenclature methods. Therefore, the product was not misbranded because it was, in fact, formaldehyde-free. However, the company voluntarily altered its label to remove the claim that the product was formaldehyde-free, saying it "is committed to ensuring that its products comply with all applicable legal and regulatory standards and seeks to partner with the FDA to achieve this result".[26]


  1. ^ "Brazilian Blowout Solution Contains Formaldehyde". Health Canada. October 7, 2010. Archived from the original on October 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Rapid Alert System for non-food consumer products (RAPEX)". EUROPA. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. 
  3. ^ "Virgin human brazilian hair extensions". KaBeiLu. 
  4. ^ "OSHA Hazard Alert on Hair Smoothing Products". Occupational Safety & Health Administration. 
  5. ^ "OSHA Hair Smoothing Safety and Health Page". Occupational Safety & Health Administration. 
  6. ^ "OSHA Enforcement Response". Occupational Safety & Health Administration. 
  7. ^ a b "California Safety and Health Settlement". State of California Department of Justice. January 30, 2012. 
  8. ^ Hendrick, Bill (September 7, 2011). "FDA: Brazilian Blowout Hair Straightener Is Dangerous". WebMD. 
  9. ^ "CAS Content". Chemical Abstracts Service: A division of the American Chemical Society. 
  10. ^ "Formaldehyde Basic information". Chemical Book. 
  11. ^ Methanediol
  12. ^ "NTP Formaldehyde Carcinogen Classification" (PDF). National Toxicology Program. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 26, 2011. 
  13. ^ SpecialChem. "Industry News". 
  14. ^ "Emerging Issues and Alerts". OHSU. Retrieved July 24, 2015. 
  15. ^ a b ""Keratin-Based" Hair Smoothing Products And the Presence of Formaldehyde" (PDF). October 29, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 22, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Oregon OSHA reiterates caution to salons using hair-smoothing products" (PDF). Oregon OSHA. October 29, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Brazilian Blowout Complaint" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Hair Straightener Makers Cover Up Dangers". Environmental Working Group. April 2011. 
  19. ^ a b "FDA Receives Complaints Associated with the Use of Brazilian Blowout". FDA. October 8, 2010. Archived from the original on October 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "Warning Letter". FDA. August 22, 2011. 
  21. ^ "Girard Gibbs Files Brazilian Blowout Class Action Lawsuit". Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. 
  22. ^ "In re Brazilian Blowout Litigation Class Action Lawsuit". 2011. Archived from the original on July 5, 2012. 
  23. ^ Jewett, Christina (November 10, 2010). "Attorney general targets Brazilian Blowout over chemical". California Watch. 
  24. ^ "Council Directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to cosmetic products" (PDF). 27 July 1976. 
  25. ^ J. S. Pierce; A. Abelmann; L. J. Spicer; R. E. Adams; M. E. Glynn; K. Neier; B. L. Finley & S. H. Gaffney (2011). "Characterization of Formaldehyde Exposure Resulting from the Use of Four Professional Hair Straightening Products". Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. 8 (11): 686–699. doi:10.1080/15459624.2011.626259. 
  26. ^ "Re: GIB, LLC and Brazilian Blowout" (PDF). September 29, 2011.