The infamous Brazilian blowout–a Keratin-based semi-permanent hair straightening treatment–has gone from hugely popular to hugely controversial due to reports of potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde found in the treatment. Earlier this year, the US Department of Labor released a hazard alert about the dangers of straightening formulas that contain formaldehyde, causing salons and fans of the treatment (myself included) to question whether or not they’re worth the risk.
According to a report in WWD this morning, a ruling is expected for September 26 or 27 to determine once and for all whether or not these products are safe, based on studies being conducted by the Cosmetic Industry Review. (They’re an independent panel group who, according to their website, “thoroughly reviews and assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner, and publishes the results in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.”)
As one of those people whose life has been changed by this treatment, I sincerely hope they don’t end up determining that all keratin treatment cause nose cancer or something (bye, nose). However, if that does happen, new formaldehyde-free treatments are popping up all over the place (one of our writer’s even tried one and seemed happy with it).
The market for Brazilian keratin treatments has weakened since the government investigations began, so huge salon brands like Bumble & Bumble (who used to offer the Brazilian Blowout and stopped) and L’Oreal are capitalizing on our formaldehyde fear by introducing new products. Bumble & Bumble’s cleverly-named Concen-straight Pro is not only free of the embalming fluid ingredient, but also vegan–apparently, keratin is derived from animals, so instead they use a hydrolyzed wheat protein.
L’Oreal’s Xtenso Moisturist is different from protein-based treatments in that it’s a “chemical straightening service” that is “very specialized and technical,” according to L’Oreal’s director of marketing. The treatment costs upwards of $250, while Bumble’s is around $385 and both claim to offer customizable levels of straightness. Bumble will also offer an at-home do-it-yourself version for $45.
If Brazilian Blowout and its formaldehyde-containing competitors are ruled unsafe, salons will have to follow suit in offering new formaldehyde-free straightening treatments, for the sheer profit factor alone. According to WWD, hair-smoothing treatments represent “hundreds of millions of dollars, if not $1 billion” in revenue per year for the salons that offer them.