After months of debate, testing by multiple agencies, and vehement denials and protests from hair straightening company Brazilian Blowout, the FDA has finally stepped into the arena. The FDA tested the product and found a whopping 8.7-10.4% formaldehyde content in the Brazilian Blowout formula. (Remember, if a product contains > 0.1% formaldehyde, companies must clearly disclose that on the packaging.) Calling the product “adulterated”--because of the high formaldehyde content--and “misbranded”--because of the formaldehyde-free claims--the FDA gave the company until September 12 to get its act together.
The FDA said in no uncertain terms that the company needs to reduce the formaldehyde levels and update its packaging. If Brazilian Blowout doesn’t comply with the FDA’s requests, the product could be seized and the company hauled to court. CEO Mike Brady still seems completely delusional about it all, despite the fact that multiple labs found ridiculous amounts of formaldehyde in the product. Today reports that Brady said the FDA hoopla is all a “misunderstanding” and still insisted that the products never exceeded OSHA guidelines for formadehyde exposure.
Needless to say, lots of watchdog groups, from the Environmental Working Group to the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, are pleased with the FDA’s action. And it's not over yet. The Cosmetic Industry Review is expected to release a statement towards the end of September on whether the products as a category are safe. But what about small salon owners who count on the revenue and consumers who are absolutely obsessed with the treatments?
It’s not looking good for them. Hair straightening treatments have already been banned in other countries, and it’s definitely headed that way here, too. Consumers' obsession with this procedure is well-documented, and the market is trying to churn out greener versions, but none really have the staying power of the formaldehyde-laden ones. We've heard stories of women in Canada "sneaking" hair straightening formulas over the US border because a lot of the products have been banned there. It remains to be seen if women are taking the health warnings seriously--salon workers are at the highest risk, and we suspect that the momentum will come from salons that will eventually stop offering the treatments.
Let's just hope that we see a lot of wavy hair with frizzy ends on the spring runways this month.