The Food and Drug Administration is looking into claims that the hair-straightening process known as the "Brazilian Blowout" is dangerous to the health of salon workers and their customers.
The process has been around for about five years. It straightens curly or kinky hair and it lasts for months. It involves applying a product that often contains formaldehyde, which the EPA has classified as a probable carcinogen.
The hair is then blow-dried and flat-ironed at 450 degrees. This creates clouds of acrid-smelling smoke. According to complaints, it has made some stylists cough and reddened the eyes of clients.
In the U.S., products are only allowed to have up to 0.1% of formaldehyde. But the Oregon occupational health agency tested 100 samples and found many labeled "formaldehyde free" had more than the allowed limit.
Air sample test of salons in Oregon found levels of formaldehyde complied with safety standards. But Michael Wood, who heads the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said in a statement, "It is clear that the levels are high enough to cause concern."
However, is a news release last year, the Brazilian Blowout brand was pleased with the results, pointing out that "formaldehyde exposure levels (were) safely below OSHA's Action Level."
In California, the Attorney General has filed a lawsuit alleging the Brazilian Blowout brand has high levels of formaldehyde despite claiming otherwise on its website and other advertising.
A separate class action lawsuit filed in California makes similar allegations of false advertising, though includes no reports of illness.
"Our client filed suit because she felt that she and other consumers were mislead by claims that the Brazilian Blowout hair treatment was all natural, and did not involve the use of formaldehyde or other harsh chemicals," said San Francisco attorney Daniel Girard. "We have been contacted by many consumers and salon workers who have expressed interest in the litigation."
Because of the health concerns, some salons in the U.S. have stopped offering the Brazilian Blowout.