High levels of formaldehyde make many keratin hair-straightening treatments a serious health threat to both clients and salon workers. These treatments, often known by the popular brand name Brazilian Blowout, involve liquids applied to hair in the salon, which are then heated using blow dryers and straightening irons. The high temperatures of these hair styling tools cause the release of formaldehyde from the liquids into the air.
In 2011, EWG filed a citizen petition, or formal request, that the agency investigate the products and take appropriate action. After five years, the FDA has not issued a final response to that letter, nor has it taken any significant action against makers of the products. Other states and nations—including California, Oregon, Canada, France and Ireland—have taken action against products such as Brazilian Blowout by removing products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde from the shelves, said EWG in a press statement.
Beth Jonas, PhD, chief scientist of the Personal Care Products Council, also responded to the issue of formaldehyde in hair-straightening products.
“Consumer and product safety are top priorities for the cosmetics and personal care products industry, with careful and thorough scientific research and development serving as the foundation for everything that we do,” she said in a statement.
“The Personal Care Products Council (the Council) is a non-voting industry liaison member of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. CIR, an independent, non-profit body of scientific and medical experts that assesses the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in the US, initiated a review at the request of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Professional Beauty Association, and the Council. In 2011, CIR issued a final conclusion on the safety of formaldehyde and methylene glycol as used in hair straightening products and found them to be unsafe under present conditions of use.
“The Expert Panel noted that the safety of methylene glycol and formaldehyde in hair straightening products depends on a number of factors, including the concentration of formaldehyde and methylene glycol, the amount of product applied, the temperature used during the application process, and the ventilation provided at the point of use. They concluded that under present practices of use and concentration, formaldehyde and methylene glycol are unsafe in hair straightening products. The panel also concluded that formaldehyde and methylene glycol are safe for use as a preservative in cosmetics at minimal effective concentration levels and that they do not exceed established limits. The ingredients are also safe in nail hardening products in the present practices of use and concentration. The Council fully supports the Expert Panel’s findings.”