Brazilian Blowout Brouhaha

California cracks down on the formaldehyde-containing hair treatment known as Brazilian Blowout, but consumer advocates say a complete ban on formaldehyde in hair care products is needed.
This past November, the California attorney general’s office sued North Hollywood-based GIB LLC, which does business under the name Brazilian Blowout, for deceptive advertising. According to the attorney general’s office, hair treatments known as the Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution and Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution were inaccurately labeled as being free of formaldehyde, a chemical recently added to the U.S. federal government’s National Toxicology Program list of substances known to cause cancer. Last week, a settlement was reached, ordering GIB to pay $600,000 in fees, place warning labels on their products that contain formaldehyde and supply salons with a pamphlet outlining recommended safety precautions.

“California laws protect consumers and workers and give them fair notice about the health risks associated with the products they use,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “This settlement requires the company to disclose any hazard so that Californians can make informed choices.”

Health advocates question how informed label warnings will leave salon clients, arguing that many aren’t likely to read warning labels on products used by a stylist in a salon. And considering Brazilian Blowout releases formaldehyde gas, clients who have chosen not to purchase the treatment will still be breathing in its toxic fumes. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance are calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to recall Brazilian Blowout products and ban formaldehyde in all hair products.

“It’s a huge step forward, because they’ve been able to at least get this company to stop lying, but it’s not enough,” said Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “We need to put new laws into place that really require companies to make safer products.”

On the other hand, negative publicity about formaldehyde in Brazilian Blowout products was widely reported yet the treatment remains popular, raising the argument that as long as the risks are known, salons should be allowed to offer it.

“We believe the settlement reached with Attorney General Harris represents a fair and equitable resolution,” GIB Chief Executive Officer Mike Brady said. “We are pleased to have this matter behind us and are confident these new practices will provide certified stylists who use our products each day and their loyal customers clarity and confidence.”

In this clip from CBS Sunday Morning, L&R Salon in Los Angeles, where 80% of clientele get Brazilian Blowout treatments for “softer, shinier, straighter” hair, displays the safety precautions they take in light of the treatment’s dangers, including a “ventilation room.”