Popular hair straightening salon treatment Brazilian Blowout became the centre of a lawsuit last week after stylist Kimberley Ryley filed a civil action against the company in America. Her decision was sparked by a recent Health Canada warning that was issued against the product after it was found to contain 12 per cent formaldehyde, 60 times the legal limit for cosmetics, and a potential trigger for hair loss.
The treatment, popular with celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan, de-frizzes hair making it easier to straighten and minimising the need for blow drying or styling over the 12 week period that follows treatment. To achieve this ‘wash and wear’ hair, a treatment of up to 90 minutes is necessary, where hair is washed, treated with the Brazilian Blowout solution and then flat-ironed. The treatment is only available in salons.
However, following a series of complaints from users of Brazilian Blowout, with symptoms including runny nose, burning eyes, and hair loss; Health Canada launched a full investigation into the reputedly formaldehyde-free product. Following a series of laboratory tests, which appeared to show exceptionally high formaldehyde levels, they issued a full warning on 7th October.
This was quickly followed by the Oregon Health and Science University’s Centre for Research on Occupational and Environment Toxicology’s (Oregon OSHA) release the following day recommending all stylists administering the treatment wear protective clothing and ensure clients are fully informed about the risks.
The news attracted the eye of Kimberley Ryley, a hair-stylist who frequently applies Brazilian Blowout to clients’ hair, and has a history of ill-effects following each treatment. Upon hearing the news, she launched a class action lawsuit against the company which has since received emails from over 200 stylists and product users who wish to be included in the suit.
It’s quite a blow for the ‘formaldehyde-free’ product; although it is unclear whether the potentially toxic levels of formaldehyde are permanently present in the solution or created when heat is applied, through straightening or blow drying. As both of these steps are necessary to use the product, if either claim is found to be true, Brazilian Blowout could also find itself facing a lawsuit for international deceit.
Brazilian Blowout’s response so far has been vehement denial. When the news first broke, they suggested that Health Canada had perhaps mislabelled a chemical present in the solution as the hair-loss culprit formaldehyde. They have also commissioned an air monitoring study in a typical salon environment. This took place on 9th October and appeared to show safe levels of formaldehyde in the atmosphere when treatments were performed. A press statement of the results followed soon afterwards. Interestingly, the company does not deny formaldehyde is created during use, only that the levels emitted are not toxic.
This debate looks to be ongoing for a while, and will require extensive research on both sides of the case to prove or disprove the potential dangers of the treatment. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if our favourite poker-locked stars start sporting a curlier look to avoid the threat of hair loss.