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Why Keratin Treatments Have Been Linked to Cancer

Keratin treatments, also referred to as brazilian blowouts, have the ability to erase your frizzy, unmanageable mane’s past and start anew with a smooth slate, every girl’s dream. Keratin is one of the structural proteins that comprises our hair, skin, and nails. Keratin treatments utilize a cream containing formaldehyde that’s brushed and flat ironed into the hair, thereby relaxing curls and waves—hence the smoothing treatment’s popularity. The keratin treatment conundrum? Evidence that formaldehyde is dangerous for you and your stylist’s health in addition to being linked to cancer. Allow us to explain.

While they seem like the best hair invention ever, keratin treatments are doing pretty terrible things to salon-goers and stylists alike. According to research from the Women’s Voices for the Earth, “Natalija Josimov used to swear by hair-straightening treatments for her own coarse, frizzy hair. When she became a hair stylist in 2009, she said she was eager to offer the service to her clients. But just nine months after launching her career, she experienced chronic sinus and respiratory infections, painful blisters in her nose and heart palpitations—all caused by formaldehyde gas released during treatments.”

“The Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an industry-funded and operated panel that assesses the safety of cosmetic ingredients in the U.S., declared that formaldehyde was unsafe to be used in hair straightening products in March 2011.” If inhaling of formaldehyde can cause severe irritation to eyes, nose, throat, and increase risk of cancer then why are keratin treatments and Brazilian Blowouts still being offered? The FDA lacks the authority to issue a mandatory recall of cosmetic products that have been found to negatively affect consumers’ health. “The agency has yet to issue a voluntary recall of Brazilian Blowout, the first hair straightener found to contain high levels of formaldehyde. The original formula of Brazilian Blowout was ordered off the market in California by the California Attorney General in 2012 for violating California air pollution regulations.”

As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) notes, if a product contains 0.1% or more formaldehyde or can release formaldehyde into the air above 0.1 ppm, then the product label must include the following information, as required by OSHA’s Formaldehyde standard, 29 CFR 1910.1048(m)(3):

  • a statement that the product has formaldehyde in it;
  • the name and address of the manufacturer, importer, or other company responsible for the product;
  • a statement that the employer and MSDSs can readily give health hazard information.

Additionally, if the product can release formaldehyde into the air above 0.5 ppm, the label must also have the following information:

  • a list of all product health and safety hazards;
  • the phrase “Potential Cancer Hazard.”

To find out if the hair straightening treatment you get is toxic and still on the market, click here.


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