What makes Brazilian Blowout different from other "professional smoothing treatments"?

According to their website, it's pretty simple: "The ONLY Professional Smoothing Treatment that improves the health of the hair. No damage! No harsh chemicals! NO FORMALDEHYDE!!" (Emphasis all theirs.) No wonder celebs like Halle Berry and Nicole Richie love it so.

As did our writer Jocelyn, when she tried the process on her naturally curly hair.

So, this is awkward: Samples of the brand's Brazilian Blowout Solution and Acai Professional Smoothing Solution were found to contain dangerously high levels of formaldehyde in a lab analysis by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University's Center for Research on Occupational Environmental Toxicology.

If a product contains more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde, the government's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires the manufacturer to list it on a material safety data sheet. The beauty industry's own Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel says that products shouldn't contain more than 0.2 percent formaldehyde. So, just how much formaldehyde did OHSU find in the Brazilian Blowout product samples? A whopping 4.85 to over 10 percent ...

More on what this means, after the jump.

Samples were collected from a Portland, Ore., salon after workers reported difficulty breathing, nosebleeds and eye irritation while using Brazilian Blowout products on customers. Say the OHSU researchers:

The test results coupled with health symptoms reported to us from stylists using the specified hair product raised concerns at CROET because of the potential long-term and short-term impacts of formaldehyde exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control, formaldehyde can produce a variety of effects including immediate irritation of eyes, skin, nose and upper respiratory tract, cough, chest pain, shortness of breath and wheezing. The major concerns of repeated formaldehyde exposure are sensitization, which is similar to an allergic condition, and asthma in those who have been previously sensitized to formaldehyde. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has determined that formaldehyde may reasonably be anticipated to be a carcinogen.

We love silky-smooth locks as much as the next chick, but exposing our hair stylists (not to mention our own heads) to a potential carcinogen that can also cause nosebleeds and asthma attacks? Pass. And we're not the only ones: "There's no way I would have done the treatment last summer if I knew it might have still contained formaldehyde," says beauty blogger Nadine Jolie.

It's incredibly disturbing that it's taken salon workers getting sick to expose the fact that popular products contain a suspected carcinogen," says Erin Switalski of Women's Voices for the Earth, an environmental health advocacy group and co-founder of the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance, a national network of health advocates and researchers working for safe salons.

Which, naturally, has the brand in question in a bit of a lather. They're starting their own investigation and have a statement up online which notes, "Because OSHA did not request a sample from the company directly, there is no reason to believe the formulation tested and found positive was indeed Brazilian Blowout product."

Um, except for where the lab report notes, "This specific product was shipped on 8/31/2009 from Brazilian Blowout and is described as "34 oz/1-Liter Brazilian Blowout Solution."

We'll be straightening our hair the old-fashioned way (flat irons and elbow grease) until this mess is untangled.

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