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MT Group: Hair-Raising Questions about Salon Treatments

March 21, 2011

MISSOULA, Mont. - Women wanting to straighten their hair with salon chemical treatments may want to think twice, in light of a new review from the cosmetics industry safety review board. The conclusion is that salon products should not contain more than 0.2 percent formaldehyde.

Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research at Women's Voices for the Earth in Missoula says that chemical hair-straightening products - the most common is known as the "Brazilian Blowout" - far exceed those levels, with some containing nearly 12 percent formaldehyde.

"It's a carcinogen; it causes cancer, and that's certainly a concern. In the short term it can be a very strong irritant. It can, you know, make your eyes water; it gives you headaches, can cause nosebleeds."

Regulators were first alerted to the potential toxicity of the products when hair stylists began reporting serious side effects. The FDA has issued a statement that the agency will continue to monitor the situation.

Scranton however would like to see a nationwide recall.

"The fact that they're still on the market, that you can still get them done, gives an illusion of safety, but there's really a lack of regulation of these products and we think the FDA needs to step forward and get them taken off the shelves."

The treatment is available only in salons and costs between $200 and $400.

California's attorney general is continuing with a lawsuit against the Brazilian Blowout company, accusing the company of not warning customers and salon workers that the product contains the cancer-causing chemical. The company maintains the products are safe, and offers a similar version that is advertised as free of formaldehyde. Some salons offer gas masks to those concerned about the ingredients.

More information is at

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT