Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brazilian blowout? Blow me

Last June, before we left to spend three weeks travelling through the sweaty and humid East Coast, I decided to get something done that I otherwise normally would never do. I got a Brazilian Blowout. Now, before you go thinking this has something to do with coloring my pubic area hot pink or something, let me 'splain.

It's a keratin based, formaldehyde free hair "straightening" process that was being offered at my Aveda salon. It's not a true straightener in that it coats the hair shaft and doesn't remove the curl so much as remove the frizz. It's not exactly the most eco-friendly thing to do, but I did it partly as part of my book project and partly, well, because I wouldn't mind having a frizz-free, trouble-free, hair-dryer free, flat-iron free vacation. And, for that, it delivered.

I had received a 50% off coupon as well as another deduction otherwise I never could justify the $350 price tag. Or, could I? Since the coating lasts about three months before it wears off and you go back to your formerly frizzy glory, I would save, literally, hours working on my hair. How much was that worth to me? Well, if it was something I wanted to continue doing, I could certainly justify the cost.

In any case, I had looked into a previous version of the process and had read that there were complaints about the process, but this new version (introduced last winter) was all-natural! Formaldehyde-free! And so good for your hair that my Aveda salon was offering it. Sign me up.

I went and had it done and, I have to say, I couldn't smell anything while my stylist was working on my hair. When she applied it to my scalp, however, it stung like a mother-fucker. Sorry, there really isn't any other way of accurately describing the burning sensation. It lasted for about 30 seconds after she "painted" it on various section of my head.

Next came the "blowout" where I had two stylists blow dry my hair with the solution on it. One of the stylists, who hadn't done this before, was complaining that it was making her eyes sting. The other stylist showed her how to direct the hair dryer away from her face so the atomized product didn't blow into her face. Problem solved.

Let me just say, the results were nothing short of miraculous. My hair was glossy straight without having to do anything to it, and this lasted for months, as advertised. Not advertised was the fact that my scalp flaked off in huge chunks for a month afterwards. Not really something I wanted to deal with on vacation, that's for sure. I had to make sure I dried my roots to blow off all the scalp chunks and flakes that were coming off of my head before going out.

Also not advertised was the fact that I actually missed the natural body of my hair. I wasn't used to having stick straight hair and, honestly, I didn't like it. It felt flat and weird instead of big and poofy. And, I'll take frizz and body any day over the alternative.

So, it wasn't with much surprise that I saw this article from NPR about how a salon stylist, who was experiencing health problems after offering this new salon service, looked into the ingredients of the Brazilian Blowout and, after several lab tests, they showed varying levels of formaldehyde in the product. Samples tested in various Portland salons showed formaldehyde levels between 8.85 and 10.6%, which is far higher than the 0.2 percent considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel. This, of course, explains the effects I and my stylists encountered.

The manufacturer, at the time I had it done, was claiming that their product was 100% safe and made of the same material that constitutes your hair. It sounds like they are changing their story after these results were made known and after the Canadian government started warning stylists and consumers not to use their product.

Formaldehyde, which is a chemical the National Cancer Institute calls a cancer-causing substance, is really not something I want painted on my scalp and inhaled into my lungs. Am I mad? You bet. This is false advertising at it's worst - convincing consumers that you are selling something blatantly containing something you say isn't there. Am I partially to blame? You bet. Going in to get a salon treatment where you don't know the ingredients is always risky and I, of all people, did a hell of a lot more research than your average consumer.

In fact, the entire time I was getting the treatment done, I was discussing the "previous" version with my stylist, explaining the health risks of the "previous" version that contained formaldehyde and how this newer version was allegedly an improvement. She even went to check the bottle to check on the ingredient list. Of course, there wasn't one.

No surprise there. It's safe to say I'll never be doing this again. Hell, I even stopped coloring my hair 10 months ago since I wasn't sure what was in the Aveda products.

As with most products sold in this country, always remember: buyer beware. There's no U.S. government entity looking out for your safety.

Special thanks to Jenny K. for alerting me of these latest findings!


Panamamama said...

Scary. I stopped coloring my grey awhile back and started using henna mixes. I really like the natural shine and nothing funky to worry about.

Unknown said...

Wow. That's interesting since Aveda's shtick is that they disclose everything that's in their products. I don't color my hair but I hear that henna is definitely the way to go. I'm very glad I never got started wearing cosmetics and was too lazy once I became a teenager to put stuff in my hair. I think it would be very hard to stop as an adult if I had been seeing myself for the past 20 years "made up" all the time.

Robj98168 said...

You people with hair crack me up... the people with beatuful frizzy hair always trying to get it "straight", and the folks with beautiful straight hair ar always gwtting perms. LEAVE YOUR HAIR ALONE!Or this could happen to you!

koolchicken said...

I'm sorry but I just don't know how you didn't know this wasn't safe. Ive know about this service, and that it's chock full of formaldehyde for years. Anyone who's read Allure, Glamour, Cosmo, or any other beauty magazine once or twice in the last few years could have told you what you just posted.

I have to say, I'm really disappointed. I'm now wondering if I can trust recommendations for enviormentaly safe products given on this blog. You couldn't really have looked into it all that much if you thought this process was even a little bit safe.

Laura Kaeding said...

Wow, that's scary. I'm glad I don't have frizzy hair, don't need to look into straightening, but wow. I will definitely will pass this on to anyone that I hear mentioning doing this. Thank you!

Robin Shreeves said...

Thanks for your honest account. We all make not brilliant decisions from time to time (and why does it often seem to be for vanity reasons?). I've wondered about this process, and have been concerned that a lot of the girls in my son's junior high are getting it done in their homes from salon students doing it outside of school. Now, how to tactfully approach the subject with other moms...

Michelle said...

I'm reminded of the conversation I had with the office manager at my pediatrician's regarding the flu shots: "It's regarded as safe by the FDA."

Now, I'm a former military aviator, and the phrase, "I'm from the FAA and I'm here to help" is guaranteed to send shockwaves of paralyzing terror among the most stalwart of crews.

So your comment that "there's no U.S. government entity looking out for your safety" just reinforces my innate mistrust of "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" and all its permutations.

Is this relevant? I'm not sure. I have a filthy sore throat and I'm trying to scald it clean with peppermint tea and honey....

Crunchy Chicken said...

koolchicken - Perhaps you didn't understand what I was having done. I did read all the articles about the previous version. This new formula (which was introduced in the winter of last year) was supposed to be formaldehyde free and rid of all the chemicals that it purportedly had in it before. That's why I tried it. And that's the problem, because they lied about there not being any hydes in the product.

I'm sure they changed the formula and reduced the formaldehyde and, if you read their website, they are still claiming it has extremely low levels of formaldehyde in it based on their recent testing (.2%), but it conflicts with the testing done in Oregon and Canada.

I'd appreciate a little more benefit of the doubt next time. I did do research on it. I never recommended this product, even before these latest tests came out, and part of why I had it done was for my book.

Ivy said...

That is scary! I've actually considered getting this done--my hair is quite unruly, and frankly, I'd prefer to have the extra hour in the morning to sleep instead of fuss with it. The non-formaldahyde versions were making it much more appealing but I had been stuck on the price.

It's highly alarming that they can get away with blatantly lying like that. As if being worried about what we know is in a product wasn't enough, we also have to worry about what we're not being told...

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

Oh I miss my blond hair and the fabulous haircuts I used to get from the stylist. But the chemicals are far too scary.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Robj98168. Seriously, your hair is your hair; learn to love it. Anyone who is trying to live a greener life, but spends time/money on straigtening/blowing dry/"fixing" their hair every damn day is really missing an opportunity, to put it politely.


koolchicken said...

Crunchy, I understand that you did the "new" process and not the old one. So sadly I have to say again, this is not new information. The supposedly "new" formula isn't any safer, and in some cases has the exact same levels of formaldehyde. I like to think you're a little more informed than the general public and a trustworthy source of information. You say you looked into it, thats why I was upset. A few hours research and you would have known even the new process is just as dangerous (not to mention illegal in most places).

I would love to have given you the benefit of the doubt. But in this case I just couldn't as I'm familiar wih both treatments.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Sandra - The same thing could be said for coloring, hennaing one's hair not to mention shaving, waxing, make-up and the multitude of other things women (and men) do as part of their "beauty" regimen. Congratulations if you are one of the few women that can get out of bed and call it good.

There is a large "eco" beauty industry out there that needs covering and analysis for the rest of us who still partake, however frequent or infrequent they do it. I'm not going to ignore it even though I no longer color my hair, or get it cut professionally, for that matter.

Koolchicken - I find it difficult to understand how you have such a defined opinion on the different keratin treatment products when it's still being argued about today not just by health agencies, but by industry and salon professionals. Product lines change formulas so, are you saying that I should have known that a bottle of a product that says "formaldehyde-free" on it really had formaldehyde in it? That sounds rather ridiculous.

The test results by these agencies just came out in the last few weeks. I had the treatment done in early June. All the products tested had "formaldehyde-free" on the labels.

"Illegal in most places"? Not in this country.

Robin Shreeves said...

Not an hour after I read this and commented about it, did I receive an e-mail from a local salon pointing me to a press release on about an OSHA study that proves the process is safe even for the stylists that work with it every day. I'm not saying I believe the press release, I'm just saying that salons are trying to quell customers fears.

Kim from Milwaukee said...

Anything that changes the texture of hair for a period of time HAS to have chemicals in it. Period. Formaldehyde was probably the least toxic of them.

Aveda lost me as a customer 8 years ago when one of their stylists overprocessed my hair, chemically burnt my scalp to where my roots were white, and didn't have the decency to apologize or compensate me. They make all kinds of claims and I don't believe one of them. It's all greenwashing for the big bucks they can charge.

Tigerlily said...

I have stick straight hair, no body. It just hangs there so this treatment is NOT something I would personally do. But I do like you saying that you would rather the body then the straight hair...I have been trying to convince my friends of that for years lol

Melinda said...

For anyone who is still interested in having the Keratin Treatment done but DO NOT want to go with Brazilian Blowout Brand, I also offer an Organic Treatment sold by Keragreen. Anyone is welcome to go on there website and check it out. The scent is nice and doesnt burn anyones eyes, nose or throat and works great!!
I can be reached at 760 684 0696
I have been a stylist since 1995.

Thanks for all the feedback on this never ending discussion. If you have any questions please ask.
Melinda Douglas
Arcadia, Calif.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Melinda - So what chemical is used to bond the keratin to the hair shaft? Has this product been tested?

Anonymous said...

Yikes what a bad experience, but thank you for risking yourself for your book and us.

Embrace your frizz and your curls. :)
I have stop blowing drying, flat ironing, etc my hair many years ago. I am very happy with my curls and sometimes frizz.
Tips to help for the frizz don't use sulfate shampoos, no silicone based products, and don't use a terry cloth towel to dry you hair. The terry cloth roughs up the cuticle of the hair shaft which causes frizz, use an old t-shirt to works much better.
Also check out the book Curly Girl her tips are great, but don't use her products. I found many great products from the cosmetic that are organic and chemical free.
Good Luck. :)

Melinda said...

@Crunchy Chicken
The chemical used is called Saligard.
I have not googled this chemical but I would be more than happy to find out more info for you if you like. Just let me know. I love it and my clients are excited to have an Organic product on there hair and for my health too.


Christie Klein said...

Dammit, my stylist JUST last night was telling me that I should consider a keratin treatment (only $175!!) for my frizzy-but-undamaged hair, and I was thinking about it because I had heard that it was in a "third" incarnation. (1st had formaldehyde, 2nd didn't but sucked, 3rd didn't and was supposed to be good.)

Mmmm yeah no thanks. But thanks to you for this article convincing me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Baking soda and vinegar totally de-frizzes my hair, leaving it lustrous, shiny, and fully of body.

I wouldn't say that I jump out of bed and call it "good," but I do accept my appearance overall and don't endanger my health, the health of those who are paid to apply or manufacture these beauty products, or the planet trying to change my appearance.

I still marvel that people come here looking for tips about "living green." Like the Brazilian Blowout, you've got a lot of people fooled, but it's clear that you're here making a buck, not actually making change.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Anonymous - I find your comments absolutely laughable. I don't make money off this blog - any money I may have made in advertisements for GladRags or through Amazon Associates gets used for giveaways. In fact, I spend more money out-of-pocket on giving things away than I make on it.

In any case, there's a reason why the environmental movement has a hard time gaining any traction with the general public. It's the holier than thou, I'm better than you attitude that turns people off. If you think that that affects change, you need to wake up and smell your own BS.

Anonymous said...

The reason the environmental movement has a tough time gaining any traction is because too few people are willing to step out of their comfort zone, to leave behind Madison Avenue's standards of beauty, or make real changes in the standard of living. And bloggers who make excuses for why change it too hard or leaves her hair too frizzy are lousy examples. Change can be hard, but what people need isn't excuses, but encouragement and examples, not just the same ol' same ol' repackaged in some eco-friendly recycled wrapper. *That's* BS.

All Adither said...

Thanks for posting this. I had never seriously considered the blow out because of the cost, but I'd fantasized about it. Now I won't.

LS said...

I just want to point out, I used the Japanese version which contains high levels of chemicals and formeldehyde for about 5 years (I have extremely frizzy wiry hair). It's amazing because the effects are permanent and there is literally no maintenance needed. I will say that I was also told the products were safe and good for your hair. I do worry that there was overexposure in the several years I used the stuff (also took about 8 hours at the salon). I highly recommend anyone who considers this to simply accept their hair. Mine has since grown out, only the ends are straight and guess what? As much as I love wearing it down, I have learned to just wear it up and be happy. I straighten it for special occasions with a blow dryer and light hot iron. Just accept what you have. and work with it:) If you can afford it, go to a salon or dry bar to have it done for 50 bucks or so.