Your Hair Straightening Treatment Could Be Screwing With Your Health

December 17th 2016

Laura Donovan

You may love what hair straightening products do to your locks, but a new lawsuit claims that this product can be harmful to your health.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Women’s Voices for the Earth are suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for "for its failure to protect the public from dangers associated with popular hair straightening treatments," the EWG states on its site. The lawsuit claims that the FDA has failed to regulate hair straighteners with formaldehyde, which has been shown to cause nasal cancer in rats and might be associated with certain types of cancers in humans, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“For years stylists have reported that the application of these hair treatments caused difficulty breathing, eye irritation and nosebleeds,” Tina Sigurdson, EWG assistant general counsel, said in a release. “The FDA has been aware of the health hazards associated with the products since at least 2008. Despite these dangers, the FDA has yet to take action to remove them from the market.”

The EWG notes in its release that high levels of formaldehyde can be dangerous to salon workers and customers:

"These treatments – often known by the popular brand name Brazilian Blowout – involve liquids applied to hair in the salon, which are then heated using blow dryers and straightening irons. The high temperatures of these hair styling tools cause the release of formaldehyde from the liquids into the air."

ATTN: reached out to Brazilian Blowout regarding the allegations and will update this piece if we hear back. 

The FDA states on its site that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Hazard Alert to salon owners about formaldehyde in hair straightening products and wrote that the organization "continues to evaluate hair products that release formaldehyde when heated." Following an FDA warning letter to Brazilian Blowout in 2011, Brazilian Blowout altered their labeling to warn consumers about potential health risks and added a product that contains no formaldehyde, but the company said that product was found to be less effective, according to the National Center for Health Research.

A spokesperson for the FDA told ATTN: in an email that while it does not comment on pending litigation, "it is important for consumers to contact the agency about any adverse events they may have experienced after using a cosmetic."

"Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA premarket approval, with the exception of color additives," the FDA spokesperson continued in the statement. "Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products, but the agency does not have the authority to require companies to present data demonstrating the safety of their products before they are marketed." 

Companies are not required to register their products with the FDA or tell the FDA about any adverse effects of products.

Marlon Ramos, a stylist in San Francisco, told local bay area news outlet KTVU that he isn't concerned with the effects of the Brazilian Blowout.

"I've been doing it for 12 years (and) I've never ever had any problems," Ramos said, adding that formaldehyde is in many products, and that hair straighteners without it don't work.

As ATTN: has noted previously, others have noted gaps in the FDA's regulation of beauty products. The Cosmetics and U.S. Law "does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market," according to the FDA's website. Several political figures, such as Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) have tried to push for greater beauty product regulations through various bill proposals, but these bills haven't come to fruition.

[H/T The Cut]