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Cosmetologists Chicago wades into formaldehyde debate

By Andrew McDougall , 30-Nov-2010
Last updated on 30-Nov-2010 at 17:51 GMT

Cosmetologists Chicago, which represents more than 7,000 salon professionals, has issued guidelines for the safety of professionals and consumers interested in keratin-based hair straightening treatments.

The last few months has seen one such treatment, Cadiveu's Brazilian Blowout, placed under the microscope following controversy over the levels of formaldehyde it contained.

Cosmetologists Chicago CEO Paul Dykstra explained that it is vital to disclose client protection practices being observed in the salon that are proven to be safe for salon use.

"We urge salon teams to utilize proper ventilation and to incorporate safety procedures into their daily and weekly schedules, especially when it comes to chemical services," he said.

Among Cosmetologists Chicago's salon safety procedures are a recommendation for advanced education, product knowledge and manufacturer certification.

It stated that products should be used and applied according to manufacturer's directions and that salons should never provide chemical services to clients with seriously damaged hair or an unhealthy scalp.

Brazilian Blowout controversy

This comes after Health Canada and the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claimed Cadiveu’s Brazilian Blowout hair smoothing solution, contained levels of formaldehyde that were significantly higher than the 0.2 percent permitted in cosmetics when used as a preservative.

Following these complaints, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel has also said it plans to take another look at the substance.

Unlike other straightening systems, the Brazilian-born smoothing treatment infuses keratin protein between the cuticle and the cortex of the hair shaft that is then sealed in with the use of a high-heat flat iron.

A by-product of this service is the escape of formaldehyde vapors into the air during the blow-drying and flat-iron process. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance detected in everything from fruits and vegetables to cosmetics and building materials.

Confusion over formaldehyde presence in cosmetics

The recent Cadiveu smoothing solution case has caused confusion in the industry over the presence of formaldehyde in cosmetics and some critics say current testing methods are inaccurate.

Formalin is the generic name for a substance containing both methylene glycol and formaldehyde, however this can mean that current tests are mistaking the former for formaldehyde.

Doug Schoon, scientist and president of Schoon Scientific, has stated that the confusion needs to be cleared up and correct safety procedures put in place.

Whilst he is confident the OSHA will do this, he has highlighted an erroneous misunderstanding that formalin, which is tested for, means ‘formaldehyde water’.

Schoon explained that in general, one or two, or even a million molecules aren't likely to cause harm, since the potential for harm is caused by prolonged and/or repeated overexposure to unsafe levels to formaldehyde or formalin.

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