The first independent study of four hair straightening products conducted by scientific consulting firm ChemRisk has found that three of the treatments in the sample contained more formaldehyde than was claimed on the label.
The study on formaldehyde exposure in hair-smoothing products, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene tested the Brazilian Blowout, Coppola, Global Keratin and La Brasiliana brands for formaldehyde content and exposure during use.
"Of those tested, only one mentioned the presence of formaldehyde on its label, but the amount on the label was far below what it actually contained," commented Dr Jennifer Pierce, senior industrial hygienist for ChemRisk.
As the market is currently saturated with hundreds of different keratin-based hair smoothing products, Pierce stated that the public would benefit from a broader survey measuring their formaldehyde contents and potential exposures in hair salons.
"What this tells us is that companies that market these products need to properly reveal the contents of the goods they are selling. The study also points to the need for further research into potential health problems associated with the use of this hair treatment method, particularly those involving short-term exposure," she said.
Product maker hits back
Responding to the ChemRisk report, the maker of the Brazilian Blowout treatment issued a statement citing problems in the testing methods and reiterated that it has ensured levels are safe for both salon workers and consumers. It said:
“We have taken extensive measures to ensure the safety of our stylists and customers, performing numerous air monitoring tests in actual salon settings. Scientific testing has shown no indication of any exposure risk. We do not believe the study ChemRisk was retained to perform is valid, having used two ounces of product per application, four times the amount that is prescribed on the bottle.”
According to the study, each treatment was tested back-to-back in a Chicago salon on a single day in June, with researchers claiming the ventilation rate was similar to other hair boutiques, wherein the air is completely replaced two to three times per hour, and between each treatment, the air was tested to be sure the formaldehyde reading was below the detectable limit.
Some not all
"The results of this simulation study show that average formaldehyde levels in a salon over a full work shift did not exceed the applicable eight-hour occupational exposure limit established by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA)," said Pierce.
However, Pierce and her team explained that some hair smoothing products the company tested, including those labeled as formaldehyde-free, may produce peak formaldehyde in concentrations that exceed OSHA's short-term occupational exposure limits, which has the potential for health risks to salon workers.