Consumer Health Alert: Hair Straightening Products and Formaldehyde

If you are thinking of getting your hair straightened, here is some important information for you to consider. A group of hair straightening products known as "Brazilian Keratin Treatment" (BKT) may contain formaldehyde.

  • Exposure to formaldehyde can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.
  • People with asthma or other respiratory diseases may be more sensitive than others to the effects of breathing formaldehyde.
  • Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing chemical).

The amount of formaldehyde exposure you get depends upon:

  • the product used,
  • stylist technique, and
  • ventilation in the salon.

The hair straightening products that were tested and shown to contain formaldehyde are listed below. There are more than 150 hair straightening products on the market, and we do not know how many others may contain formaldehyde. You can't count on the label. Some products were labeled "formaldehyde-free", "organic" or "natural", but were found to contain formaldehyde when tested.

How are you exposed to formaldehyde?

You can breathe in formaldehyde when the product is:

  • applied to your hair,
  • heated on your head with high temperature blow dryers and flat irons, or
  • being used on other customers.

You may continue to be exposed to formaldehyde until the product is washed out of your hair. You can also be exposed if you use at-home treatments of BKT hair straighteners.

What products contained formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde was measured in the products listed below. Remember that there are many products on the market and most have not been tested, so we do not know how many others may also contain formaldehyde.

  • Brazilian Blowout Solution
  • Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing solution
  • Brazilian Gloss Keratin Smoothing Gloss
  • Cadiveu Brazilian Thermal Reconstruction
  • Coppola Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy, Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment
  • Coppola Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy, Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment, Light Wave
  • Coppola Keratin Express Brazilian Smoothing Treatment
  • Coppola Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy
  • Global Keratin Functional Keratin Hair Taming System Light Wave Chocolate
  • Global Keratin Taming System Strawberry
  • Global Keratin Taming System with Juvexin Strawberry Resistant
  • Global Keratin Taming System with Juvexin Strawberry Light Wave
  • IBS Beauty IStraight Keratin Advanced Keratin Treatment
  • Kera Green Keratin and Protein Hair
  • Marcia Teixeira Advanced Brazilian Keratin Treatment
  • Marcia Teixeira Brazilian Keratin Treatment
  • Marcia Teixeira Chocolate, extreme de-frizzing treatment
  • Pro-Collagen RX Keratin Treatment
  • QOD GOLD Solution

Who tested these hair straightening products?

Oregon OSHA (health and safety program), Health Canada and the European Directorate-General of Health and Consumer Affairs did the testing and found formaldehyde in most of the products they tested. They also conducted air tests during application of one of the products in two salons and found that formaldehyde had been released into the air.

What kind of chemical is formaldehyde?

At room temperature, formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas that has a distinct, pungent smell. It is also known as methanal, methylene oxide, oxymethyline, methylaldehyde, and oxomethane. When mixed with water, it may be referred to as methylene glycol or formalin (formalin is another name for embalming fluid). You may see one of these names on a product label, but you may not.

What actions are being taken to deal with this concern?

  • The New York State Department of Health is monitoring the situation and we are in contact with other states about their experiences with these products. Through this fact sheet, we are taking the precautionary step of alerting salon workers and consumers about the hazards. At this time, we know that 51 companies market a total of 156 products. Over 100 of those are widely distributed in New York. This year alone, seven new products have come on the market. We have no reliable way, at this time, to know which ones contain formaldehyde.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responsible for regulating cosmetic products, is gathering reports from consumers and salon professionals about eye irritation, breathing problems and headaches.
  • The Oregon Department of Consumer Business Services and the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued alerts on the release of formaldehyde from these products.
  • The Attorney General of the State of California filed a lawsuit against a California-based manufacturer of one of these products (Brazilian Blowout's Acai Professional Smoothing Solution) alleging that the manufacturer failed to warn users about the presence of formaldehyde, as required by California regulations.
  • Health Canada issued an advisory about the release of formaldehyde from the Brazilian Blowout product. Health Canada also received complaints of burning eyes, nose and throat, breathing difficulties and a report of hair loss.
  • The European Directorate-General of Health and Consumer Affairs banned the sale of some products and recalled others.

What should I do if I am concerned about my health because of using these products?

First, consider not having your hair treated with the products.

Seek medical attention, if you are experiencing health problems.

Consumers and salon professionals are urged to report adverse experiences to FDA in either of the following ways:

  1. Report to the nearest FDA district office. The phone number for the New York State Complaint Coordinator is (866) 446-9055.
  2. Report online to FDA's MedWatch adverse event reporting system. You also may call Medwatch at (800) 332-1088 to request a reporting form by mail.

What if I have other questions?

If you have other questions, you can:

  • Call us at (518) 402-7900 or toll-free at (800) 458-1158
  • Email us at boh@health.state.ny.us
  • Write to us:
    Center for Environmental Health
    Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention
    Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1325
    Albany, New York 12237
    (518) 402-7900

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