So you are thinking of having Brazilian Blow Dry but are worried about the risk. Everyone blabs
on about formaldehyde but what is it really? Simply, it’s naturally occurring organic gas, with formula CH2O or H-CHO. Also known by the names: Methanal, Methyl aldehyde, Methylene glycol, Methylene oxide, Formol, Carbonyl hydride and Formalin when dissolved in water. Hair companies like using different names to hide the fact they use it. More on this later. It is widely used in industry principally in the production of resins and as a disinfectant. You will probably know it as the liquid your biology teacher used to preserve dead bodies.
So what’s the fuss? Well apart from it being pretty toxic, it is carcinogenic. Studies show it causes nasopharyngeal, that’s nose and the top of your throat in normal language, cancer in rats. There are human studies positively linking exposure to Leukemia. Interestingly the studies link exposure rather than cumulative exposure. So if you are a regular Brazilian blowwave client or go to a salon that does a lot of Brazilians you may be at just as much risk as your hairdresser. A study on hair salons found during and after a Brazilian, toxic levels of formaldehyde could be found all over the salon.
So just how poisonous is the Brazilian Blow Dry
Now any doctor will tell you that toxicity is in the dose. For example, very small doses of Arsenic can be used to treat certain cancers, but take to much and it will kill you. The same goes for pretty much everything, even too much water or oxygen will kill you. The LDLo (the lowest dose that can kill) in humans for formaldehyde is 70mg/kg or 4.2g (teaspoon is 5ml), to kill a 60kg woman. Now Brazilian Blow Dry’s typically claim to contain 0.2% formaldehyde, however a recent study showed that they contain on average 5.7% formaldehyde. This equates to about 2.85g, just over half a fatal dose or enough to kill a 40kg child in a normal application. If you have longer or thicker hair then you will get a higher dose!
Doses of 8.6ppm (parts per million) or 0.0086% formaldehyde have been shown to cause cancer in rats. In humans it can illicit a toxic response in concentrations of as little as 0.05-2 ppm or 0.0005-0.002%. That’s probably why your eyes get irritated when you have a Brazilian. If you have symptoms that are worse than this, then you could be being exposed to a much higher concentration. Now you know the risks involved. Remember the average concentration of formaldehyde in a Brazilian is 5700ppm or 600 times a proven cancer causing dose.
If it is so dangerous why do salons still do the Brazilian Blow Dry
By now it should be a no brainer as to why we, at Simon Clark Hairdressing, don’t do Brazilians , but if you are wondering why other salons do, then here’s the simple answers:
The beauty industry, it is sad to say, are almost completely unregulated. So hair and other beauty companies can pretty well do and use what they like.
Very few hairdressers have more than very basic school chemistry. Meaning they just don’t have the knowledge to question or research what is out there. A survey, of a class of hairdressers at a local hairdressing college, found not 1 had completed high school chemistry.
Some members of the beauty industry cheat! You will have noticed above I mentioned the various different names that formaldehyde can go under. Recently, a reputable hair company informed us of a new Brazilian that was completely formaldehyde free. We checked the ingredients and sure enough could not find any of formaldehyde’s usual cover names. One did catch our eye, DMDM Hydantion. Which when you heat it will release 2 molecules of formaldehyde for every molecule of Hydantion. Hence, they could claim it was completely formaldehyde free, on the bottle. And you wondered why your eyes still itched with the formaldehyde free versions?
Which brings me to the bottom line, if formaldehyde was so safe why are all the Brazilian manufactures falling over them selves to hide its presence in their formulations? In the mean time there are plenty of other genuinely formaldehyde free straighteners out there. We suggest you speak to a hairdresser who has the chemical knowledge and understanding to guide you through them.