FDA Warning to Brazilian Blowout. Also, Fume Hood for Hair?

I interrupt this blog from its regularly-scheduled hiatus* to comment on a new tidbit of information about Brazilian Blowout that has recently come to light. The FDA has issued an official warning letter to Mike Brady, the CEO of GIB, LLC (aka Brazilian Blowout), citing two major violations of their original BB product. Namely, the FDA declares Brazilian Blowout to be (1) an adulterated cosmetic and (2) a misbranded cosmetic.

brazilian blowout fda warning methylene glycolThe warning letter is fairly straightforward. The original BB hair straightening formula is described as “adulterated” because it contains an ingredient that is potentially harmful when the product is used as prescribed. This ingredient, of course, is formaldehyde (aka methylene glycol). Secondly, the product is misbranded because it claims to be formaldehyde-free when… it isn’t.

Clearly BB needs to cease the “formaldehyde-free” branding, but should they pull the product from the market? A lot of people really like the results of the original formula, and are willing to pay large sums of money to get their hair straightened this way. Notably, the newer Brazilian Blowout Zero product, which truly doesn’t contain formaldehyde, doesn’t seem to work like the original, at least according to numerous comments on this earlier post.

The way I see it, there are two questions that need to be answered:

(1) Is there a ventilation technique that will enable use of this product without hazard to the stylist or the customer during the application? (2) After the customer leaves the salon, do formaldehyde fumes continue to be expelled from the hair over the course of hours, days, or weeks? If so, are the fumes in levels high enough that there should be a health concern? If the answers to these questions are (1) yes and (2) no, then Brazilian Blowout’s problems with the FDA should be reconcilable in a way that all parties can be happy.

Here is my suggestion for how to ensure safety for the stylist, customer, and other nearby persons during application of Brazilian Blowout. I think it’s pretty self-explanatory, especially if you’ve ever used a glovebox. Make it pink or something, so maybe it won’t scare the customers away:

brazilian blowout safe application methylene glycol formaldehyde

*I have now begun the last year of my PhD program, so spare time has become very scarce (i.e., nonexistent) over the last few months. As a result, unfortunately, this blog has gotten pushed to the wayside. I miss it dearly, and hope to be able to get back to it when things settle down. I’ve never gotten a PhD before, so I’m a little unclear on when exactly things “settle down”, but they’ve got to sometime (right?).
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9 Responses to FDA Warning to Brazilian Blowout. Also, Fume Hood for Hair?

  1. Nuno says:

    I don’t need to straighten my hair, too, but that’s because mine is roughly by my shoulders.

    But this is not what I have to ask. You say that formaldehyde is methylene glycol, but I think that a glycol is a di-alcohol (in Portuguese at least is something like this, but what I mean is that it has two OH- groups), while formaldehyde is an aldeyhde, more specifically methanal, so I think I didn’t got the nomenclature you’ve used.

    Btw, congratulations for your blog, I always read your updates :D

    • Thanks : ) I hope to begin writing more frequently again sometime in the not-too-distant future… You’re exactly right about the glycol thing (same in English as Portuguese I guess). Methylene glycol is CH2(OH)2. The reason that methylene glycol “is” formaldehyde is explained in detail in these earlier posts here and maybe here, but the summary is that when you dissolve formaldehyde (a gas) into water, it forms methylene glycol reversibly. Not coincidently, the chemical formula for methylene glycol is exactly equivalent to formaldehyde plus H2O. The problem is that this reaction is reversible – that means it goes backwards too (methylene glycol can break apart into water and formaldehyde, especially when “pushed” to do so by heat). Thanks for reading despite my shortage of updates!

  2. Nuno says:

    Thank you!

    I surely need to read not only the updates, but your whole blog since the beggining :D

  3. zurvan says:

    Good to see an interesting article after such a long break. I wish you best of luck for the final year of PhD. Hope to see more articles.

    Reading this article lead to find out how toxic formaldehyde is. Wikipedia says that just a single ounce of it can kill an adult O.o! Any idea what does it do when it enters the body? How does the body metabolize it?

    • Aw thanks : ) And thanks for sharing your investigation into formaldehyde’s biological effects. I don’t know much about metabolism, but – chemically speaking – formaldehyde is a relatively potent electrophile – it’s such an unhindered aldehyde. I imagine a lot of the nucleophilic portions of amino acids (e.g., amines, thiols) would react with formaldehyde, and maybe DNA subunits would react as well. Formaldehyde’s effectiveness as a preservative for laboratory specimens, I believe, is attributed to its ability to form cross linkages between amino acids. I think we can all agree that the take home lesson is don’t consume formaldehyde.

      • AKA dad says:

        “Don’t consume formaldehyde” is the main reason I resort to sugar, honey, etc instead of aspartame. (Take note, FDA!)

  4. The main thing i got was “blog – pushed to the side” Don’t forget about it now! We all need your elegantly delivered disambiguation and the FDA needs you as a consultant. If it werent for folks objectively analyzing sketchy marketing and product claims based on the scientific method (whatever that is) and REAL scientific merit, we may one day be watering our crops with gatorade (“its got electrolytes!” -Idiocracy, Mike Judge) The thing that bugs me is i get that the people who call the shots, with their limited pool of recognized research organizations and the fact that the administrators of said government authorities are often completely ignorant of the science they depend on will result in stuff like this falling on deaf ears…or not falling at all. This article is the makings to possibly the only solution for both Brazillian Blowout AND the FDA (which in turn is the consumers.) Many of your other articles are the same for other issues…I will promote your material as long as you write it sir. And I rarely do that.

  5. Caitlin says:

    Ahhhhhh!! Well I most certainly got a BB lately, and was absolutely under the impression that there was no formaldehyde in the formula. I think that it’s absolutely disgracefull that a big company can misrepresent their product so much. I can tell you this, I will deal with the straightener from now on. Thanks for this info, everyone should know this before going to the salon to get a blow out.

  6. chrissy4 says:

    If you’ve ever had a Brazilian Blowout & need a shampoo to help you keep that blowout look, you need to use Shielo’s Hydrate shampoo and conditioner. It’s SULFATE-FREE which is what you need to use if you’ve had your hair straightend. And, if you haven’t had a Brazilian Blowout, it’s a great product anyway.