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The Brazilian Blowout Controversy

The Brazilian Blowout controversy should be closely followed by every salon owner and stylist in the UK. The controversy has raised the question of whether hair straightening treatments are safe to perform due to the products used. It has also raised the question whether salon owners and hairdressers should rely solely upon the manufacturers and government health authorities to ensure the safety of products on the market. If nothing else, the controversy has adequately demonstrated the need for any business in the beauty industry to carry adequate amounts of insurance cover.

The Controversy’s highlights

The conflict’s history has been one filled with numerous investigations, allegations, counter allegations, law suits and counter lawsuits. The debate and lawsuits have involved hundreds of consumers of hair smoothing products, manufacturers, cosmetic distributors, and government agencies around the globe. Here is the controversy’s timeline:


Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatments (also known by various other names) became very popular in numerous countries. It has become a very lucrative income source for many salons and hair stylists, as well as for the manufacturers, importers, and distributor of keratin-based hair smoothing products.


Various salon employees and their customers in Brazil, the U.S., and Canada started complaining of breathing problems, nose bleeds, skin rashes, blisters, hair loss, and irritated eyes, nose and throat after or while giving or receiving a Brazilian Blow-dry treatment. Brazilian health authorities determined it was due to the salons adding too much formaldehyde to their keratin-based hair straightening solutions. Brazil then started restricting the usage of formaldehyde in these products. However, many people ignored the restrictions and continued to use high levels of formaldehyde. This is due to the belief that it’s the high levels of formaldehyde that makes the solutions work well.


Health authorities in the U.S. and Canada started investigating the safety of keratin-based hair smoothing products based on consumer complaints. The results revealed that numerous products emit a formaldehyde gas during the blow-drying and flat iron part of the treatment. The investigations led to various governmental agencies making allegations that several manufacturers, especially GIB, LLC (doing business as Brazilian Blowout) have mislabelled and misbranded their products, failing to give proper warning of the high levels of formaldehyde gas emitted during use of the product. They also led to numerous governmental agencies and health authorities issuing unsafe product alerts due to the high levels of formaldehyde gas emissions during the proper use of the products.

Also in 2010 the investigation results also led to two major class action suits, as well as several individual lawsuits being filed against Brazilian Blowout. It also led to a lawsuit filed by the State of California against Brazilian Blowout for violation of the state’s Safe Employment Act and four other types of violations of state regulations. The publishing of the investigation findings led to GIB, LLC filing a lawsuit against the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (ORE-OSHA). GIB, LLC alleged that ORE-OSHA had misidentified the methylene glycol ingredient as formaldehyde, and that the publishing of test results had caused the company irreparable damages. ORE-OSHA then issued a document that stated that methylene glycol is considered to be a liquid form of formaldehyde under the Oregon Safe Employment Act’s formaldehyde standards. The findings also led to several other countries, such as Ireland, to conduct product recalls of the products listed in the U.S. and Canada unsafe product alerts.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to Brazilian Blowout regarding the high levels of formaldehyde in its products which the company continues to claim are formaldehyde-free and safe to use. The California Department of Public Health issued a document on formaldehyde in keratin-based hair smoothing products. GIB, LLC dropped its lawsuit against ORE-OSHA. Many of the companies that marketed keratin-based hair straightening products began changing their names and the chemicals used in their formulas. However, no one has tested the safety of the new products, and no one seems to agree as to what test methods should be used.

How the controversy affects UK salon employees

Despite all the various investigations by other countries, the UK has not forced the manufacturers of the unsafe products to make recalls. The ruling authorities in the UK have only issued one alert, naming only four of the eleven products that have been found to contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde. Yet several of the products were mislabelled as being formaldehyde-free and consumers are not being made aware of their exposure to formaldehyde gas emissions. All eleven of the products are still on the market and being used by numerous UK salons and hair stylists. This unawareness could lead to ill-health and numerous lawsuits for the salon employees and owners. Without adequate insurance cover to pay for the legal and medical expenses that might arise, offering keratin-based hair straightening treatments may destroy a thriving salon. Thus, the Brazilian Blowout controversy should be of great interest to all UK salon employees and independent hairdressers.