Brazilian Blowout Settles — So Why Are Stylists Still Getting Sick?


Today I’m over on The Nation Institute‘s Investigative Fund Blog, with a piece about the latest Brazilian Blowout court settlement.

You guys, I am seriously SO OVER this story. By which I mean: I am so over the fact that there is still a story to tell here.

First of all, we’ve known — anecdotally, at least — that keratin hair straightening treatments contain toxic chemicals ever since Siobhan and Alexandra were inspired to write No More Dirty Looks because of their $400 hair disaster.

And we’ve known officially that supposedly “formaldehyde-free” Brazilian Blowout off-gasses formaldehyde since California OSHA published lab tests confirming thus in October 2010.

And we’ve known that formaldehyde is officially a carcinogen ever since the National Toxicology Program added it to the official list of substances known to cause cancer in June 2011. (Also, hi, it was formaldehyde. This decision did not rock the toxicology world to its core.)

And we’ve made progress: The California Attorney General won their lawsuit and now another class-action lawsuit has been settled, costing the company upwards of $4.5 million. They have to stop saying their product is formaldehyde-free (’cause it ain’t) and they have to affix “caution” labels to the bottles in California, at least.

But: I am still writing about this story. Because they are still allowed to sell Brazilian Blowout, with all of its formaldehyde. They do not have to change the formula. They do not have to ensure that salons use proper ventilation. Salon employees and booth-renting stylists (who have even fewer rights as workers) are still being intimidated and bullied into performing this service and putting their health at risk.

All so ill-informed customers can have shiny, silky straight hair.

This is because nobody — not FDA, not OSHA, not the EPA, not anybody else you can name — has the authority to issue a mandatory recall of the product and get it off salon shelves.

When I interviewed hair stylist Jennifer Arce (who is speaking out against Brazilian Blowout) for this piece, she told me that she’s getting multiple calls and texts per week from stylists around the country who are getting sick at work and don’t know what to do about it. One had her job threatened when she posted a notice about the risks of Brazilian Blowout in her salon’s break room. Others have had to quit jobs and some worry they’ll have to quit the industry without a clear exit strategy. And most don’t have health insurance to help pay for doctor’s visits or inhalers when Brazilian Blowout starts making them sick. 

These workers do not deserve this. Jennifer doesn’t deserve this. My Beauty U cosmetology girls don’t deserve this. Pretty much nobody deserves to be made sick at work and get stuck with the bill. 

If you have a story to share about how Brazilian Blowout has made you sick (whether you’re a beauty industry worker or a salon customer) or if you just want to see this product banned, you can send it to the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance.

It’s time to get this done. 

Read the full story at The Investigative Fund Blog. (The Investigative Fund incubates and supports important investigative stories with the potential for social impact, particularly on issues that may be bypassed by the mainstream media; they’ve supported several of my projects.) 

Filed under Beauty Labor, Career Opportunities, Government Watch, Hair, Health, Ingredients, Press, Products

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  1. Ashley
    Posted March 25, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    My salon has been doing the keratin treatments for over two years now.. They run specials and literally have them going non stop from open to close every single day. I have refused to take part in doing them anymore…but it doesn’t help because I still have to breathe the fumes all day long. I am to the point that I am so sick I’m having to go get allergy testing, sinus cat scan and chest xrays on Wednesday. I have had bronchitis seven times in the past year. I have been having symptoms for over a year now that have gradually become worse over time. I sneeze and my nose bleeds. I can’t breathe and it feels like I am choking. I am to the point that I don’t know what to do anymore and I am probably going to have to quit my job. It’s awful because at this point I feel stuck there with no other options. I’m scared that something horrible is wrong with my lungs at this point and everyone at my salon just seems to ignore it and act like its ok because they are making money. It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever delt with.

  2. Natalija
    Posted April 10, 2012 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Ashley, I too did HUNDREDS of Brazilian Blowouts at my salon until I finally figured out my chronic sinus infections, scabs in my nose and breathing difficulties were being caused by it. Sadly, now because the FDA cannot recall these poisonous products I still occasionally have to breathe the secondhand fumes from other keratin treatments my coworkers do (my salon no longer does Brazilian Blowouts). Lately I have been having relapse symptoms simply being in proximity to formaldehyde. (one of the side effects of formaldehyde poisoning is a high sensitivity to it). It is sad that I may have to decide between a career I love, and my health all so some clients can have smooth frizz free hair. It disgusts me what these companies are getting away with, and the ill informed clients and stylists that fall for the lies. I started an online petition to get the attention of the FDA in this matter. Please sign and share… It needs lots more support

  3. mary casamento
    Posted December 19, 2013 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    Brazilian Blowout Kills.
    I am a 50 year old woman. Three years ago, I bought my new home, my fiance and I were doing invitro, I was planning my wedding, and my life was incredibly amazing.
    I decided to get a Brazilian Blowout at a certified salon that GIB, the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout, had recommended on their website. It just so happened that it was a salon I had been going to for 10 years.
    I had this amazing, beautiful, long, massive hair. I thought it would make my hair even shinier. All the literature stated that it had NO harsh chemicals and it would wash out.
    A week after getting the Brazilian Blowout treatment, I began getting horribly ill. My hair fell out, my teeth fell out, I got pancreatitis, intestinal damage, I became sterile overnight, and my DNA changed. I was in and out of emergency rooms and hospitals. I saw hundreds of doctors. Because of the false Material Data Sheets that GIB submitted to hospitals and FDA and other entities, I couldn’t get medical help because the doctors kept saying it couldn’t be the product. They told me that there was nothing harmful in the product to explain the severe illnesses I was going through.
    Last August, I settled a lawsuit with GIB, the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout for damages. My medical bills have been in the millions. I now have to do blood exchanges (plasma phoresis) three times a week; a person can only this treatment if they are critical because it is an extremely risky procedure. I also do IVIG (immunology treatments via IV), blood transfusions, steroids, and many, many other drugs.
    My brain has now severely attrified, I have parts of my brain that no longer have blood flow, my organs have shrunk, I have kidney, liver, intestinal, stomach, and pacreas failures, I have calcium deposits throughout my whole body that are causing severe blockage, my vascular (blood vessels) are collapsing, quickly losing my eyesight, my nose is collapsing, and my inner ears have shrunk and am losing my hearing. The pain in my head is excruciating. Sadly enough, I am dying, and will be the first person in the US to die from this treatment. (Someone already died several years ago in Brazil, and the product is prohibited in most countries.
    Since the Brazilian Blowout product came on the market hundreds of thousands of people got ill. (Just look at all of the FDA, workmen comp cases, medical facility reports, OSHA, and California State District Attorney case). The original product contained 5-7 times more formaldehyde than embalming solution. (When one drop of formaldehyde is released in a commercial or industrial setting, the business has to be shut down and authorities notified. The person in a commercial setting must wear a complete hazardous material suit to cover ever inch of their body.) Clients and salon workers are wearing no protective gear.
    The new round of Brazilian Blowout products have even more formaldehyde than the original products. (My attorney had the new products tested as well, and we forwarded them to the California State Deputy District Attorney, Claudia Polski.
    The product gets completely absorbed into the body via the head and via inhalation. I had my hair tested two months after the treatment, and I was still off-gassing levels of formaldehyde way above the legal limits. I had to shave off the rest of my hair. I looked like a GI Jane, but my father, Anthony Casamento, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, would have still thought I looked beautiful, and I was being a brave soldier.
    My fiance got a hole the size of a gunshot wound in his liver from sleeping with me and taking care of me. My little adopted doggie, Buddy, is also dying. He absorbed the chemicals from laying on my pillow.
    I can’t change the fact that I am dying from using the Brazilian Blowout, but maybe I could save lives. If just one person is saved from such a horrible fate, then at least what I am going through would not be in vane. I prayer that you will get this information out there to save the lives of others. God Bless.

    • David Marshal
      Posted June 23, 2015 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      you should do your homework; Mary Casamento is all over the dance scene on the internet for her fraud and claims of brain cancer and lupus that have lasted decades. She won’t die because she isn’t sick. Its all documented in her bankruptcy of 2002 in Woodland Hills, and her fraud charges at Van Nuys superior court for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from men claiming she needed brain surgery………..this was in 2001 and 2002.

      I have no idea why she turned over the money; She is ripping off the state of california for disability, She fakes her brain injuries and I have seen her first hand lie to doctors to get SSI. She is a con.

      Mary aka Cassie Casamento has been claiming and robbing people for over a
      decade claiming she has brain cancer……….she is a pathological
      liar. She stole over $60,000 claiming she was going to NYC for brain
      surgery, before that she had lupis, she has filed numerous false police
      reports including attempted rape and battery when she in actuality fell
      off a suitor’s son’s electric skateboard. She has scammed so many
      people in the past that she is a public menace. Her story starts in NYC
      where she took 10 percent of her bosses business then made a sex tape
      with him, suing him; it was dismissed since she was waving at the
      camera. She has duped so many men with her BS stories. 2003 she claims
      she was assaulted in her home by another “hitman” hired by her ex
      husband who was in jail for defending himself from her biting him.
      Nothing made sense other than she ran her head into the stove and faked

      She has Munchausen’s Disease and you will find at
      Bankruptcy Court all her fraud and deceit. She preys on stupid older
      men who buy her nonsense. Everything is well documented in her 2002
      bankruptcy hearing at the Federal Bankruptcy court in Woodland Hills.. A complete gold digging fraud. She has stolen money from Robert Bergman, Scott McClain and others in her 20 years of sexual blackmail and insanity

  4. Jaci munoz
    Posted April 3, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s been verified. A quantitative EEG confirms traumatic brain injury from multiple chemical sensitivities. Yes formaldehyde is the culprits. Just because one osha tested straightener in the salon passes, does not mean 4 per day for months is safe. 27 years as a hair colorist was hard enough on my system. Coworkers performing Brazilian blowout threw it over the edge. With serious consequences. And the symptoms are misleading, and nondescript, delaying any real diagnosis. Fatigue, aches, pains, weakness, brain fog, anxiety, depression, mini sezuires (you won’t notice). A coworker was found to have lung sarcoidosis on a routine chest X-ray. Only symptom…she was tired.


  5. Anonymous Mom to Be
    Posted March 24, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I am now 7 weeks pregnant and have to get genetic testing done because my hair salon never told me this was dangerous for not only pregnant woman but the more I read it seems to be dangerous for everyone around it!! I am praying that everything is ok but I wasn’t warned or you think they might mention that it’s not suggested if your expecting and I would’ve gotten done at a different time!

One Trackback

  1. By Toxic Nail Polish: More Beauty Industry Lies on April 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    [...] what does this remind us of? If you said Brazilian Blowout (or lead in lipstick or carcinogens in baby shampoo or…) give yourself a high [...]

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