The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a Hazard Alert for Brazilian keratin treatment products.

There has been a lot of controversy (and confusion) lately over the recent Hazard Alert issued by the Department of Labor, but we’ve got the full scoop for you. After years of skepticism towards Brazilian keratin treatment products and the presence of formaldehyde, the Department of Labor recently issued a Hazard Alert that warns the public on the dangers of formaldehyde. This is perhaps where the different interpretations arise. Many consumers and stylists believe that this Hazard Alert is a ban on formaldehyde containing contents, however, the disclaimer at the bottom of the page provides some clarification. It reads:

The Hazard Alert

“This Hazard Alert is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.” — U.S. Department of Labor

So there you have it. No ban has been issued just yet, but what this new document does achieve is national awareness of the problem. Even better, this new alert establishes recommendations and information on safety standards that stylists must adhere to. The hazard alert was released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—a branch of the U.S Department of Labor. Overall, the document emphasizes the importance of keeping a safe working environment, and it urges stylists and salon owners to exercise caution with products. And while employee safety is the main concern of this hazard alert, how dangerous is it for clients to be exposed to formaldehyde?

Whether or not you are a stylist, formaldehyde is a hazard whenever it is inhaled into the lungs or if it gets into the eyes. Every time a hot flat iron touches hair that has any form of formaldehyde, the chemical is released into the air as a gas and both the client and the stylist can breathe it in. This can cause irritation in the lungs, throat, nose and eyes. More information on formaldehyde can be found in the alert that OSHA issued.

Hazard Alert in a Nutshell

So what exactly does the Hazard Alert say? Here it is in a nutshell:

1. OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has been investigating the presence of formaldehyde in the air of salons after receiving multiple complaints from stylists. What they found was that certain products labeled as “formaldehyde free” did in fact release formaldehyde into the air at levels above what OSHA allows. These products were not only falsely labeled, but they failed to provide any warnings, and formaldehyde did not appear on the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Two of these smoothing treatments are the Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution and Brazilian Blowout Professional Brazilian Blowout Solution.

Note: Good Housekeeping recently published their own investigation in which they tested four salon brand products: Brazilian Blowout, Marcia Teixeira, Keratin Complex by Coppola, and Global Keratin Light Wave. Their researchers found that ALL four brands released formaldehyde into the air at levels that exceeded the acceptable amount regulated by OSHA.


Watch for other names for formaldehyde that distributors use.

A Chemical By Any Other Name

2. There are many names for formaldehyde that distributors use in order to label the product as “formaldehyde free.” If you see any of the following ingredients on your hair products, you should exercise caution before using them: methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, or CAS Number 50-00-0.

3. Every stylist should have a Material Safety Data Sheet for every product that contains an ingredient that is hazardous to the health. Essentially, every employee should be informed of the dangers of a particular product and should receive proper training on how to handle said products. Also, the Hazard Alert admits that not all Material Safety Data Sheets have all their ingredients listed, but if stylists experience health problems that they suspect to be the result of formaldehyde, they should report it to their employers. “Formaldehyde must be listed if it is in the product at 0.1% or more (as a gas or in solution) or if the product releases formaldehyde above 0.1 parts of formaldehyde per million parts of air.” (U.S Department of Labor)

4. If stylists decide to use products that release formaldehyde, they must install air ventilation systems, use lower heat settings on blow dryers and flat irons, offer stylists respirators, post signs that warn clients of the presence of formaldehyde, and educate the employees that might come into contact with the product.

Essentially, the alert doesn’t “ban” the use of formaldehyde, but it does set up some restrictions. Outside the U.S, however, several countries are taking measures to completely remove dangerous keratin treatments from the market. According to Europa Affairs, the following countries have banned specific keratin treatments:

1. France: Hair treatment product by BHOME, SOCAP Professionnel Paris, Nanokeratin system

2. Germany: Four different keratin treatments by Coppola

3. Ireland: Coppola, Global Keratin, and Marcia Teixeira

4. Portugal: Alter Ego

5. The Netherlands: Chenice

Unfortunately, the list doesn’t stop there. On October 26, 2010, Health Canada issued an advisory stating that the Brazilian Blowout contains 12% formaldehyde and should not be used. Since then, Health Canada has been working to stop distribution of the solution.

Will the United States follow their lead? What are your thoughts?