sanctuary logo


 The Style Guy was a monthly column that appeared in Birmingham Magazine for nearly ten years.  It was written each month by Sanctuary owner and stylist Todd Cargo.


A couple of months ago I told you all about a wonderful new treatment for taming fuzzy hair: The Brazilian Blowout. I first heard of the Brazilian Blowout, also called a Keratin Smoothing treatment, several years ago and my interest was piqued. I started to investigate this new thing with the help of Google. After a few mouse clicks I learned how this new treatment was a keratin protein that is applied to the hair in a liquid state, blow dried in and then becomes semi-permanently fused to the hair using a 450 degree flat iron. The protein coating sheaths each hair strand closing the cuticle layer down flat and smooth while filling in split or missing cuticles and repairing pre-existing damage. The result is hair that has a hard smooth top coat that resists humidity absorption, smoothes frizz, controls curl without straightening it, and reduces blow drying time. This product and procedure seemed to do just about everything you would want for your hair, what's not to love? Oh, there was this one little thing about it containing anywhere from 10% to 40% Formaldehyde depending on which brand and formulation was used. Most of what I read suggested that the client and stylist wear a gas mask while the service is being performed. How glamorous! Needless to say, I dropped the whole affair after reading about that, deciding that the health risks to all involved were not worth it. 

               Many months later my trusted product rep Rick was in the salon and was telling me about this amazing new procedure his company had started representing using Keratin protein and a flat iron. I thought that sounded a lot like the dangerous Brazilian Blowout that I'd read about and I told him that I wanted nothing to do with it. He assured me that the brand and type his company sold was not the Brazilian Blowout that I had researched and his product was completely Formaldehyde free and perfectly safe and very effective. I gave the product a try and found that it did live up to its claims; smoother, more manageable hair that lasts 3-6 months. We found this product easy to work with and experienced no problems with fumes, smell, or irritation. Keratin Smoothing treatment has been one of our most popular offerings. Then more recently another rep from another company has introduced us to another Keratin treatment brand: Brazilian Blowout. I told her my objections to this particular product and she too assured me that it was Formaldehyde free, it even says so on the front of the bottle. I decided to give it a try to see how it measured up to the other product I'd been using. The smell was a little stronger, though still not bad and actually less than some color brands I've used before. However, during the flat ironing part of the procedure there was a lot of vapor rising from the hair that stung my eyes and burned my throat. I avoided this by having the client close her eyes and by keeping my face at arm's length from the hair I was working on. The finished product was smoother and shinier and bouncier than the previous Keratin solution that we had been using. Our clients have loved it too. 

               Just recently the Brazilian Blowout brand has been in the news after OSHA tested samples of the solution and announced that the product contained 4-10% Formaldehyde, well above the FDA approved levels safe for exposure. Then the Brazilian Blowout company fired back that the wrong tests were performed and demanded retesting. Apparently OSHA tested for Methylene Glycol which contains trace amounts of Formaldehyde but isn't Formaldehyde itself. The new conclusions are that the product contains 37% Methylene Glycol which in itself contains less than 0.05% of Formaldehyde--well below the accepted safe levels of exposure and also low enough that Brazilian Blowout can make their claim to be Formaldehyde free. OSHA has recanted their earlier claims and is paying damages to the company for causing a scare. There is still some ongoing litigation between various parties involved and I'm sure we've not heard the last of this controversy. In the meantime I plan to continue to perform Keratin treatments while staying aware of any new developments in the story. My personal conclusion is that these products are very effective and perfectly safe when used correctly by people who know what they are doing. The miniscule amounts of Formaldehyde are no more than we come in contact with on a daily basis from thousands of other products. If you are interested in this procedure, talk to your stylist and discuss the benefits and drawbacks. He or she already knows your sensitivity levels with hair color and product and can best determine if you are a candidate or not.