The Buzz About Brazilian Blowouts

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There’s been a lot of talk about the Brazilian Blowout these days. Other names for this process are keratin hair straightening, keratin smoothing, La Brasiliana treatment, Brazilian keratin treatment, or Brazilian hair straightening. If you haven’t heard, the treatment claims to take frizzy, damaged, and textured hair and make it smoother, sleeker and more manageable. It will also straighten wavy hair and relax the wave pattern of curly hair. From what I have seen and heard, this technique really does deliver. You can check out the before and afters on Google.

Unlike other straightening services like relaxers or Japanese hair straightening, the Brazilian blowout does not permanently change the structure of your hair. It works by bonding amino acids (keratin) to the surface of the hair. Keratin is a natural protein found in hair that is very beneficial to maintaining healthy hair. However, the keratin is bonded to hair strands using formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Formaldehyde is a colorless chemical compound with a pungent odor. In addition to causing cancer, it has been linked to many other health problems including general malaise, runny nose, sore throat, headaches, irritated eyes, etc.  Obviously, that’s not good.  I mean, even if you want to risk it for the 1 to 3 hour session every 10-12 weeks, would you really want your stylist to breathe that in all day, every day?

The brand “Brazilian Blowout” is currently in hot water for claiming their product has no formaldehyde after tests proved otherwise. Authorities in Canada called for the disuse of the product, Oregon’s OSHA issued a health alert and the Attorney General’s office in California has filed a suit against the company for the false claims.

There are others who believe the health risks have been blown out of proportion. After all, there is small amount of formaldehyde in most nail polishes and lord knows hairspray is not great for your health. But if you want my personal opinion (and I know you do)… I’m really glad I work at a salon where we don’t offer this treatment. I want you to look and feel beautiful. I really do. I just don’t want to die for it. To tell you the truth, I don’t even really want to have headaches and irritated eyes for it.

Here are my healthier, greener suggestions for more manageable hair:

  • Use a sulfate-free shampoo. Sulfates are great for creating a lot of lather but unfortunately you pay a price for that squeaky clean feeling. A sulfate free shampoo will clean your hair using more gentle surfactants.
  • Don’t wash your hair so much. Invest in a dry shampoo spray if you tend to get oily and resist the urge to wash every day.
  • Try Moroccan Oil. I’ve heard this product described as “a miracle.” A small amount, applied to wet hair after showering can greatly improve your hair’s texture over time.
  • Let it be curly! Overdoing it with heat styling just makes frizzy damaged hair frizzier and more damaged. And anyway, texture is in and totally hot. There are lots of great curl products out there that can help you hold a pretty curl while keeping frizz in check. My current faves are still the Catwalk curlesque products.
  • When you do straighten, try to do it with a good quality brush and blow dryer. Think boar bristles, ceramic, ionic, tourmaline, titanium, etc. I know blow drying takes longer but it is so much easier on your hair. Use a treatment product with heat protection like L’Oreal Professional’s Force Vector.
  • Save the straight iron for occasions when you really want to shine. Again, invest in good high quality straightener and use a heat protective product prior to ironing like Shu Uemura’s Iron Design.

For more in depth coverage of the Brazilian Blowout controversy, check out this article from the Chicago Tribune.

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3 Responses to The Buzz About Brazilian Blowouts

  1. tessa says:

    i just want to mention something. i had a keratin treatment done once–a sort of high-class blowout before a wedding. it was really pretty and left my hair healthy. but for people with really curly hair: it does NOT last. like, not at all. after you wash your hair, it’s curly again. maybe a LITTLE less curly for a few weeks, and a little easier to straighten when i tried. a little. but it does NOT provide a “blowout that lasts” for those of us curly-curls. the press kind of makes it sound like it will give you blown-out-looking hair for a month or three months (depending on the treatment); it doesn’t really work like that. at least, didn’t for me. hi sonya!

  2. tessa says:

    ps: but maybe it was just the brand i used. anyway, whatever.

  3. Pingback: Q & A – Post Straightening Treatment Breakage | Parlor: Diary of a Hairdresser

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