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Hair Smoothing Products Might Cause Health Risk

Certain hair care products, primarily those used by hair care professionals for smoothing and straightening hair may produce formaldehyde even if that compound is not listed as an ingredient in the products, according to a warning issued today by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warned that formaldehyde presents a health hazard if workers are exposed. It can irritate the eyes and nose; cause allergic reactions of the skin, eyes and lungs; and is linked to nose and lung cancer.

“Salons need to make sure that high-risk products are used carefully to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals,” said Jay Stewart, Director of the Division of Professional Regulation at IDFPR. “Further, some imported hair care products are not labeled appropriately, and their use may expose licensed cosmetologists to formaldehyde without warning.”

Formaldehyde has been found in salons in California and Oregon that used Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution and Brazilian Blowout Professional Brazilian Blowout Solution. These and other keratin-based hair smoothing products contain formaldehyde dissolved (and chemically reacted) in water and other ingredients in the product. Because of the way the formaldehyde reacts in these products, some manufacturers, importers, or distributors might list other names for formaldehyde on product information or might claim that the product is "formaldehyde-free." Formaldehyde might be listed as methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, or CAS Number 50-00-0. All of these are names for formaldehyde under OSHA's Formaldehyde standard.

Formaldehyde can be released from hair smoothing products that list any of these names on the label and workers can breathe it in or absorb it through their skin. Workers can be exposed to formaldehyde during the entire hair straightening process, especially when heat is applied (e.g. blow-drying, flat ironing).

For more information about the risks of formaldehyde and how salons can protect their cosmetologists while using these products, visit

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