Black women are highly targeted toxic and estrogen-laden hair products compared to any other ethnic target market group. We all saw Chris Rock’s Good Hair and watched in horror as the scientist dipped a soda can into the chemicals used in relaxers as demonstration of the impact these chemicals have on our hair and our health. Unfortunately, we’ve been exposing ourselves to these hazardous chemicals for years voluntarily, but what if we never had the option to make that decision?

Hair products and cosmetics don’t have to undergo the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration unless there’s a color component or risky medical claims made by a manufacturer. What does this mean for the American public? Lack of regulation of personal care products on the market essentially means that anyone can put anything on the market, dangerous or not, without so much as a blink of an eye by the FDA. So much for big brother protecting our health.

One group of U.S. representatives is stepping up, fighting back and urging the FDA to get with the program and start regulating known cancer-causing straightening products. Their first order of business? Calling out the makers of infamous products like the Brazillian Blowout. “The two-hour hair treatments, which cost about $250, transform coarse, kinky hair into soft, smooth hair for two or three months,” writes JoNel Aleccia for MSNBC.

Representatives Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the FDA yesterday expressing their concerns and demanding action. “The FDA’s inaction on this matter is putting the health of thousands of salon workers and consumers at risk of dangerous formaldehyde exposure from the continued use of not only Brazilian Blowout, but other hair straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde. A November 2011 study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Hygiene found dangerous levels of formaldehyde in several other brands of hair straighteners,” the letter stated.

The Brazilian Blowout was made available in salons for professional use only. Known for its incredible straightening products, women flocked to their stylists to tame their mane. The product, created by GIB, made headlines in 2011 when research showed that the Brazilian Blowout released high levels of formaldehyde. Despite this information and slap on the wrist by the FDA with a $600,000 fine, GIB and other makers of the product sold across the country, didn’t clean up their act.

According to Time magazine the Brazilian Blowout Acai Smoothing Solution and Brazilian Blowout Professional Smoothing Solution were being sold as “formaldehyde free,” but both products release formaldehyde into the air when used according to the instructions.

The representatives’ letter continued: “The FDA has an obligation to protect the public health by using its legal authority to ensure cosmetic products such as Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution that are clearly adulterated or misbranded are removed from the market.”

We’ll lay in wait for the FDA to respond which could mean chance at greater regulation. In the meantime, should we also be urging our local representatives to take action on behalf of black women’s hair products?

  • JN

    YES!!! If there are regulations for things that go IN bodies, and ON our skin (well, to a certain extent–barring skin lightening), why not IN our hair? While we are at it, can Dominican hair salons go through this process as well? Some salons have wash-and-sets that are as powerful as relaxers and I really want to know what they put in them.

  • Lala Fisher

    “powerful as relaxers”? I actually take my own products to the Dominican salon, so no, they don’t have any magical shampoos or conditioners that straighten your hair. If you get a blow out after the wash and set, the heat from the blow dryer and flat-iron change the wave pattern of your hair.

  • JN

    I never took my own products when I went to Dominican hair salon, but I can see how the heat settings can do the trick. I just got tired of my hair thinning as a result of going to the Dominican hair salon.

  • KayBee

    They can make as many regulations as they want..but if people aren’t using the products properly it will not matter. Even the “professionals” mess up which is why I do my own frikkin hair!

  • Tony

    I think older black women knew how to take better care of their hair than the younger black women of today. I see all of these 50 and over 60 year old black women walking around with a head full of hair who have been perming their entire life. Then I see all these bald head or balding teen, 20 and 30 year old black women. smh

  • myblackfriendsays

    Maybe we don’t need the government telling us what we can put in/on our bodies, maybe more of us need to watch Good Hair.

  • kc

    I’ve witnessed the opposite, actually. I see tons of older ladies with hair lines that start three inches back and barely there pony tails.

  • kc

    I know we are supposed to be PC in these hair debates, but I question anyone who is dumping formaldehyde on their head all for a look.Your personal health should always come first. Weave it, wig it, do what you will, but take care of yourself!

  • beauty85

    Maybe we need f learn to appreciate the hair God gave us! Honestly I could care less because I wear m hair natural, anyone who is willing to risk their health for their hair to be straight, needs some sense to be burned into their brain! Such disrespect towards The Lord who gave the black race such unique hair incomparison to every other race!

  • Lala Fisher

    I do care about this hair that the creator gave me, and I don’t have a chemical relaxer in my hair, yet choose to wear it straight most of the time, does that make me any less natural? And I think it is also a disrespect to the Lord to judge those who choose to put chemicals in their….”Judge not…..”

  • kj1986nyc

    Sodium hydroxide is bad um k

  • Pseudonym

    Over the past couple years, there have been incidents at a few (emphasis on FEW) Dominican salons where a “deep conditioner” for natural hair was spiked with a little relaxer:

    Dominican and Egyptian salons are infamous for great blow outs or wash-and-sets- if your hair can take the heat.

  • Pseudonym

    Interesting observation, however, I think the real answer behind the difference in hair health may be in the details: Women currently in their 50s and 60s were teenagers or in their early 20s in the 70s when a lot more black women were sporting natural hairstyles. Many didn’t start perming their hair until they were older- say, in their late 20s or 30s. On the other hand, the women you see currently in their 20s and 30s are actually the daughters of those 50s/60 year-olds, many of whom, they gave perms when they were only 5 or 6 years-old (and I’m sure hair follicle, just like every other part of our body, are extremely fragile when we are children). As a woman in her 20s/30s, I can tell you that a lot of the young women with bad looking hair now had bad looking hair when they were 10. If those older black women truly knew how to take care of hair so much better, then their daughter’s hair wouldn’t have started looking a wreck until they left the house, but it actually started waaaaaay before. I think the problem of many black women with thinning raggedy hair stems from using caustic chemicals on their tresses before they’d even hit double digits in age.

    BUT, with that said, I see a lot of older black women with straw-like relaxed hair. They don’t have traction alopecia or balding sides as much b/c they don’t use weaves and tight braids as much, but I wouldn’t say their hair is much healthier (b/c they give themselves the same caustic perms that they give their daughters).

  • Pseudonym

    People mixed with East Indian and black still get perms. My mom has one, so does her sister, and so did her mom (who is also black and East Indian).

    So please get a life and stop screaming your “East Indian and black” garbage as though anyone cares. No one cares or is mad/jealous/etc. Your “Indianness” only needs to be brought up out of nowhere if you’re gonna cook up some curry and roti and are going to share. (B/c almost everyone loves them some curry and roti! Mmmmm!)



    “weave it, wig it”??

    How’s about Black women learn to have self-love for their entire bodies, including their hair?

    People act as if weaves & wigs are not as damaging to women’s hair as perms are.

    All of these “beauty” practices are self-destructive.

  • Simone L

    I’ll pass on her roti. ” I only use organic chick peas in my curry!!”


    Yall better use “Natural fruit juices and berries” like Hakeem from Coming to America.

  • AkephalonMuse

    …Dang it, now I want curry.

    (ontopic) The Brazilian Blowouts contain formaldehyde. You know… the stuff they preserved the dissection animals with in biology class. I DON’T see the draw knowing that, even if I was not allergic to the stuff (like about ninety percent of the class!) And then we are shocked it’s bad for our health.

    I’m all for getting rid of the stuff.

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