The Brazilian Blowout first came under fire when the Oregon Health and Science University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology and Oregon OSHA investigated a complaint from a hair stylist who suffered nosebleeds, eye irritation and trouble breathing after using the product. Tests revealed that the product contained up to 10.4 percent formaldehyde -- a chemical name OSHA uses interchangeably with methylene glycol. OSHA requires manufacturers to list formaldehyde on a product's material safety data sheet at levels exceeding 0.1 percent.
The Brazilian Blowout maker GIB fired back with a suit against Oregon OSHA "for damages arising out of misconduct for manipulating test results," in which they claimed methylene glycol was not the same as formaldehyde. But the suit was dropped in March 2011 because "it's very difficult to sue a state agency," Brady said. In the meantime, new lawsuits against the company started piling up.
Most recently, a $5 million lawsuit filed June 27 by stylist Dana Lulgjuraj claims she suffered "physical injuries" while using Brazilian Blowout products at the Butterfly Studio Salon in Manhattan. Brady declined to comment on the case, but said, "Anytime anyone has a negative reaction to a beauty product, it's a shame."
At other salons, stylists and clients wear gas masks to protect themselves.
"We know that lawsuits are pending, and will likely carry on for some time. But now, perhaps, stylists still using the product will finally recognize what the smoothing solution contains, and the importance of preventing exposure," reads a Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology statement on the FDA warning letter.
The Brazilian Blowout is one of many keratin-based smoothing treatments hoisted into beauty infamy by stars like Jennifer Aniston and Lindsey Lohan. The treatments range in price from $350 to $600 and promise shiny, frizz-free hair for up to four months.
A class action suit filed in February by San Diego law firm Bonnett, Fairbourn, Friedman and Balint P.C. claims that Brazilian Blowout's false "formaldehyde-free," and "100% salon safe" promises swayed salons into choosing their products over the competition.
"All of GIB's labeling and advertising statements about Brazilian Blowout convey the same message: Brazilian Blowout will safely provide smooth, healthy, frizz-free hair with a smoothing solution containing no harsh chemicals," the lawsuit reads. "There is no other logical reason to purchase Brazilian Blowout and pay the additional price premium over other, less expensive hair smoothing treatments."
The FDA granted GIB LLC 15 business days to respond to the warning and correct the violations, which include selling an adulterated cosmetic and misbranding. Failure to take action, the letter notes, could result in seizure and injunction.