How to Identify Formaldehyde in Hair-Smoothing Products

Learn how you can identify formaldehyde in hair-smoothing products.

March 1, 2012 — -- Five months ago, the federal government put out a hazard alert about the hair-smoothing treatment, Brazilian Blowout, warning that it contains liquid formaldehyde that can turn into formaldehyde gas when heated during a treatment. So we wanted to know whether salons are up-to-date on the news that the product does, indeed, contain a form of formaldehyde and whether they would share that information with us.

We visited 16 salons. Every salon told us they had no safety concerns. Twelve salons said the product contains very little formaldehyde. And four were not aware that it contained formaldehyde. The salons all had outdated versions of Brazilian Blowout's literature and bottles, which said "formaldehyde free."

Now, the company's bottles of solution carry a warning label to alert stylists to the potential formaldehyde risk and the need to perform the treatment in a well-ventilated area.

Brazilian Blowout says if the product is used as directed it is safe.

Brazilian Blowout isn't the only hair-smoothing treatment that contains formaldehyde. It's just gotten the most publicity. (To read Brazilian Blowout's statement to "Good Morning America", click here.)

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in an article you can find here on OSHA's website, the following products also contain formaldehyde, or can expose you to formaldehyde during use, even though they may not list formaldehyde on their labels or MSDSs:

Products OSHA Says Contain Formaldehyde or that can expose you to formaldehyde during use, even though they may not list formaldehyde on their labels or MSDSs:

Brazilian Blowout

Acai Professional Smoothing Solution

Professional Brazilian Blowout Solution


Brasil Cacau

Acai Therapy


Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy

Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment

Natural Keratin Smoothing Treatment Blonde

Express Blow Out

Marcia Teixeira

Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Advanced Brazilian Keratin Treatment

Chocolate Extreme De-Frizzing Treatment

Soft Gentle Smoothing Treatment

Soft Chocolate Gentle Smoothing Treatment

The hair-smoothing products above are probably not the only ones that contain formaldehyde. Some manufacturers list synonyms for formaldehyde on their labels. They sometimes do this because the formaldehyde is dissolved in water or another substance and that changes its chemical composition slightly, giving the chemical a new name.

All of these are names for formaldehyde under OSHA's formaldehyde standard or can release formaldehyde when subjected to certain conditions, such as the heat involved in a hair smoothing treatment. OSHA has provided a list of what it calls "synonyms" for formaldehyde, printed here, and listed below.

Methylene glycol


Methylene oxide


Formic aldehyde




Timonacic acid

Thiazolidinecarboxylic acid

Three Federal agencies have investigated Brazilian Blowout and other hair-smoothing treatments. Oregon was the first to uncover problems. And California recently settled with the company. Here are several helpful links that explain their findings.

OSHA: Hazard alert

OSHA: Timeline of government actions

OSHA: Information about formaldehyde in hair-smoothing products

FDA: Warning Letter to Brazilian Blowout

FDA: Summary of actions on Brazilian Blowout

NIOSH: Letter summarizing testing at one salon

Oregon: Hazard Alert

California: Press Release Regarding Settlement

Brazilian Blowout lists certified salons on its website, which means they have been to the company's training course.

We asked the company how customers can be certain the stylist is qualified to perform the treatment, and the company said, "The easiest way for consumers to know if the treatment is being performed correctly is to ask their stylists if they are up to date on their continuing education and have viewed the most recent training video. As part of our national education training campaign, Brazilian Blowout conducts seminars to educate stylists about the proper application of our products. We also encourage stylists with any questions to contact us directly."

In response to the settlement with California, GIB, LLC, parent company of Brazilian Blowout has printed information and disclosures on its website. You can read those here.

To read Brazilian Blowout's statement to "Good Morning America", click here.