Some Brazil­ian hair straight­en­ers have been found to con­tain formalde­hyde – a chem­i­cal re­spon­si­ble for caus­ing can­cer

CityPress - - Front Page - In­ves­ti­ga­tions@me­ JEANNE VAN DER MERWE

Your Brazil­ian blow-dry may re­sult in your best hair day ever, but in the long run, it could be bad for your health. City Press can to­day re­veal the names of six pop­u­lar brands of Brazil­ian ker­atin treat­ments that were found by re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Cape Town (UCT) to con­tain five times or more the per­mit­ted amount of the can­cer-caus­ing chem­i­cal formalde­hyde.

Five of the prod­ucts were la­belled “formalde­hy­de­free”. UCT did not ini­tially pub­lish the prod­ucts’ names but City Press suc­cess­fully ap­plied for the de­tails un­der the Pro­mo­tion of Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act. The prod­ucts are:

Re+5 Trazil­ian Ker­atin Treat­ment Formalde­hyde Free Cadi­veu Trazil­ian Ca­cau Ker­atin Treat­ment Inoar Pro­fes­sional Trazil­ian Tlow dry Hair-Liss Pro­fes­sional Line Ker­atin Treat­ment Choco­late

Me­dusa Pro­fes­sional Com­plex Trazil­ian Ker­atin Treat­ment

Hair Go Straight Choco Coco Trazil­ian Ker­atin Treat­ment

The re­search, pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Academy of Der­ma­tol­ogy in Fe­bru­ary, tested six prod­ucts pur­chased on­line in South Africa.

City Press con­tacted all six brand dis­trib­u­tors for com­ment. Only the two com­pa­nies with South African dis­trib­u­tors, Inoar and Me­dusa, re­sponded.

“Inoar does not sell over the in­ter­net,” said lo­cal agent Hen­drien Kruger. “All our dis­trib­u­tors have to sign con­tracts. We are only per­mit­ted to sell to sa­lons and only af­ter train­ing was done.”

Ac­cord­ing to her, there was a “huge black mar­ket” and “coun­ter­feit in­ter­net op­er­a­tion”.

“We have tested our prod­ucts ev­ery year since 2011. They have al­ways been way below the al­lowed 0.2% [level of formalde­hyde],” she said.

Of Inoar’s eight treat­ments, two con­tained formalde­hyde and this was in­di­cated on the la­belling, she said.

The re­search had been “very dam­ag­ing” to her busi­ness be­cause it did not spec­ify brands, she said, and “the gen­eral pub­lic thinks that all ‘Brazil­ian treat­ments’ are the same”. She added: “Noth­ing can be fur­ther from the truth.” Me­dusa Pro­fes­sional’s Den­zil Fer­reira said the prod­uct’s formalde­hyde con­tent was not in­di­cated on the la­belling, but was re­duced to 0.05% af­ter UCT’s re­search was done. “I be­came aware of the formalde­hyde con­tent about a year and a half ago. The sup­plier had told me the prod­uct was formalde­hy­de­free. Lit­tle did I know they used alde­hyde, which is the same thing. This was their rea­son for calling it formalde­hyde-free.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, the cur­rent prod­uct did not pro­duce strong odours or phys­i­cal ir­ri­ta­tions.

Re+5’s web­site is reg­is­tered in Guangzhou, China. Both Cadi­veu and Hair Go Straight’s web­sites are reg­is­tered in the US. Re­quests for com­ment from the reg­is­tered site own­ers went unanswered.

Hair-Liss’s web­site was reg­is­tered through a third­party con­trac­tor, which ob­scured the real own­er­ship.

In­dus­try con­cerns

Ja­nine Wil­son of the Cos­metic, Toi­letry and Fra­grance As­so­ci­a­tion of SA said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had been op­posed to the Brazil­ian-type treat­ments since they were in­tro­duced. Ac­cord­ing to her, it was telling that rep­utable in­ter­na­tional hair-care brands had never man­u­fac­tured Brazil­ian-type straight­en­ers.

“These treat­ments are banned in Canada, the EU and even in Brazil. Many of the prod­ucts don’t com­ply with South African leg­is­la­tion.”

She said Brazil­ian treat­ments were some­times re­ferred to as Brazil­ian ker­atin treat­ments, which caused con­fu­sion in the in­dus­try and dam­aged the rep­u­ta­tion of non-haz­ardous, ker­atin-only hairstraight­en­ing treat­ments.

“The prob­lem is, formalde­hyde is a preser­va­tive. It pre­serves dead tis­sue and makes it look good, hence the rea­son it’s used as an em­balm­ing agent.

“Hair is dead tis­sue, so the formalde­hyde makes the hair look good. The prob­lem is that formalde­hyde doesn’t like live tis­sue, and that is why over time you could get prob­lems like hair loss.

“Our main con­cern, though, is res­pi­ra­tory. When the treated hair is heated, it gives off gas,” Wil­son said.

What science says

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Nonhlanhla Khu­malo of UCT’s Divi­sion of Der­ma­tol­ogy, who led the re­search, said the chal­lenge for coun­tries was to “set up in­de­pen­dent test­ing fa­cil­i­ties and sys­tems for in­ter­mit­tent ran­dom test­ing”. This would help im­prove com­pli­ance in the in­dus­try to pro­tect con­sumers and hair­dressers who work with these prod­ucts.

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion warned that one par­tic­u­lar brand, Brazil­ian Blowout, had caused a host of side ef­fects in­clud­ing hair loss, nau­sea, chest pain, vom­it­ing, rashes, eye prob­lems and dizzi­ness.

In 2010, the Ore­gon Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health Divi­sion em­barked on an ex­ten­sive study of Brazil­ian hair treat­ments af­ter a stylist at a hair sa­lon com­plained of breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, nose­bleeds and eye ir­ri­ta­tion when us­ing a cer­tain hair-straight­en­ing prod­uct. The la­belling did not in­di­cate any haz­ards, but the prod­uct was found to con­tain 8.5% formalde­hyde. A sub­se­quent study by state officials of 105 sam­ples found the av­er­age formalde­hyde con­tent of these prod­ucts was 8%.

A US re­search study pub­lished last year in the Open Jour­nal of Rheuma­tol­ogy and Au­toim­mune Dis­eases re­counts one ex­treme case where a 47-year-old woman de­vel­oped a se­vere au­toim­mune dis­or­der af­ter hav­ing a Brazil­ian ker­atin treat­ment that con­tained 8.6% formalde­hyde. The woman had a his­tory of ad­verse re­ac­tions to formalde­hyde but the treat­ment prod­uct used on her hair was la­belled “formalde­hyde-free”.

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