Hair-Straightening Products Dangerous, US Reps Say

(Image credit: Sraight hair photo via Shutterstock)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should do more to protect the public from the health risks of hair straightening products, representatives of Congress said today.

Three representatives — Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) — sent a letter to the FDA today expressing their concerns over the products, which include the Brazilian Blowout.

These products contain unsafe levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, the letter said. The FDA has previously received complaints that the products cause adverse reactions, including nervous system problems such as headaches, respiratory tract problems, nausea, chest pain, vomiting and rashes.

The representatives first voiced their concerns to the FDA last year, and asked the agency to issue a voluntary recall of the products and review the health risks of formaldehyde.

Following this request, the FDA sent a warning letter to GIB LLC, which makes Brazilian Blowout, stating the products were "adulterated" and "misbranded." The products contain high levels of formaldehyde despite labels that describe them as formaldehyde-free, the FDA said. The agency asked GIB LLC to take quick action to correct its violations.

But since the warning was issued, the company has not reformulated its products, nor has the FDA taken further action, today's letter from the representatives said.

"The FDA's inaction on this matter is putting the health of thousands of salon workers and consumers at risk of dangerous formaldehyde exposure," the representatives wrote.

"The FDA should immediately take action to stop the sale of these potentially carcinogenic hair straightening products, and continue to evaluate whether to ban formaldehyde from hair straighteners altogether," Markey said in a statement.

A lawsuit settlement in January required GIB LLC to put warning labels on its products saying they can release formaldehyde gas upon application. Its Brazilian Blowout product has already been banned in Canada, Ireland and Australia.

While the Brazilian Blowout is marketed for use by salon professionals, it may also be used by the general public because it is sold online at and beauty retailers, the FDA says.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.