Published: April 2011

Top salon survey

Environmental Working Group’s research team surveyed 41 of the nation’s top 100 hair salons, according to Elle magazine. The question: which ones continue to offer hair straighteners laden with formaldehyde despite the risks and recalls abroad.

Nearly every salon representative we interviewed knew about recent reports of health problems from formaldehyde hair straighteners. But 28 of the 41 salons still offer the treatments.

 

Salons surveyed by Environmental Working Group

Salons surveyed by Environmental Working Group

 

Facts:

Formaldehyde content of leading hair-straightening products

Top salons use six brands of formaldehyde-laden hair straighteners, despite widely reported health concerns for workers and clients.

  • Brazilian Blowout – up to 11.8 percent formaldehyde (Sources: 1,2,3, 4)
  • Cadiveu – 7 percent (Source: 2)
  • Coppola – up to 2.3 percent (Sources: 1,5,6,7,8,9,10)
  • Global Keratin – up to 4.4 percent (Sources: 2,3,7)
  • Simply Smooth – up to 0.93 percent (Source: 7)
  • Marcia Teixeira – up to 3.4 percent (Sources: 1,2,4,6,7,8,9)

Sources: (1) Oregon OSHA, (2) Health Canada, (3) Irish Medicines Board, (4) Allure magazine, (5) Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, (6) Professional Beauty Association, (7) Columbia Analytical Services laboratory, (8) Department of Health and Children (Ireland), (9) French Health Products Safety Agency (Afssaps), (10) EU Rapid Alert System.

 

Hype – formaldehyde free?

Nine salons claimed their treatment was free or nearly free of formaldehyde – or free of health risks – when, in fact, testing compiled by the Environmental Working Group shows the products are laden with formaldehyde. The salon’s claims usually mirrored the manufacturers’ own misstatements about the chemistry and safety of the products:

  • Andy Lecompte Salon, Los Angeles: Cadiveu, “no concerns.”
  • Hopscotch, Greenwich, Conn.: Cadiveu, “the same effect as Brazilian blowout but without the formaldehyde.”
  • Adore Hair Studio, Atlanta: Coppola, “no worry about formaldehyde fumes.”
  • Salon Blonde, Chicago: Coppola, “The fume issue is with the Brazilian treatment, not with this treatment.”
  • Moxie Hair Studios, Las Vegas: “FDA wouldn’t allow it if it wasn’t safe.”
  • Elektra Hair Studio, Houston: Brazilian Blowout, Coppola, “some of the lowest amounts [of formaldehyde] of all the brands out there.”
  • Corte Salon, Washington: Brazilian Blowout, “does not have formaldehyde.”
  • Gregory Michaels Salon, Louisville, Ky.: Coppola, “The product is formaldehyde-free.”
  • Salon Helena, Albuquerque, N.M.: Brazilian Blowout, “There is no concern [about formaldehyde].”

 

“Too risky, we don’t offer it”

Four salons stopped offering – or never offered – the treatment because of the risks. (Nine others EWG surveyed do not offer it but did not state that this was because of risks.)

  • Oribe, Miami: “harmful fumes”
  • Sugar Salon, Helena, Mont.: “The chemicals are really bad for the stylists and for the hair.”
  • Magnum Opus, Portland, Ore.: looking for safer alternatives.
  • Ross Edward Salon, Tulsa, Okla.: “not safe for the stylist or the guest.”

 

“Our workers are at risk, not our clients”

Three salons dismissed risks for clients, saying that concerns are confined to stylists’ exposures.

  • Elektra Hair Studio, Houston: keeps salon “well ventilated” to protect workers.
  • Salon b, Sacramento, Calif.: “sensitive” stylists who grow light-headed don not do the treatment and ventilation keeps fumes down for stylists who do.
  • Matthew Morris Salon, Denver: “nothing has been determined” about the risks, concerns are more for salon workers than clients.

At Metodo Rossano Ferretti in Miami hair straightening is done only on Monday when fewer people tend to be in the salon. The salon runs fans and offers masks.

A representative from Moxie Hair Studios in Las Vegas said “the FDA wouldn’t allow it if it wasn’t safe,” and was clearly not aware that the government has no role in reviewing or approving hair-straightening products.

 

All responses from EWG’s salon survey are summarized below.

Salon Ginger in Anchorage, Alaska Perry Monge Salon & Spa in Phoenix, Ariz. Metropolis Salon in Fayetteville, Ark. Andy Lecompte Salon in Los Angeles, Calif. Byron & Tracey in Los Angeles, Calif. Sally Hershberger Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Calif. Salon b  in Sacramento, Calif. Mercer Street Salon in San Francisco, Calif. Matthew Morris Salon in Denver, Colo. Hopscotch in Greenwich, Conn. Warren-Tricomi in Greenwich, Conn. G Salon in North Haven, Conn. Salon 828 in Wilmington, Del. PeterMark Salon in Delray Beach. Fla. Oribe in Miami, Fla. Roberto Giordano Salon in Miami, Fla. Metodo Rossano Ferretti Hair & Spa in Miami, Fla. Muse Salon and Spa in Alpharetta, Ga. Adore Hair Studio in Atlanta, Ga. Salon Blonde in Chicago, Ill. Steven Sobel Salon in New Orleans, La. Sprout: An Organic Salon in Baltimore, Md. Sugar Salon in Helena, Mont. Moxie Hair Studios  in Las Vegas, Nev. Edris Salon in New York, NY Whittemore House Salon in New York, NY Magnum Opus in Portland, Ore. Hush Salon in Philadelphia, Pa. Elektra Hair Studio in Houston, Texas Corte Salon in Washington, DC Blo in Raleigh, NC Anani Salon and Spa in Ankeny, Iowa Last Tangle in Overland Park, Kans. Gregory Michaels Louisville Salon in Louisville, Kent. Jon Charles in Minneapolis, Minn. Iasan & Sebastian Studio Salon in Lincoln, Neb. Hair Success Salon & Spa in Fargo, ND Ross Edward Salon in Tulsa, Okla. Salon Helena in Albuquerque, NM Lunatic Fringe in Salt Lake City, Utah Ambience Hair Design in Laramie, Wyo.

Salon Ginger in Anchorage, Alaska

Salon Ginger does not currently employ anyone certified to give keratin treatments (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Perry Monge Salon & Spa in Phoenix

The Perry Monge Salon & Spa offers Brazilian Blowout treatments for about $250. The recently hired representative with whom EWG researchers spoke was not able to provide information on the treatment’s safety. He suggested coming into the salon for a consultation and further information (Personal communication, 1/14/11). (Government tests found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout products, 40 times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.)

Metropolis Salon in Fayetteville, Ark.

The representative from Metropolis Salon who answered EWG’s call expressed concern over the negative news being released about the keratin straighteners and said that Metropolis would not offer those treatments until FDA approves them (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Andy Lecompte Salon in Los Angeles

Andy Lecompte Salon’s representative quoted a fee of $350 for shoulder-length hair and asserted that their Cadiveau keratin treatment poses “no concerns” and gives the same effect as Brazilian Blowout with only 0.002 percent formaldehyde. Though this trace amount comports with Cadiveau’s own claims, government tests find an average of 7 percent formaldehyde in the product, 35 times the upper limit recommended by the safety panel sponsored by the leading cosmetic trade association, the Personal Care Product Council.

Byron & Tracey in Los Angeles

At the Byron & Tracey salon, a customer would pay $350-400 for a straightening treatment. The salon’s representative informed EWG’s researcher that she knows the shop uses brands with and without formaldehyde, but we would need to come in for more information (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Sally Hershberger Los Angeles in Los Angeles

A customer can expect to pay $450 for a hair-straightening treatment at Sally Hershberger Los Angeles. According to the salon’s representative, the Global brand used can be mixed with or without formaldehyde. It was suggested that we come in for a consultation for further information (Personal communication, 1/14/11). (Tests by Health Canada in 2010 found up to 4 percent formaldehyde in this brand, 20 times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.)

Salon b in Sacramento, Calif.

Salon b offers Brazilian Blowout treatments at $300. The company representative said that concerns are greater for stylists than customers. He noted that some of their stylists are “sensitive” to the product, becoming lightheaded when they apply the treatment to customers. These stylists no longer provide the service. The salon provides “cross ventilation to help decrease the fumes” for stylists who do (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Government tests found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout products, the highest level detected among all of the keratin treatments tested.

Mercer Street Salon in San Francisco

The Mercer Street Salon offers the Coppola Keratin treatment for $350. But, according to the representative answering EWG’s call, formaldehyde is only released from this product when the flat iron used to straighten the hair is set at temperatures above 450 degrees. The salon’s stylists ensure that their flat irons are set below that limit (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Health Canada tested this product and found an average of up to 1.8 percent formaldehyde, nine times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.

Matthew Morris Salon in Denver

Customers can receive a Brazilian Blowout hair straightener starting at about $250 at the Matthew Morris Salon in Denver.  The salon representative said that while there has been “some concern” about formaldehyde in the product, the claims are being disputed and “nothing has been determined.” EWG researchers were told that, regardless, the concerns are more for salon workers than clients (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Government tests found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout products.

Hopscotch in Greenwich, Conn.

Stylists at the Hopscotch salon in Greenwich use Simple Smooth and Cadiveu brands for hair straightening. We were told that Cadiveu has “the same effect as Brazilian Blowout but without the formaldehyde,” a claim consistent with information published online by the company. The salon representative did not mention that tests conducted by Health Canada in 2010 found that Cadiveu products are 7 percent formaldehyde on average, an amount surpassed only by the 8 percent levels detected in Brazilian Blowout products (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Warren-Tricomi in Greenwich, Conn.

The Warren-Tricomi representative told EWG’s research team that the salon was not currently offering hair-smoothing treatments, but was developing their own product that should be ready in about a month (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

G Salon in North Haven, Conn.

The G Salon offers a keratin smoothing treatment for $75. The product is a re-texturizer and does not straighten hair. The salon does not offer straightening treatments (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Salon 828 in Wilmington, Del.

Salon 828 charges $300 to $350 for Coppola Keratin treatments. The salon’s representative said that the manufacturer claims the product is formaldehyde free, but notes there is still some debate. Still, it “should not be as bad as the Brazilian treatments.” Coppola products were tested by Health Canada and found it to contain up to 1.8 percent formaldehyde, nine times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.

PeterMark Salon in Delray Beach, Fla.

PeterMark stylists use the salon’s own hair-straightening formula, “Ipanema,” which costs $300. The salon’s representative did not think there were any concerns about the product’s safety, but suggested coming in for a consultation for more information (Personal communication, 1/14/11). This brand has not been tested for formaldehyde by government agencies and the salon’s website does not indicate if the contaminant is present in their products.

Oribe in Miami

The Oribe salon used to offer a Brazilian keratin treatment but it no longer does so because of the harmful fumes produced by formaldehyde (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Roberto Giordano Salon in Miami

The Roberto Giordano Salon representative said the salon offers hair-straightening treatments for $260-$300, but did not know the brand used by its stylists and suggested we arrange a consultation to learn more (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Metodo Rossano Ferretti Hair & Spa in Miami

The Metodo Rossano Ferretti salon offers the Marcia brand of hair-straightening treatment for about $450. According to the company representative, however, the treatment is offered only on Mondays, typically a low-volume day in the salon industry because of growing public concerns about the “smell” emitted from the product. The salon also offers masks to customers and uses fans to ensure good ventilation. Government tests found up to 2 percent formaldehyde in this brand.

Muse Salon and Spa in Alpharetta, Ga.

The Muse Salon and Spa offers a Japanese thermal treatment, Fedo Relaxer, but not Brazilian or keratin treatments. When asked if the treatment contained formaldehyde, the company representative suggested that we come into the salon and speak to a stylist (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Adore Hair Studio in Atlanta

At the Adore Hair Studio customers can receive a Coppola keratin treatment for $400-$500. According to the salon representative, there is “no worry about formaldehyde fumes” (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Coppola products were tested by Health Canada and found to contain up to 1.8 percent formaldehyde, nine times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.

Salon Blonde in Chicago

Salon Blonde offers the Coppola keratin treatment for $350. “The fume issue is with the Brazilian treatment, not with this treatment,” according to the salon representative (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Tests by Health Canada found up to 1.8 percent formaldehyde in this brand, nine times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.

Steven Sobel Salon in New Orleans

Stylists at Steven Sobel Salon use the Bio Ionic brand of hair straightener for $275 or more. The salon representative informed EWG’s researcher that there is “no formaldehyde” in the product (Personal communication, 1/18/11). Tests conducted by Oregon OSHA detect small amounts of formaldehyde in the product, below the industry’s recommended 0.2 percent limit.

Sprout: An Organic Salon in Baltimore

The Sprout salon representative information EWG’s researcher that the salon is “organic,” and until they find a way to straighten hair without chemicals, they cannot offer that service (Personal communication, 1/18/11).

Sugar Salon in Helena, Mont.

The Sugar Salon does not offer hair straighteners “because they are dangerous. The chemicals are really bad for the stylists and for the hair” (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Moxie Hair Studios in Las Vegas

Moxie Hair Studios in Las Vegas offers the Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening treatment. When asked about formaldehyde concerns, the salon’s representative said the product only has a small amount of formaldehyde but so does nail polish. Besides, according to this company representative, “the FDA wouldn’t allow it if it wasn’t safe” (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Government tests found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in this brand.

Edris Salon in New York

New York’s Edris salon offers relaxers but not keratin treatments. EWG’s researcher was told we would need to set up a consultation for more information (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Whittemore House Salon in New York

According to the company representative answering EWG’s call, Whittemore House Salon still offers the Brazilian Blowout treatment. The representative was aware of the growing concerns about formaldehyde in the product, but she pointed out that she has heard a lot of positive things about the product, as well. She noted that she had the treatment done on her own hair and has had no issues (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Government tests found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in this brand.

Magnum Opus in Portland, Ore.

The Magnum Opus salon used to offer keratin treatments but it stopped because of the formaldehyde issues. It is trying to find safer alternatives (Personal communication, 1/14/11).

Hush Salon in Philadelphia

Stylists offer Brazilian Blowout and Coppola brands of keratin treatments at the Hush Salon in Philadelphia with costs ranging between $250 and $350. The salon representative said that “no one has complained,” but acknowledged that concerns have been raised over formaldehyde releases from both products, Brazilian more than Coppola’s treatment (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Government tests have found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout products, forty times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.

Elektra Hair Studio in Houston

Elektra Hair Studio offers Brazilian Blowout and Coppola treatments for $250 to $300. The salon representative admitted that both have formaldehyde, but stated that these brands have “some of the lowest amounts of all the brands out there.” He noted that there is “more of a concern” for salon workers, so the salon is kept “well ventilated.” (Personal communication, 1/14/11). Government tests have found an average of 8 percent and 1.8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout and Coppola products, respectively.

Corte Salon in Washington

The Corte Salon offers the Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening treatment. When questioned about concerns of formaldehyde in the product, the salon representative told EWG’s researcher that there was no concern because this brand does not contain the chemical (1/14/11). Contrary to this statement, government tests have found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout products, the highest level detected among all of the keratin treatments tested.

Blo in Raleigh, N.C.

According to the representative who answered EWG’s call, Blo does not offer keratin hair-straightening treatments. The representative did not offer a reason why they do not offer the treatments but she said, “[the salon] has never offered those treatments but [they] are thinking about offering them in the future” (Personal Communication, 2/24/11).

Anani Salon and Spa in Ankeny, Iowa

The Anani Salon and Spa offers the Coppola brand keratin hair-straightening treatment for $250 or more. A salon representative told EWG researchers that, according to the Coppola company, there is no formaldehyde in the product, but rather there is an aldehyde. The Anani representative told us that they recently had a class with Coppola where a chemist told them that the aldehyde is “safe for pregnant women and stylists” (Personal Communication, 2/24/11). Coppola products were tested by Health Canada and found to contain up to 1.8 percent formaldehyde, nine times greater than the industry’s recommended limit.

Last Tangle in Overland Park, Kans.

Last Tangle offers two brands of keratin straightening treatments, Prevana and Chi. When asked for more information about these products, the salon representative said that we would have to come in for a consultation. These brands have not been tested for formaldehyde by government agencies and the salon’s website does not indicate if formaldehyde is present in their products.

Gregory Michaels Louisville Salon in Louisville, Ky.

For about $400, clients can receive the Coppola Keratin Complex straightening treatment at the Gregory Michaels Salon. The salon representative that answered EWG’s called said the product is formaldehyde free. Government tests found an average of 1.8 percent formaldehyde in this brand.

Jon Charles in Minneapolis

The Jon Charles salon offers the Coppola keratin straightener for about $350. When asked about formaldehyde concerns, the salon representative that answered EWG’s call said that Coppola advertises their product as formaldehyde free, however, she has heard varying opinions on the safety of this product. She also said that a number of the stylists at Jon Charles have conducted independent research on the product and suggested that we come in for a consultation to talk with one of them. Tests conducted by Health Canada has found an average of 1.8 percent formaldehyde in this brand.

Iasan & Sebastian Studio Salon in Lincoln, Neb.

According to the company representative answering the phone, the Iasan & Sebastian Studio Salon does offer keratin hair-straightening treatments. However, the representative was not able to tell us anything about the product used. She suggested that we come in for a consultation.

Hair Success Salon & Spa in Fargo, N.D.

Hair Success Salon & Spa charges about $250 for KeraSpa keratin straightening treatments. The company representative answering EWG’s call said that the product has no formaldehyde. She added that the salon once used Keratin Smoothing Complex but stopped because of the formaldehyde in that product. She said that since then the salon has been using KeraSpa and has been having great success with it. This brand has not been tested for formaldehyde by government agencies and the salon’s website does not indicate whether formaldehyde is present in its products.

Ross Edward Salon in Tulsa, Okla.

The Ross Edward Salon representative answering EWG’s call said that the salon did not offer keratin straightening treatments because of concern about their ingredients. She said most brands have formaldehyde which is released during the application process, and therefore, are not safe for the stylists or the guests.

Salon Helena in Albuquerque, N.M.

Salon Helena offers the Brazilian Blowout keratin treatment. When asked if there is concern about formaldehyde in the product, the salon representative answering EWG’s call said, “no, there is no concern” (Personal Communication, 3/1/11). Government tests have found an average of 8 percent formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout products, the highest level found among all of the keratin treatments tested.

Lunatic Fringe in Salt Lake City

According to a salon representative, Lunatic Fringe offers the Keratin brand hair-straightening treatment. When asked about formaldehyde concerns, the representative suggested we come in for a consultation with one of the stylists. This brand has not been tested for formaldehyde by government agencies and the salon’s website does not indicate whether formaldehyde is present in their products.

Ambience Hair Design in Laramie, Wyo.

Ambience Hair Design offers “perms and other types of hair-straightening treatments” but they do not offer keratin treatments (Personal communication, 3/1/11).

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