Sleek, silky hair can come with a price – your health – STL Post Dispatch

BY DEBRA D. BASS • Post-Dispatch Fashion Editor > > 314-340-8236 | Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 12:00 am

There’s been a lot of troubling debate bandied about with regard to the various potions that claim to leave your hair luxuriously smooth and straight.
The question most people are asking now is, “OK, but at what cost?”

There are horror stories about hair falling out and scary photos of clients and hair stylists wearing gas masks (yep, like the ones that guard against napalm) to perform these treatments.

But there are also thousands of stylists and clients who claim that hair was never so soft, smooth, silky and strong as after one of the most dubious treatments, called the Brazilian Blowout. Now there are dozens of products that all have a long, confusing lists of ingredients.
It will probably take years to really understand the consequences, but for now, experts all insist that these hair treatments are probably safe, even the odious ones that emit formaldehyde.

It’s controversial, but the scientific evidence hasn’t proved it harmful … yet.

Kara Nunley, a dermatologist with the Washington University School of Medicine, said, “One of the things we know about formaldehyde is that it is a carcinogen in large amounts, but the evidence we have right now is that small exposures don’t necessarily increase your risk to cancer.”

She said that women who are pregnant or think that they could be pregnant are advised to stay away, but the same goes for our beloved hair coloring treatments.
She repeated that she can’t tell people that there’s absolutely no risk, but so far the data says that there’s no increased risk.

David Johnston, who owns the new Vakkar salon (9912 Clayton Road) dedicated to reducing waste and promoting green business practices, said that he’s been studying articles and research on the hair straightening blowout and keratin treatments a lot in the past few months. He wanted to be able to answer clients’ questions.

And from what he’s read, he said, the treatments are fine if people use common sense.

Johnston said the chemicals pose the biggest threat to the stylists who apply multiple treatments a day standing directly above the noxious vapors. Ventilation is the key, so he pays particular attention to the air flow when stylists are doing keratin treatments or hair coloring. And he limits how many of those types of treatments can be done a day.

He said that it wouldn’t be an issue if the products didn’t work so well and clients didn’t demand them.
“I don’t think it’s unsafe. I really don’t, but nothing is conclusive,” Johnston said. “Still it’s hard to say, yes, this product contains a carcinogenic, but X amount of this chemical is safe even though it’s controversial.”

A few things to consider:
1. Ask for a mask or bring your own.
2. Find out which product your stylist is going to use and check out the ingredients.
3. Methylene glycol is the dubious ingredient in Brazilian Blowout that becomes formaldehyde when heated. Now, there’s an alternative Brazilian Blowout Zero that does not contain this ingredient (the original formula is still available).
4. Some hair chemists in online blogs have said unequivocally that it’s the formaldehyde that makes hair sleek and shiny for 12 weeks because it works wonders with free amino acids and hair protein. Without the formaldehyde, you may be just getting an expensive conditioner that won’t last as long.
5. If you feel like you’re having a reaction during or immediately following the treatment, speak up.
6. If you are pregnant or think you might be pregnant, tell your stylist and arrange a time to go into the salon when they won’t be doing any treatments with these types of products.
7. Don’t be fooled by words like natural and organic. They don’t mean that a product is good for you. Polysyllabic chemical compounds can be natural and organic, too.

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