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The straight dope on the Brazilian Blowout

About JoAnne Klimovich Harrop

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By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop

Published: Thursday, May 26, 2011

There is no argument that the Brazilian Blowout hair-straightening treatment works wonders.

There is, however, some skepticism about how safe it is, according to some stylists and salon owners.

The Brazilian Blowout is an in-salon service that uses heat and chemicals to straighten hair for up to four months. The controversy surrounding this hair-care treatment is over the amount of formaldehyde released during the blow drying and flat-iron processes.

But there are so many product choices, that it's difficult to know how much of a particular chemical is present, says hair icon Philip Pelusi, who owns 12 salons in Western Pennsylvania and one in New York City.

"There is too much controversy over who has what and, because they are 9 million products out there, it's hard to know how much formaldehyde is in a product," says Pelusi. "It might be less or it might be camouflaged. The bottom line is it is not good for the client, the stylist or the hair."

Formaldehyde, a colorless gas compound, is used as a preservative at mortuaries and in consumer products, including permanent-press fabrics and household cleansers. It is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The Wall Street Journal reported the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, along with several state occupational agencies, has been investigating complaints about formaldehyde exposure. OSHA has issued a hazard alert to salon owners and workers about potential formaldehyde exposure resulting from hair-smoothing treatments.

Many area salons have decided to stop doing it, while others do it sparingly. The key is to have the area well-ventilated. Stylists wear gloves and some clients wear masks. Sognatore Salon, Downtown, offers what is known as the original Brazilian Blowout and the Brazilian Blowout Zero.

"There are a lot of products out there that have a lot of chemicals in them, and that is what has prompted the controversy," says Jennie Williams, a stylist at Sognatore, who performs the treatment. "The thing about these products is, if you do them right way and have the correct ventilation, they are wonderful. It doesn't bother me."

Williams gave the blowout treatment to client Denise Gedeon of Sewickley on Wednesday.

"I am not as concerned about the amount of chemicals," Gedeon says. "I don't think it is dangerous. It's a personal preference for me. I did it last year, and it really lasted a long time. My hair feels so soft. The humidity wreaks havoc on my hair, especially in the summer in Pittsburgh."

The steps in the process include washing with a clarifying shampoo, applying the product to each section of damp hair from roots to ends, blow-drying, and then using a flatiron.

Depending on how thick and long the hair is will determine the time it takes to perform the service. Medium-length hair takes about an hour and a half for the Brazilian Blowout, versus two to two-and-a-half hours for the Brazilian Blowout Zero which has no formaldehyde. The cost starts at the same price -- $300.

"We let clients choose the blowout they want," says Zoe Lincoln, owner of Sognatore. "We have a lot of options for people. People want straight hair, and once they have had the Brazilian Blowout, they love it. If you think about other products such as those we use to color hair, up until recently there have been a lot of chemicals in those products."

Izzazu Salon, Spa & Serata, Downtown, no longer offers the Brazilian Blowout.

"We used to do it, but we stopped," says Emilio Cornacchione, who co-owns Izzazu with Gino Chiodo. "The safety of our stylists and clients is very important, and, even though we have really good ventilation, we chose to stop. It jeopardizes their safety."

Women will do a lot of things to look beautiful, Chiodo says.

"But you have to be careful," he says. "If it works, and they look and feel good, they are still going to do it. Right now, it's not on our menu of services. Because I am not a chemist. I just have to believe what they tell me."

Izzazu does offer other treatments to straighten hair.

Pelusi knows women like the results of such a treatment, so he recently introduced an organic blowout formula that he helped to create. It doesn't last as long as the original Brazilian Blowout but is good for the hair, he says, and there aren't any chemicals. The cost starts at $100 and requires more maintenance within a shorter period of time. It lasts about six weeks.

"This will make the hair stronger, too," Pelusi says. "You can go out in the humidity, and it will still look good. We are trying to get rid of bad-hair days safely."

Sharon Heilman of Upper St. Clair was amazed at the result for her hair.

"Oh my God," says Heilman, looking in the mirror. "I love it. And it feels wonderful, too. I am so excited."

Want to try the Brazilian Blowout?

Play it safe and consider these precautions says InStyle magazine:

Do your homework: Although similar in name, not all straightening treatments are equal. Some last six weeks, others four months. Rule of thumb: The longer it lasts, the more potent the formula. For more in-depth info on the ingredients contained in specific solutions, check out the OSHA website ( osha.gov ), and Health Canada ( hc-sc.gc.ca ), another public-health organization that has done extensive testing on the levels of formaldehyde in various brands.

Check out the place in advance: Before booking an appointment, look for a salon that does treatments in a large, airy room, ideally with windows and fans close by. A room without windows should have several air ducts within the area to ensure thorough cross-ventilation.

Bring your own safety kit: Chemical fumes can irritate the nose and eyes, so if you're sensitive, consider wearing a filtration mask (a pack of 20 is available at drugstores for $10 or less) or bring along a handheld fan. Keep in mind: The most dangerous part of the process occurs when the heat from the flatiron on the treated hair releases fumes. If you're planning to don a mask, this is the time to do it.

Consider the stylists: Any potential hazards are more serious for staffers regularly performing the treatments than for you. If you're not comfortable with stylists' working conditions, look at other salons.

In favor of curly hair

Not every woman wants to have straight hair.

If you're one of them, there are plenty of options for you to embrace your curly or wavy locks while keeping them under control.

Salons offer products and treatments for curly hair, such as Salon Bernabo in Ohio Township that has Deva Curl. At a recent Deva Curl Girl's Night Out party, women with everything from all over curls to light waves learned how to enjoy their natural look.

"There is kind of a sisterhood of curly-haired people," says Molly Klaich of Sewickley. "We all understand how hard it used to be hard to have curls. I always wanted straight hair because the humidity in Pittsburgh makes for bad curly-hair days. But using this product has made me change my mind. This product is great. You don't really even need to use a lot of it. I love how my hair looks and feels."

There are three steps -- cleanse, hydrate and style-- says Shari Harbinger, director of education for Deva Concepts and color director for Devachan Salon, who was at Salon Bernabo.

"Women with curly hair sometimes feel like there is nothing they can do,' she says, "but if we can show them a way to wear their hair curly and like it, they will embrace their curly hair."

It's important for women with curly hair to have the correct cut, says Emilio Cornacchione who co-owns Izzazu Salon, Spa & Serata, Downtown, with Gino Chiodo. Cornacchione says he can help women with curly hair control it with an anti-frizz product.

Hair icon Philip Pelusi says because there are so many types of curly hair, a woman needs to find the product that works for her.

"We offer products that help condition the hair and make it less frizzy," he says. "There are lots of shampoos that are perfect for curly hair."

Sognatore Salon, Downtown, has a line of products called Oleo Curl that offers everything from shampoo to conditioner to an intense mask treatment.

"Curly hair can look great, but you have to use the right products and take care of your curls," says Zoe Lincoln, owner of Sognatore. "The Oleo Curl is great and the mask treatment helps keep the curls looking shiny and healthy. Women who want to keep their curls can look great by using these products."

Hair icon Philip Pelusi says because there are so many different types of curly hair, a woman needs to find the product that works for her.

"We offer products that help condition the hair and make it less frizzy," he says. "There are lots of shampoos that are perfect for curly hair."

Sognatore Salon, Downtown has a line of products called Oleo Curl that offers everything from shampoo to conditioner to an intense mask treatment.

"Curly hair can look great, but you have to use the right products and take care of your curls," says Zoe Lincoln, owner of Sognatore. "The Oleo Curl is great and the mask treatment helps keep the curls looking shiny and healthy. Women who want to keep their curls can look great by using these products."

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Hair straightening

Hair straightening

The Brazilian Blowout is an in-salon service that uses heat and chemicals to straighten hair for up to four months.

 

 

 
 


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