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Chemist Doubts Hair-Straightener With Formaldehyde-Free Formula

Woman drying hair.
Harvey Fitzhugh/iStockphoto.com

Last year's $250 hair-care sensation, Brazilian Blowout, promised to leave your locks looking sleek, healthy and frizz-free without formaldehyde.

The secret was methylene glycol, a very special active ingredient, it turned out. It's definitely not formaldehyde, but dry it out, say with a hair dryer, and voila, it's formaldehyde, a frog preservative and carcinogen.

Now the company has a new formula — Brazilian Blowout ZERO— that has neither methylene glycol nor formaldehyde, but which it says will still make your hair look nice.

On its website, the company says it's "100% confident with regards to the safety and integrity" of the new formula. How does it work? The goop uses a "plant-derived bonding system" for consumers with a "personal preference" for products free of methylene glycol.

But Sharon Neufeldt, a Ph.D. chemistry candidate and blogger at icanhasscience.com, isn't convinced. "Without formaldehyde, I'm not sure what chemical reaction would occur that could smooth your hair for 12 weeks," she writes. So if you want those straight locks, you might have to stick with the old formula, which is still around.

After the dust-up last year, Brazilian Blowout of California, the product's maker commissioned its own study which says formaldehyde levels in Brazilian Blowout are below acceptable limits.

The company didn't immediately respond to our request for comment today about the new formula.

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