Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reader Question: Is The Brazilian Keratin Treatment Bad For My Health?

"Hey Moptop, my boyfriend is taking me for a night out on the town and offered to get my hair done for me because he knows I have been looking in to the BKT. Question this stuff bad for my health?" 
Great question! We are always concerned about the effects chemicals have on our hair but sometimes we don't display that same level of caution when it comes to our health [myself included]. -- Often confused with a Brazilian Blowout [which does not contain chemicals], the Brazilian Keratin Treatment uses a special chemical solution geared to help loosen your curl pattern, eliminate frizz and leave your hair glossy and full of body for up to 4 months. 
While many of us might be viewing this as a hassle free alternative to relaxers and thermal straightening techniques, it is important that we understand the risks associated with this treatment as well.

The Brazilian Keratin Treatment contains a carcinogenic [an agent known to cause cancer] by the name of Formaldehyde  as most personal care products do* [see note at bottom]. The issue here is that the Brazilian Keratin Treatment contains 10x more Formaldehyde than what OSHA deems safe. Possible known side effects from exposure to this treatment are: headaches, hives, skin lesions, respiratory issues, sore throat, eye irritation, chest pain, shortness of breath and nosebleeds. 

What does this mean for you?                                                                                                                 
To minimize your risks of side-effects, your stylist should only administer this treatment in a well ventilated area whilst wearing a mask [I would advice the client to wear a mask as well].

Children and women who are nursing or pregnant are not candidates for the treatment, and should not be in the vicinity while these treatments are taking place. 

Are there Formaldehyde-Free versions?
Yes, there are Keratin treatments which are formulated without the addition of Formaldehyde. It is important to remember that since Formaldehyde is the actual ingredient that straightens the hair [and keeps it straight], any treatment formulated without it will only last until your next wash. This means that you will experience some of the same benefits with a shorter life span. 

Not all bottles labeled "Formaldehyde-Free" are free of Formaldehyde!
Aside from just looking for "Formaldehyde" in the ingredient listing, keep an eye out for Formalin, Oxymethylene and Aldehyde as well.Often these BKT treatments contains the aforementioned ingredients which are simply derivatives of Formaldehyde.

I was assured that Aldehyde was safe!
Aldehyde is indeed a safer alternative to Formaldehyde at room temperature. The issue comes into play when you factor in the heat used during the flat iron process [which is needed to seal the chemicals on to the hair shaft]. Once heat is applied to Formaldehyde or any of it's derivatives, it turns into a vaporous gas that can be potentially harmful. 

Should I go forward with the Brazilian Keratin Treatment?
I want to leave that choice up to you. I won't tell anyone not to get relaxers, color, or in this case the Brazilian Keratin Treatment. I will instead do my best to fully disclose the benefits and risks, and leave the final decision to you.  If you decide to undergo this treatment, my recommendation is that you have the treatment performed at a reputable salon with proper ventilation methods [preferably a fume extractor] as fans oftentimes just aren't enough. I also recommend that you bring your own mask for extra precaution. - Also, if you have sensitive skin, or are prone to allergic reactions; I would speak with a dermatologist before attempting the BKT. 

Have any of you out there tried the Brazilian Keratin Treatment?  How did it work for you? 

*Did you know small amounts of Formaldehyde are found in a lot personal care products as well? Items like nail polish, conditioners, soaps, cosmetics and shampoo's are all known to contain small amounts of Formaldehyde. Take a gander under the ingredient list on some of your beauty products and keep an eye out for Quaternium-15. Quaternium-15 is an anti-microbal preservative used by manufacturing companies to extend the shelf life of your products. While it keeps fungus and nasty bacteria at bay, it also releases Formaldehyde in the process; as Quaternium-15 is deemed a Formaldehyde-Releaser. Other known Formaldehyde-releaser's that are found in personal care products are:
  • Diazolidinyl urea
  • Imidazolidinyl urea
  • Bronopol 
  • DMDM Hydantoin 

If you have sensitive skin, I recommend that you stay away from products containing those type of preservatives as they are known skin irritants.

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  1. people get the treatment with the formaldehyde and say this is a natural alternative to a perm because its not permanent. but hearing this it is clearly a chemical treatment. great post, very informative!

  2. anytime you suggest wearing a mask for a hair treatment... mayyybe you're taking things a little too far.

  3. This post is great...very informative and empowering. I have had severe allergic reactions to formaldehyde in nail polish so I know to avoid it like the plague. Now knowing the other ingredients that are derivatives or de-releasers, I can manage the allergy even better. I'll refer to this post often so thank you!

    By the way, I love your blog!

  4. maybe the reader can/should consider getting her hair heat straightened instead?

  5. The model is gorgeous. Great information. Thank you. Brittanynic16‬‎ via youtube has done the BKT for a year, but now just does heat training.

    I personally would just get my hair heat styled and use a moisture block hair protector.

  6. Wow smh, I tried this months ago and boy do I have a story. I would never do it again nor do I recommend it.

  7. There is a keratin treatment name Simply Smooth that is formaldehyde/formalin free. Go to It has vanillin and apple pectin.

  8. when you have to go through all that to get straight hair
    its really not that serious
    just straighten it with heat.

  9. I received a Brazilian Keratin Treatment this time last year. I was natural for 3 years, and the stylist swore that this was good for the hair and natural, "vitamin" she said. I will admit, I did not investigate the treatment chemically, only base on positive reviews. Sad to say after one month of receiving the treatment, my hair started to fall out around my hair line, within 3 months, i had a large balding spot in my crown, at 5 months I cut all of my hair off, and started my afro all over again.

    I think its important to remind naturals, that no matter what, we can not allow other people to tell us about our hair and what is best for it. For my stylist convenience, I got the treatment, and yes it was lovely for the first few weeks, but i wasn't worth the three years i dedicated to going natural. never again will anyone..."treat" my hair.

  10. sore throat is not a lot of fun its just uncomfortable and difficult to swallow.

    usually, i would take the Nim Jiom Cough Syrup ( ) which has a thick consistency formulation. it coats the throat and includes herbs that are particularly good for that application.

    i hope it works on you as well.

  11. don't know about the health of it but my cousin started getting these treatments and now has no curl in her natural hair.

    my last post: Blazers & Body Types

  12. I had 2 homegirls who got the treatment done and both had issues. One of them had breakage around the hairline and the other had breakage all over. I personally would not reccommend this treatment.

  13. I really wanted to be in love with this treatment, b/c of all the rave reviews it received on forums and from brittanynic on youtube (who doesn't even do the treatment anymore herself b/c of damage). My advice: DO NOT DO IT!! The damage that it causes is soooo not worth the "benefits" of prolonged straightened hair. Benefits which I never received as a 4a/b head, my hair reverted every time I did the treatment, after the first or second wash - even after having my initial treatment done at a salon ( I forget the name of the bkt they used but my hair completely laughed at that poor attempt) and doing the treatment about 3-4 times on my home (used Rejuvenol). Although my hair is MUCH healthier now, I still have evidence of heat damage and split ends/breakage months later after my last treatment.

  14. I loved my keratin treatment! It was the best thing I ever did for my hair. I have really curly hair and it didn't straighten my hair but it loosened the curls a little and eliminated the frizz completely! I would recommend to anyone with curly hair who would like more manageable curls with no frizz. I was able to use less styling products to wear it curly and blow dry it straight in half the time. I had the treatment with formaldehyde and the smell wasn't bothersome as the area was well ventilated and the product isn't on the hair long before its blow dried and then flat ironed into the hair thus eliminating the smell. It also lasted 4 months!

  15. Contrary to what is reported here, even the Brazilian Blowout has formaldehyde. The company claims it doesn't but Good Morning America just did an expose on that process... Tested several of their products from salons who use it and all were found to hold high levels of formaldehyde. My girlfriend had it done and she said her eyes and nose were burning. While the BBO folks deny it- it's not rocket science. You know there's something they're not disclosing. Check it out here...

  16. I live in brazil and this was very interesting to read, i've always wondered if this treatment was available in other countries and now i find that it is and it's known as a brazilian creation! lol! here the process doesn't have keratin in it's name! the name is "escova progressiva" that means something like progressive blowout. and as time passes they add some words like chocolate progressive blowout, marrocan progressive blow out, passion fruit progressive blowout, and many more... but in the end they're all the same! actually, they are not... some salons buy the formaldehyde (we call it formol) and mix it with other products in larger amounts than it's allowed by ANVISA. the maximum amount of formaldehyde should be 0,02% if i'm not mistaken...
    the safer thing to do is go to salons that use industrialized formulas that come with the right dosage. but even still, i don't know what happens but there can be a lot of difference from one formula to another... the first time i tried the treatment, i only did it to my bangs in a very respected salon and even though i had no problem with my skin or hair, i couldn't breathe with the smell of formol and my eyes burned like crazy! i was decided to never try it again but a year later after seeing my cousins hair i decided to give it another try and wow, what a difference! not only i felt no disconfort at all during the process but also my hair turned out 10X better! and the craziest thing is that in this new salon i paid a lot less! this weekend i did it for the second time in the same salon and my hair feels and looks wonderful! so before you go on and try this treament, check with people who had it done it in the same salon you're thniking about going!


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