Brazilian Debate Continues

By Web Editor | 04/29/2009 2:53:00 PM


SALON TODAY’s March IN DEPTH cover story on Brazilian keratin services triggered a strong response from stylists, owners and manufacturers. Although the viewpoints varied, the focal point of the debate was the safety issue related to the potential release of formaldehyde during the heat processing of this service.

Question Checklist

To obtain the right answers when investigating a new product, you’ve got to ask the right questions. Rusk’s Brooke Carlson, Karen Bogdan and Grace Nowitsky list the questions an owner or stylist should be asking their manufacturer, their distributors and themselves:

Does the product list its ingredients?
If the product doesn’t list its ingredients, ask to get a copy of the ingredients. If you can’t obtain the ingredients, then ask yourself why. If the product says it doesn’t contain formaldehyde, does it contain a derivative of it or another ingredient that transforms into formaldehyde during processing?

Who makes the product?
Is it a reputable company?

Where is the product manufactured?

How does the product work?

You should have a clear understanding of the technology behind the product and be able to explain it to staff and clients. There should be a clear set of directions within the packaging. And, you should also understand what happens to the product during processing.

Is there independent data to support the safety of the product?
Has the product’s safety been studied over time?

Does the product work as it claims it does?
How long do the effects last?

Does the company have an education program?
Is there a hotline to call?

What are the alternatives to this product?
Explore different options in a category before making a decision.
One of the strongest responses came from Lee Rizzuto Jr., senior vice president of Conair Professional/Rusk and chair of PBA’s Governing Council.

A leader in the straightening category, Rusk manufactures the salon-exclusive Pro Elements line of smoothing services, including AntiCurl, AntiFrizz, AntiCurl+Kerashine Conditioning and Thermal Shiny Str8—all of which are formaldehyde free. Rizzuto felt the article didn’t shed enough light on the Brazilian service safety issue, nor encourage the salon owner and stylist to ask the right questions and explore alternatives.

Rusk’s Pro Elements line is one of many straightening alternatives to BKT.
Because SALON TODAY is committed to supporting an open dialogue on relevant salon industry issues, we offered a platform where these concerns could be raised. Recently, three members of the Rusk team—Brooke Carlson, general manager and vice president; Karen Bogdan, marketing director for hair color and chemical services; and Grace Nowitsky, director of education and operations—sat down with Editor in Chief Stacey Soble for an open discussion.

“Texture and straightening services are just as important as color and cutting for a salon, and it’s not a brand new category,” says Carlson. “For Rusk, we look at the texture and straightening business as an entire category of products of which the Brazilian keratin treatments are just one option. Our mission has been to develop products that deliver results but are equally safe for stylists and consumers.”

Carlson, Bogdan and Nowitsky point to the confusion surrounding the emissions of formaldehyde gas with many of the Brazilian keratin treatments. “Some products will say they don’t have formaldehyde, but will have another derivative or another ingredient that transforms into formaldehyde during the heating process. When you look at it in a per-incidence-basis, some of these products emit formaldehyde at a rate that’s more than what OSHA deems acceptable,” says Bogdan.

“That’s for a single service—no one has studied the long-term effects over time or considered reaction chemicals in the salon environment.”

“In an age where consumers go to the grocery store and read labels checking for everything from carb content to a company’s environmental responsibility, we should be just as concerned about the products we use in a salon,” adds Nowitsky.

Although professional beauty products are not required to list ingredients on their label, Bogdan feels when companies don’t list ingredients, it begs the question ‘Why?’ “These products have been on the market for two years now, yet the questions linger—there’s still a gray area,” she says.

“Owners and stylists  have the responsibility to fully investigate the products used in the salon,” adds Nowitsky. Because the concern is about the gas emitted, that responsibility extends to impacting the people working in the salon, the clients who are having the service, and the clients who aren’t—but are present in the salon at the time.

“It goes back to taking ourselves seriously as the professional and taking the time to fully educate ourselves and be responsible,” stresses Carlson.
Bogdan adds that owners and stylists should expect any chemical or color company to be upfront about its technology and clear about how it works, even willing to support those claims with independent data.

Before making a decision, a salon owner or stylist should explore all straightening alternatives—and understand how the technology works for each. “Our products have been on the market for more than 10 years, they are patented and we are upfront about the technology and how they work. We have the data to stand behind them,” says Bogdan. “And we are not the only alternatives out there.”

To read the March feature in its entirety, go to

Earlier this year, the Professional Beauty Association issued the following alert regarding Brazilian keratin treatments. Read it now. PBA Industry Alert about Brazilian Keratin




No matching related articles at this time.




Comments (1) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Bonnie Duerst    
Report Abuse
Madison, WI  |  November, 08, 2011 at 02:47 PM

Stylists need to be progressive about their health, as there’s this tendency to believe that the government will take care of you because of the regulations that are in place. It’s time to work together with the Safe Cosmetics Alliance and The Personal Care Products Council in their quest to provide new tools for the FDA that modernize and strengthen oversight of personal care products, increase transparency and enhance existing consumer safety measures. Extensive research on the “Hair Smoothing Industry” is available at the following links: October/2011 Article: Safe Cosmetics Alliance: Personal Care Product Council: