Published on January 10th, 2012


Hair-raising Hair Product Ads

Want to know the secret behind the lustrous, voluminous, “salon beautiful” hair that is featured in some television and print ads for hair products today?  Extensions!  Yup, fake hair.  Well, maybe not entirely fake since some extensions are actually made with real hair (much of which comes from temples in India).

Example 1: L’Oréal’s Elvive Full Restore Five:

In this L’Oréal commercial, Cheryl Cole (of UK’s X Factor) exclaims: “My hair feels stronger, full of life, replenished with healthy shine.  It’s got its mojo back.”  Only that mojo cost her nearly an average homeowner’s mortgage payment in extensions. And the source of all that gorgeous, glossy hair — fake extensions made of extruded plastic.

Example 2: Brazilian Blowout Blowup

Sometimes the secret ingredient to beautiful tresses goes a step beyond retouching or extensions.  In the case of Brazilian Blowout products, that ingredient is the noxious, cancer-causing chemical, formaldehyde. In March 2012, Brazilian Blowout agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit for $4.5 million after stylists and consumers complained about symptoms like headaches, bloody noses, and restricted breathing. Despite labeling its Acai Professional Smoothing Solution as “formaldehyde free,” OSHA testing revealed that the product was composed of as much as 10.6% of the dangerous ingredient. The product will still be sold to salons, but now it must come with accurate labeling and safety instructions for the stylist and a warning to the consumer about the hazards of formaldehyde exposure.

So why did Brazilian Blowout feel like it could get away with the “formaldehyde free” label? The company’s hair treatment contains a chemical called “methylene glycol,” which releases formaldehyde when dried out (with heat, for example). Tricky, right? According to OSHA, formaldehyde might be hiding in products under any of the following names: methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene, or CAS Number 50-00-0. So  check those ingredients.

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