This Is Not A Brazilian Blowout

With these safe alternatives, you won’t have to choose between good citizenship and good hair.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently released a shocking warning about one of the nation’s favorite salon services: the agency contends that the popular Brazilian Blowout releases dangerous levels of formaldehyde gas, especially when exposed to blow-dry heat. It might not be that big of a problem for you, the typical salon-goer who schedules her semi-permanent blowout every 12 weeks. It’s more concerning for our stylist-friends—does the Brazilian Blowout expose them to harmful toxins on a daily basis? 

The Brazilian Blowout is already banned in Germany, Canada, France, and Australia. This particular keratin treatment remains legal in the United States, where the product’s manufacturer is busy disputing the FDA’s frightening claims. And the company just released a second formula called Brazilian Blowout ZERO, which contains no formaldehyde. In the meantime, you can still land an old-school Brazilian Blowout at certain salons in the Twin Cities (some salon-owners swear by its safeness). Or you can play it safe (without sacrificing sexy hair) and book these alternatives: 
Smooth Infusion Texture Smoother
$175-$250 at Juut Salonspas
Unveiled in November 2011, Smooth Infusion Texture Smoother works like all the other keratin treatments: it reduces frizz and tames the hair overall. And with the Aveda stamp of approval, concerned customers can rest assured that the product is safe for client and stylist alike. Juut master colorist Kindiss Stiller was involved with early testing on the 83% natural formaldehyde-free product. “And I’m super passionate about the results,” she says.
KeraSpa Treatment
From $250 at Ivy Spa Club
“We carry KeraSpa because we’re more of a green spa,” says Jim Halvorson, salon manager at Ivy Spa Club. It’s true, KeraSpa once contained formaldehyde, just as most keratin treatments do. But the manufacturer retooled their formula way back in January 2010, well in advance of the current Brazilian Blowout controversy. “KeraSpa has no fumes and zero harsh chemicals,” says Halvorson. It temporarily relaxes heads of tangled or frizzy hair. For those committed to their corkscrews, it smoothes the curl without straightening every last strand. It leaves the hair shiner, healthier, and easier to manage (and style) for three to four months. Many stylists have embraced KeraSpa as the finest of the formaldehyde-free keratin options.
Keratin Treatment
$300-$350 at Spalon Montage
“It’s like putting a fresh coat of blacktop on your driveway,” says Ally Bowen, a senior stylist and director at Spalon Montage. “[This treatment] seals all the holes, all the little cuticles.” The result is smoother, shinier hair and reduced styling hassles for up to five months. The magic formula here is Keratin Complex Smoothing Therapy by Coppola. Note: this product contains what the company calls “a captured form of formaldehyde.” But Bowen and other stylists prefer it over natural options like KeraSpa. “It seems to work better,” she says.
Keratin Treatment and Smoothing Therapy
From $350 at Jon Charles Salon
Jon Charles never felt entirely comfortable with the Brazilian Blowout, and his salons never used it. “The keratin lines we use are Coppola and KeraSpa,” he says. “These are the two I think are the best and the least caustic.” Jon Charles stylists will tailor both product and execution to each client’s hair type, though the outcome is always similar. “I see women looking for shine, and these products deliver,” says Charles. Women leave with sleeker, prettier heads of hair that are easier to style for weeks and months.
$85 to $350 at Rocco Altobelli Salons and Day Spas
“Before there was the Brazilian Blowout, you could do a straightening perm in your hair,” says Altobelli. At Altobelli Salons, clients can choose from two iterations of this relatively old-fashioned technique: the Opti-Smooth Cold Smoothing Service reduces frizz without entirely sacrificing your endearing kinks. By brushing perm solution through the hair, the stylist simply loosens the curl. On the other hand, the Opti-Smooth Heat Straightening Service completely straightens the hair. This treatment involves perm solution and a flatiron. Clients emerge with permanently straightened hair, leaving only twisted virgin re-growth to contend with.
Metropolis Titanium 1-inch Flatiron
$155 at Rocco Altobelli Salons and Day Spas
As a company, Rocco Altobelli was always leery about the semi-permanent blowout craze. “We offer a really good flatiron like the Metropolis,” says Nino Altobelli, the company’s vice president and creative director. “The Metropolis is a European flatiron. It connects very well with your head and your hand. The plates will actually reach to the end of the hair, so you can get right down to the base.”