Free From Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde in Your Salon: What You Need to Know with Gene Juarez CEO Scott Missad


By Erin Noha

You’re not allowed to smoke in the salon, so why would you perform a formaldehyde-based smoothing treatment?

Both substances—the chemicals in cigarette smoke and formaldehyde fumes—are known carcinogens, according to the American Cancer Society. Some salon owners and stylists continue to perform formaldehyde-based smoothing treatments unaware of the liabilities their salon is harboring.

“It’s not a big surprise that formaldehyde isn’t healthy,” Scott Missad, President and CEO of Gene Juarez Salons & Spas, said. “I’ve never believed in its use.”

Manufacturers are Marketing Machines

Savvy manufacturers and a relatively unregulated beauty industry are what has let this smoothing ingredient slip through the cracks and into salons across the states. Keep in mind, it is legal to perform smoothing treatments that contain formaldehyde; the U.S. is only 1 of 3 countries in the world where it’s permitted.

“Our industry is so off the radar with the federal government. They are just not that interested if something goes wrong in the salon industry from a priority standpoint,” Missad said.

The federal government has been cracking down on labeling, however, since they listed formaldehyde as a carcinogen in 2011. Brazilian Blowout settled a class-action lawsuit in 2012 where they were asked to change their formaldehyde wording on the bottle and provide more safety instructions on the packaging, according to the New York Times.

In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to Van Tibolli Beauty Corp., owners of the GK Hair Taming System with Juvexin® Curly and Resistant hair smoothing products. According to the letter, the FDA claimed that “the conditions of use in the product labeling fail to include instructions to: use these products in a facility with adequate ventilation, avoid direct eye and skin contact, and avoid unnecessary repeated use.”

Most owners and stylists (1) don’t know that their smoothing treatment contains formaldehyde and (2) don’t know the associated risks and liability because it’s not on the ingredient list. Some brands list the solution “methylene glycol” on their bottles, which is categorized as formaldehyde by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). When heated, methylene glycol releases formaldehyde gas, which causes immediate eye, nose, throat and skin irritation and poses cancer risks with long-term exposure.

Other symptoms from formaldehyde exposure are headaches, wheezing, nausea, coughing and watery eyes—something that Missad knows all too well.

Formaldehyde Hits Home for Gene Juarez Salon and Spas

“I was in a meeting with stylists and they were telling me how many headaches they were having after using the product for one day. I thought ‘Why are we even using this?’”

His stylists were showing symptoms of formaldehyde exposure, exhibiting side effects of wheezing and headaches. He knew if his stylists were feeling that way, that his customers were as well, he said.

Gene Juarez Salons
Even the workplace exposure of being a hairdresser or barber is classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” listed under Group 2A in the American Cancer Society’s rating spectrum, where Group 1 is “carcinogenic to humans” and Group 4 is “probably not carcinogenic to humans.”

“For me, it was a moral decision whether I personally wanted our staff and clients to be exposed to it,” Missad said.

Take Control to Change the Built Environment

Salons need to do their research, dig deeper and ask questions to educate themselves on the risks they pose to clients and stylists by carrying a formaldehyde-based smoothing treatment.

“It’s the people that make up the industry that can take industry in the right direction.”

In the end, the salon ended up installing an industrial eye wash station in the center of the salon to adhere to the regulations required for the traditional smoothing treatment, but pulled it out months later to bring on a new 100% formaldehyde-free smoothing product, Cezanne.

“We decided to be people who didn’t offer stick straight hair. We wanted to offer the safe alternative. We decided that our employees’ and clients’ health was most important,” he said.

Cezanne is 100% formaldehyde-free. It’s also free from any other kinds of aldehydes and is as long-lasting as the current top products. There is no vapor or fumes, so no need for masks, gloves or ventilation during the treatment—it's nature’s way of smoothing, without the harmful toxins.

Order Cezanne for your salon—visit our distributor locator to get connected and educated about formaldehyde-free smoothing alternatives.

Erin Noha covers stories for Cezanne Professional Products. 

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