Have you ever achieved perfectly straight hair from a Brazilian Blowout treatment — only to end up with a scary bird’s nest on top of your head a few weeks later? Then you know what Siobhan O’Connor and Alexandra Spunt, the authors of “No More Dirty Looks,” went through. The aftereffects of that chemical-intensive treatment was so ugly that the women start their book by sharing the beauty horror story.

Well, now comes a new study that shows exactly why a Brazilian Blowout fries your hair: The stuff is full of formaldehyde!

Formaldehyde in our hair and beauty products is, unfortunately, nothing new. A lot of nail polish still has the toxic chemical in it — and even popular baby shampoo is laced with the suspected carcinogen. Of course Johnson & Johnson and other companies claim their products contain formaldehyde in small “safe” doses, despite the fact that they’ll create formaldehyde-free products for the better-regulated European market. Whether or not you’re willing to take those personal care companies at their word, one thing is certain — the amount of formaldehyde in a Brazilian Blowout is no small amount!

We are talking 4.85 percent formaldehyde content for the Brazilian Blowout Solution — and a whopping 6.3 to 10.6 percent formaldehyde content for the Acai Professional Smoothing Solution — both made by the company Brazilian Blowout. Those figures were calculated by the Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational Environmental Toxicology, which got lab tests on samples of the products.

And believe it or not, Brazilian Blowout claims its products are formaldehyde-free on the containers.

That’s right. The material safety data sheets for these products list no formaldehyde — despite the fact that the company is required to list any more than 0.1 percent formaldehyde.

Certainly, this is bad news for anyone who has ever decided to indulge in a Brazilian Blowout, but the findings are even scarier for salon workers, since formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen — and is also known to cause all sorts of shorter-term health problems like eye and skin irritation, chest pain and asthma.

In fact, green salon owners and employees have often cited such health problems as their reason for deciding to open or work at an eco-friendlier salon. Nicole Vann of eco-friendly Evolution Salon in Venice, Calif., for example, says she had to open her own place after getting sick all the time from the chemicals at a Beverly Hills salon where she worked.

The news of high formaldehyde levels in Brazilian Blowout products has environmental groups like Women’s Voices for the Earth pushing harder for the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010, which would close regulatory loopholes and give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more power, allowing the agency to require safety tests and product recalls. Find out more about the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 now, and in the meantime, resist the urge to get a Brazilian Blowout treatment. Paying $150 to $600 of your hard-earned cash to get doused with a suspected carcinogen is a waste of money indeed.

Formaldehyde in Brazilian Blowout products
Lab tests show that popular hair straightening treatments marketed as formaldehyde-free contain as much as 10.6 percent formaldehyde.