A new kink—pun fully intended—has emerged in the saga of the Brazilian Blowout. The hair-straightener manufacturer, mired of late in a slew of health complaints and government inquiries, agreed on Monday to settle a class-action lawsuit for $4.5 million in damages. Under the terms of the agreement, consumers who claimed they were harmed by the product will receive $35 per treatment for up to three treatments, while stylists get to pocket $75 for every bottle they purchased, according to Elizabeth Pritzker, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. The settlement follows $600,000 in penalties and fines to the state of California after it emerged that two of the formulations emitted formaldehyde gas, a human carcinogen.

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Despite reports of nosebleeds, respiratory problems, and eye irritation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration appears no closer to banning Brazilian Blowout, which until recently claimed that its products were formaldehyde-free. (The bottles now sport stickers that warn of the potential exposure to formaldehyde.) Other countries are less forgiving: The treatment is verboten in Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, and Germany.

Brazilian Blowout is banned in Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, and Germany, but not the U.S.

Michael Brady, Brazilian Blowout’s chief executive told the New York Times that his insurance company would pay for the proposed settlement, describing it as an “unpleasant episode” for his company. “We get to sell the product forever without reformulation,” he said. “In my eyes, that’s the acquittal we’ve been waiting for.”

Brady also compared Brazilian Blowout to aspirin—”make sure you only use it as directed,” he said. In an investigation by Good Morning America just last week, however, undercover reporters found that 12 of the 16 salons it visited insisted the products involved very little formaldehyde. Another four didn’t know it contained or released the chemical. All of them maintained they had zero safety concerns.

Stories from the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Alliance paint a different story. “I had lung scarring from the pneumonia…developed scabs in my nose that will not go away,” one stylist said. Another was diagnosed with “possible chemical poisoning” by her doctor. “It has affected my life and business,” complained a third stylist. “I have an extremely hard time being around the product when someone has applied it in our shop.”

At $300 for a 90-minute process, a Brazilian Blowout doesn’t come cheap. A bigger question looms, however. Is straight hair really worth the cost of your or someone else’s health?


[Via the New York Times]