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What Is a Brazilian Blowout (and Is it *Really* Safe to Try)? 

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From relaxers to perms, there are so many different hair treatments out there that it can be tough to find the right one for you. One of the most popular options is definitely the Brazilian blowout, a semi-permanent smoothing treatment that minimizes frizz for months. Enticing, right? Before you lock in your salon appointment, here’s everything you need to know about the Brazilian blowout because there are some things to consider. 

Meet the Expert:

What is a Brazilian Blowout?

A Brazilian blowout is a specific brand of keratin treatment that originated in Brazil. The semi-permanent technique uses a special liquid formula to smooth your hair, thereby minimizing frizz, improving volume and adding shine to strands. 

How Is It Different from Other Keratin Treatments? 

Though all keratin treatments offer pretty much the same results (i.e, smoother hair and less frizz), you’ll have more flexibility with a Brazilian blowout. For starters, you won’t have to wait as long to wash your hair (just two to three days, as compared to the four to seven of other treatments) and you can rock any hairstyle you like without causing dents in your newly smoothed ‘do.

Here’s another bonus: It’s a smoothing treatment, not a straightening one like many of the others. So if you like to rock curls or waves but just want to reduce frizz, this is the treatment for you. It’s not going to change your hair texture, but it will provide the shine, volume and frizz-free finish you want.

How Long Does a Brazilian Blowout Last? 

It’s more temporary than some other keratin treatments with results lasting for about three months. To make it last a bit longer, avoid sulfates or harsh chemical products that can weaken the bonds. You should also consider cutting down on how often you wash your hair and/or apply heat tools to your locks.  

How Is a Brazilian Blowout Done?

The process takes a few steps that are crucial to getting a smoother look. It starts with:

  • Applying the formula from roots to ends. Your stylist will apply the keratin solution section by section. Then, they’ll comb it through damp hair to make sure all the product is evenly distributed.
  • Blow drying your hair. Applying heat to your hair will activate the formula and form a seal around your strands. The stylist will blow dry each section for a few minutes to give the formula time to bond and form that protective layer around your hair. 
  • Flat ironing your hair. Your stylist will then go in with a flat iron to seal the treatment in even more. At 380 to 450 degrees (depending on your hair type), they will begin to straighten each section. However, if you prefer to keep your curl pattern, you can ask to skip this step entirely.
  • Rinsing your hair. Using a sulfate-free shampoo and a deep conditioner (that will sit in your hair for about ten minutes), your stylist will carefully remove all the product. 
  • Blow drying your hair once again. Once your protective styling products are applied (aka leave-in conditioner, heat protectant, etc.), your hair will be dried one last time, so you leave the salon with a voluminous, frizz-free look. There’s also the option to go the air-drying route (or apply a diffuser) to maintain your curl pattern. 

In total, the Brazilian blowout takes about an hour and a half (or up to three hours depending on your hair length and/or thickness) from start to finish.

Who Is the Brazilian Blowout Best For?

A Brazilian blowout is great for all hair types, especially those with thick, wavy or curly hair. It’s also a plus for people with color-treated hair to boost vibrancy and prevent premature fading. However, if you have thin, damaged or over-processed locks, you’ll want to consult with a stylist first, as the service can do more harm than good on already weak strands. 

Is the Brazilian Blowout Safe? 

"Brazilian blowouts contain toxic chemicals including formaldehyde, which is a necessary component of Brazilian blowout treatments," explains Dr. Shamban. "Formaldehyde itself doesn’t damage the hair shaft. However, the solution containing formaldehyde may irritate the scalp and long-term exposure to any formaldehyde gas given off during the heating process can be a health hazard."

OK, now let's address the elephant chemical in the room: formaldehyde. According to the International Journey of Trichology, Brazil was one of the first countries to start using formaldehyde in hair treatments when they introduced the blowout in the early 2000s. Since then, the chemical has been linked to cancer and long-term side effects— like skin irritation, heavy breathing and headaches, etc for decades. 

More studies are still being conducted to identify the potential health issues caused by of formaldehyde. In one 2016 study, seven patients found signs of eczema-like symptoms after getting a Brazilian blowout. Others found the treatment increased brittleness, dryness and hair loss based on the amount of heat styling. "Depending on the tools and techniques used when attempting a Brazilian blowout, as well as your stylist's skills and familiarity with the necessary steps, attempting to perform the heat treatment could cause hair damage, scalp irritation, and chemical exposure," adds Dr. Shamban.

Plus, if you are pregnant, are planning to get pregnant or breastfeed, avoid a Brazilian blowout at all costs. As stated by one 2013 study (conducted right in Brazil, might we add), they found that formaldehyde and other chemicals in the treatment make these groups more vulnerable to health issues.

Can I Get a Brazilian Blowout Without Formaldehyde? 

If you’re still thinking about trying a Brazilian blowout, please get a professional to apply it safely. Don’t attempt it at home. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, salons should have specific precautions put in place to minimize formaldehyde exposure—like proper ventilation and reduced usage of the chemical (or avoiding it completely). 

The FDA also recommends reading product labels carefully. Nowadays, there are plenty of keratin treatments that have formaldehyde-free formulas and plant-based ingredients (like acai berry, camu camu and annatto seed). But just because it says it’s free of formaldehyde, you should still do your own research. Formaldehyde can go by many names, which the American Cancer Society lists on their site so you can easily spot them on labels. 

If any symptoms like irritation, inflammation and breakouts arise while you’re getting a Brazilian blowout, let your stylist know immediately. They should stop the process and wash out any of the products. And if side effects don’t go away, consult a medical professional as soon as possible. 

Before You Go

A Brazilian blowout is a 26-year-old treatment that continues to rise in popularity. The keratin formula will smooth hair, minimize frizz and add shine. "In most cases, Brazilian Blowout formulas that dominate the marketplace nowadays aren't harmful. While some varieties contain formaldehyde, the amount is very minimal. If the treatment is done correctly, your hair will feel healthier and more moisturized afterward," says Dr. Shamban.

However, it has a few downsides that you should consider before booking an appointment: safety, time and…price (the average cost is upwards of $500). If you’re looking for a glossy finish, and still a bit wary of Brazilian blowouts, there are always other alternatives to getting smoother, shiner locks. 

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