MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Every woman wants perfect hair, nails, and a smile so bright it looks like the cover of a glossy magazine. We are willing to pay any price, never thinking about the true cost: the toll these procedures take on our health.
Take the Brazilian Blowout, one of many temporary smoothers that have taken the country by storm. The products claim to help you fight frizz and let your hair's natural texture shine. As soon as they hit the market, there was controversy.
Sarah Marlow is a stylist at Laura & Co. Salon. She says people developed allergies and sensitivities while using Brazilian Blowout products, and OSHA stepped in to investigate.
"People were like 'My fingers are swelling up and cracking every time I use this product' or 'I use this product and my eyes are swelling shut,'" Marlow says.
OSHA started investigating, and in 2011, issued a hazard alert to all salons and beauty schools, warning of the toxic chemicals these smoothers contain. That same year, the FDA issued a warning letter to Brazilian Blowout. They found the popular brand contained formaldehyde, but manufacturers left it off the ingredient label so stylists, and consumers, didn't know.
"Because of OSHA now, none of them can have formaldehyde the liquid form, but they can create a formaldehyde gas," Marlow cautions, but says she feels safe using the current product.
"When they first came out with them, I was definitely not doing anything I had to put a mask on for, but once they started changing them, I looked at the ingredients [and] I felt a lot more comfortable," Marlow says.
The gel manicure has become very popular because it lasts for two weeks, but there are concerns. One is the use of ultraviolet light, which sets the polish.
"The most you'll get in a manicure setting is 10 minutes, tops," Marlow says. "And if you're really concerned about taking care of your skin, preventing premature aging, skin cancer and loss of collagen, just throw on some sunscreen. You should be doing that anyway."
As a stylist, Marlow says the bigger concern is the damage done without using the lights.
"You're more likely to have issues with your nail bed, not from lights, but from an improperly-done manicure," Marlow says. "And that's more my concern is, does your technician know what they're doing?"
Whitening your teeth is a billion dollar industry by itself, with Americans buying gels, sprays, strips, toothpastes and mouthwashes. You don't have to see a dentist either; you can now get your smile brightened at home or in a mall, spa, salon or even on a cruise.
"Everyone's got bright white teeth - magazines, TV," says Dr. Billy Pournaras of Pournaras Cosmetics. "They have beautiful smiles and white, white teeth and, especially the younger women; they see this and want to be just like them."
Dr. Pournaras cautions against overusing any teeth whitening product. He says the FDA considers teeth whitening a cosmetic treatment, so there is very little regulation.
"If you bleach your teeth too much, or you become addicted to it, your teeth will become more translucent and start getting a grayish violet color to them," Dr. Pournaras warns.
He says the most harmful product could be the one you're using every day: the whitening toothpaste that promises to keep your teeth bright.
"Whitening toothpastes are more abrasive, so it's kind of like taking a Brillo pad to your enamel," Dr. Pournaras says. "The reason it whitens is not because it oxidizes the teeth, it whitens because it basically scratches the surface of your enamel, and it removes surface stains, hence making them look whiter."
Several years ago, the American Dental Association petitioned the FDA to reclassify whitening products because of the chemicals involved. If not applied properly, Dr. Pournaras says there is a risk to soft tissue, like your gums, and sensitive teeth. And there's no dentist waiting to see you if you stop at a mall kiosk or brighten your smile while spending a day at the spa.
"If you had something wrong with your car, you'd take it to the mechanic. Same thing with teeth, if there's something you're looking to get done with your teeth, always go to the dentist first, get his opinion on it, then make an informed decision," Dr. Pournaras says.
WMBF News' Paula Caruso reached out to DHEC while investigating this story to see how many complaints the agency gets about these popular beauty trends, but a spokeswoman said they don't regulate Brazilian Blowout, gel manicures or teeth whitening products.
The FDA regulates under the federal "Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act." The agency doesn't approve cosmetic products before they hit the market, but the packaging or ingredient list cannot be misleading. You can file a report with the FDA if you have a bad reaction to a cosmetic product. Here are the steps listed on the FDA's website:
1) Reporting by phone to the Consumer Complaint Coordinator at your nearest FDA district office. Phone numbers are posted on FDA's Web page, Consumer Complaint Coordinators, and in the Blue Pages of the phone book, generally under United States Government/Health and Human Services.
2) Reporting online to FDA's MedWatch adverse event reporting system. You also may call Medwatch at 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form by mail.
Salon workers also can file complaints about unsafe workplaces with OSHA, as stated in OSHA's Hazard Alert.
For more information on reporting cosmetic product problems to the FDA, visit: http://1.usa.gov/1gx85ov