(CBS/AP) - What price beauty?
That's a question curly-haired women are asking in the midst of warnings that popular hair-smoothing products sold under the Brazilian Blowout name contain formaldehyde - a substance the EPA has deemed a potential carcinogen.
Canadian authorities issued a warning about possible health hazards; France pulled products with high levels of formaldehyde; the Oregon occupational health agency tested 100 samples and found many labeled "formaldehyde free" that had more than the 0.1 percent of the chemical allowed in U.S. products.
A later air sample test of salons in Oregon found levels of formaldehyde complied with safety standards, but Michael Wood, who heads the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said in a statement, "It is clear that the levels are high enough to cause concern."
Repeated e-mails and phone calls to the Los Angeles office handling public relations for the Brazilian Blowout brand were not returned. In a November news release, the company underscored the air sample tests from Oregon that found "formaldehyde exposure levels safely below OSHA's Action Level."
The FDA is still investigating whether the ingredients cause health problems. The California attorney general, meantime, has filed a lawsuit alleging the Brazilian Blowout brand has high levels of formaldehyde despite claiming otherwise on its website and other advertising.
The treatment was nothing short of a miracle for women with curly, kinky or hard-to-tame hair. After a lifetime of fighting frizz with endless sprays and creams only to see their efforts vanish with a gust of wind, they could get a smooth, fresh-from-the-salon look that lasted for months.
Because of the health concerns, however, some salons in the U.S. have stopped offering the Brazilian Blowout. But not all. As long as stylists and clients are well-informed and take precautions, it's worth it, said Xavier Guerin, a business partner at the Point de Vue salon in West Hollywood, Calif.
"Time in our modern society is such an issue, and you need to be more and more perfect. There is all this pressure," he said. "My experience is that most of our clients are ready to pay the price."
Even if the price is calculated in more than dollars and cents?