No we are not talking about hair ‘down there’, this is all about the Keratin hair treatments that have got people all worked up over the last couple of weeks. First I hear that USA company Cadiveu Professional has had a class act lawsuit filed against it for misleading its public about its formulation. They said it had no formaldehyde in it but when tested by the health department guess what they found (allegedly)…. BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE.

Then in the Sunday Telegraph this week I see that another product – Keratin Complex from American company Coppola has come under attack from the ACCC. Their product was ALSO tested and allegedly found to contain high levels of formaldehyde and has since been recalled. Oh my goodness, the drama. However, these guys are not about to go down without a fight and brand importer Tanya Nelson (who I really should try to talk to……) says that the test carried out was no good as it mistook one of the ingredients Timonacic acid for formaldehyde and the two things are no way near the same chemical. And by that time I was feeling like old madam detective in ‘cold case’ and just had to go and find me some info on this old ingredient to see if this could indeed be a case of identity theft of chemical proportions.

Man this is fun (for me).

OK, so after a few hours of searching I’m highly frustrated as I can find next to nothing in the way of ingredients list on any of these products. That sucks and gets me a little suspicious as ingredients MUST be printed on the label of every cosmetic ingredient or treatment brought into this fair country that we call AUSTRALIALAND. Anyway, I am not alone in my inability to find the info, I only had to go through a few forums to find out that ‘average jo’ getting this treatment along with the majority of hairdressers are also in the dark as to the ingredients list. However, I was tickled by some of the forum comments (and please don’t kill me for sharing my amusement with you).

Hands up how many of you hair commentators took a chemistry degree? I sure wish that you had have been in my classes as it may have kept the department open for longer (chemistry is dwindling in popularity, sadly). Anyway, the lack of chemistry knowledge is not stopping many of you deducing that an aldehyde is most probably the same thing as formaldehyde and gluteraldehyde is also the same and if one is bad they must all be. It sounds logical but it doesn’t work like that. Aldehydes are a broad class of chemical spanning from some very tasty and aromatic compounds such as vanillin and cinamaldehyde (found in essential oils) to the preservatives formaldehyde and gluteraldehyde. There are thousands of aldehydes in existence and some are more irritating to the skin, eyes and lungs than others.

OK, so back on track and with limited information I find out that the ingredient that gave a false positive in the Keratin Complex is also known as Thioproline and Hepalidine and is produced by reacting formaldehyde with cystine (an amino acid). The makers of Keratin Complex call this Thioproline a benign antioxidant (it doesn’t do much in other words) which I find odd as there are various patents and plenty of research going on looking at this chemical in relation to cancer treatment. Additionally the ingredient has been linked to hair growth formulations (although information is again patchy) so I would conclude that this ingredient must do SOMETHING good. Another search revealed the MSDS for another one of these keratin products and this too contained the Thioproline at around 1.6% along with some silicones, a gum, some keratin and a fragrance. And that’s all folks.

So, where do we stand? Well there is currently one brand of ‘Brazillian style’ Keratin being taken to court in the USA, one brand here in Australia having to change their formulation (which they can do apparently) and lots of confused and worried customers, some of which have had a bad reaction to the treatment while others didn’t but are still mixed up about the whole thing. It is possible that the Thioproline could break down in the formulation thus increasing the formaldehyde content of the bottle or pack – this could happen as part of the usual ageing of the formulation or could be due to ingredient interactions (fragrances can sometimes react with other aldehydic components as can colours). Alternatively the guys at both brands may be right and the formula is safe and it is just old test machinery that is dobbing them in for nothing.

Whatever the case I would have liked to see less scooting around the chemistry by the brands involved and more disclosure so that all of us, even non-chemistry nerds like me can make informed choices about what to put on their noggins. After all if there’s nothing to hide there is nothing to lose.

Let’s hope that they sort their lives out soon so that we can get back to beautiful and stress free trips to the hairdressers.