A recent visit to Brazilian Blowout’s Web site revealed a whole new look for the hair-straightening firm, one that openly addresses the controversy surrounding its formula and even features clips of the various negative news reports that came in a deluge last fall. Even harder to miss is its newest product line, emblazoned in the center of the homepage, that sums up any questions about the latest item’s formula: Brazilian Blowout Zero.

Brazilian Blowout chief executive officer Mike Brady said the media storm that scrutinized his Acai Professional Smoothing Solution hair-straightening treatment for allegedly containing formaldehyde is behind the significant growth in the brand’s overall awareness. But the investigations into his product line’s formula, by the FDA and others, as well as the lawsuit filed by the state attorney general’s office in California for false packaging claims, haven’t yet settled the controversy surrounding North Hollywood-based company.

“Is the battle going to take six months or six years? From a business standpoint, we have to meet consumer demand and this is what we had to do.…For better or worse, before the media storm maybe 10 million people knew who we were. Now, about 200 million [people] know us.”

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The catch to his newfound fame, he said, is that many women learned about Brazilian Blowout — the $400 hair-straightening treatment which has been dubbed a “life changer” by its loyal clients — through negative media attention. Still, Brady said, women are curious about its results. “Despite the media craziness, what remains constant is a woman thinks her hair looks wonderful with it. It’s an internal conflict they have.” Brady’s answer to this “should I?/shouldn’t I?” beauty conundrum is Brazilian Blowout Zero, a new line with the same hair-straightening claims as the original, he said, but with a new active ingredient, glycolic acid, one that has been used in skin care products for years. A new scent and other ingredients differentiate it from the original, too, he added, but the name itself, which obviously implies it is formaldehyde-free, also “lets salons know there’s zero difference in the way they do it, zero difference with the end result, zero controversy, zero media calamity, zero formaldehyde emissions,” said Brady.

And no, said Brady, the original isn’t going anywhere.

“What is amazing is how many salons are calling to make sure the original isn’t going away. Salons are being encouraged to simply have both,” he said.

Brady said he will look to salon owners and stylists to educate their customers on Zero, as opposed to a big media blitz.

“No disrespect, but I am not engaging with the news media. We sell to licensed salons and we are allowing them to spread the word. This is what they do for a living,” he said.

The original Brazilian Blowout formula, which contains methylene glycol as its active ingredient, came under scrutiny last year after several salon workers in Oregon complained emissions from the formula during its application gave them nosebleeds and other symptoms. A subsequent test by Oregon Health & Science University’s Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology found various levels of formaldehyde in different formulas ranging from 4.85 percent and 10.6 percent, well above the acceptable 0.2 percent. Brazilian Blowout fought back, saying that OSHA’s labs improperly combined the levels of methylene glycol, a liquid, and formaldehyde, a gas, and that OSHA’s air monitoring results showed that Brazilian Blowout had acceptable levels of formaldehyde. But the OSHA lawsuit addresses only one of Brazilian Blowout’s upcoming battles.

In November, the office of the attorney general of California filed a lawsuit against the company, mainly concerning its “formaldehyde-free” packaging, which prompted Brazilian Blowout to subsequently file a general denial. The state is expected to file a preliminary injunction, according to its initial case management statement, filed Jan. 11. An investigation by the California Department of Public Health has been finished and a report has been filed with the California District Attorney of Los Angeles within its Environmental Law Unit. The report is under review.

Results from Columbia Analytical Services, a testing center in Simi Valley, Calif., showed that Brazilian Blowout Zero did not contain formaldehyde.

Brady said it’s too soon to tell how much business he lost from the current cloud that reigns over not just his but the entire hair-straightening category, one that is valued to be about $1 billion. Brazilian Blowout Zero, which entered select salons Feb. 14, will appear at the IBS trade show in New York this weekend for its national trade debut.

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