Article by: Perry Romanowski

I received the following press release from the PR people at Pantene. Being a beauty blogger I get lots of these things and I mostly ignore them (unless they pique my interest for some reason).

This one from Pantene caught my eye…

Get Frizz Free — Without Formaldehyde!

Achieve Pantene Pro-V hair without the harsh effects

As I’m sure you’ve heard, the hair care industry (and women everywhere) are all a flutter following the FDA’s recent warning to the makers of a popular hair straightening product, Brazilian Blowout, claiming that the company’s smoothing solutions are “adulterated and misbranded, containing misleading labels and advertising that falsely claims that the products are formaldehyde-free.” With dangerously high levels of formaldehyde linked to illness in hair stylists and their customers, are you and your readers willing to risk your health for smooth hair?!

Luckily, you won’t have to put your health in jeopardy to achieve frizz-free locks if you use the Pantene Pro-V Restore Beautiful Lengths Frizz Control Shampoo and Conditioner and Restore Beautiful Lengths Smoothing Balm! As Pantene Celebrity Hair Stylist, Danilo’s favorite product line, these frizz fighters are sure to keep your strands shiny and silky smooth all year round- without any dangerous side effects to worry about.

The Pantene Pro-V Restore Beautiful Lengths Frizz Control line is specially designed to help restore hair’s moisture for smooth, frizz controlled hair. The regimen contains advanced pro-vitamin formulas that penetrate to the core and help to repair damage, and create smoothness. The shampoo and conditioner system helps lock in natural moisture and seal out frizz-causing external moisture and humidity.

Chemical Fearmongering

The thing that bugs me most about this press release is that they call-out a specific ingredient and focus on how dangerous it is to your health. This is exactly the kind of chemical fearmongering that groups like EWG and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics rely upon to manipulate a misinformed public.

Indeed, the FDA did warn the Brazillian blow-out people that their product is improperly labeled. But when they make the further claim that…

“With dangerously high levels of formaldehyde linked to illness in hair stylists and their customers, are you and your readers willing to risk your health for smooth hair?!”

…they are just playing into people’s fears and possibly lying. The Brazillian Blowout is not linked to illness in customers. It has not even been linked to illness in stylists, but rather it has been demonstrated to exceed limits for health and safety. This represents a danger to stylists, not consumers as this press release says.

Then when they say “…you won’t have to put your health in jeopardy…” if you use Pantene, they are just selling a product based on fear, not based on superior performance.  This is exactly the kind of junk marketing that natural and organic players use when they bash Pantene and other mass market brands.

It’s really a terrible way to promote a product.  It makes people fearful and chemically ignorant.

Market your benefits

Now, I’m in agreement with the FDA that the Brazilian Blowout product should be reformulated or removed from the market, but I think it is wrong for Pantene to use the incident as a way to market their own product. They are just propogating the fear-mongering marketing that so frequently harms their own brand.

If the Pantene product is useful for anti-frizz, then that is what they should advertise.



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    Hey Perry! Please can you recommend some books that have formulations for those that want to formulate natural products? There are hardly any out there. I checked out Anthony Dweck’s book but it has no recipes. Thanks!

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      Hmm. Tough question. I know that there are some formulations in the Allured Book, “Sustainable Cosmetic Product Development”.

      Also, this fall we will be launching an online course specifically on Natural Formulating. Stay tuned for more information.

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    Thank you sharing, Perry.
    I may be beginning my own blog soon so I might ask your permission for the clever warning sign 😉 This is indeed weird, but it seems to be common marketing practice to promote ones product by putting down another? Just like many cosmetic chemists (like Mark Fuller says) formulate customer-fears-friendly because that is what the customer wants. It is infuriating from a scientific point of view but when it comes to sales, customers is still king and we need to adjust (against better knowledge unfortunately)…

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    Mark Fuller

    I agree entirely about Fear Mongering. Sulfates work great and have a long History of use. Parabens are some of the best preservatives.
    Now, pragmatically I do respond in order to placate Marketing trends. In that vein, I haven’t used parabens as my standard preservative in years. All in all it just menas more cost to the client.
    One correction, there is a Case in Manhattan Courts where it was alleged that Brazilian Blast contributed to a stylist’s health issues. They have substantiated the claim legally and are in the damages phase.
    The Brazilian Blast situation grants us opportunities to present Keratin and Cysteine type alternative products to our clients. I have done so in several instances.

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      Thanks for the correction. I hadn’t discovered the case in Manhattan courts. I wonder how they substantiated the claim. hmmm

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