Understanding the Health Implications of Hair Relaxers for Black Women
Recently, the health implications of chemical hair relaxers, marketed primarily towards Black women, have come under increasing scrutiny. Various studies have highlighted the correlation between these products and elevated risks of uterine cancer, leading to a reevaluation of their safety.
The Link Between Hair Relaxers and Uterine Cancer:
In October 2023, a notable study from Boston University was published, which provided compelling evidence regarding the risks associated with hair relaxers. The Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS) observed 44,798 Black women for up to 22 years, finding a higher incidence of uterine cancer among those who used chemical hair relaxers for an extended period, regardless of frequency.
Moreover, the FDA recently proposed a ban on hair-straightening products containing formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, following advocacy by Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Shontel Brown.
Legal Actions Against Manufacturers:
In response to these findings, over 8,000 lawsuits have been filed against prominent beauty and cosmetic manufacturers like L’Oreal and Revlon. Plaintiffs in these cases allege that their use of chemical hair relaxers caused uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Dr. Kimberly Bertrand, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and the lead author of the BWHS, emphasized the importance of awareness regarding the potential dangers of hair relaxers. "The idea here is that a renewed emphasis or attention to the potential dangers of these products, I hope, will spur policies, and that will sort of help reduce exposure in this population or even help us identify potentially safer alternatives to straighten hair," Bertrand stated in an interview with NBC News.
Representative Ayanna Pressley also highlighted the generational issue, noting, "For generations, systemic racism and anti-Black hair sentiment have forced Black women to navigate the extreme politicization of hair... As a result, Black women have turned to straightened or relaxed hair as an attempt to advance socially and economically. But regardless of how we wear our hair, we should be able to show up in the world without putting our health at risk, and manufacturers should be prevented from making a profit at the expense of our health."
The Harmful Ingredients:
Chemical hair relaxers contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can disrupt hormonal balance, with ingredients like phthalates and parabens commonly found in these products. Jasmine Abrams, a research scientist at Yale University School of Public Health, explained, "If you have ever gotten a relaxer, you know it usually sits on for a little bit, and most people sort of alert their hair stylist that it needs to be washed out once it starts tingling or burning — and at that point, you are running the risk of burns... Then you’re definitely increasing your risk for absorption. If you do that over time for many, many years, then it can, of course, become continuously problematic.”
Navigating Legal Options:
For those who have been diagnosed with uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, or ovarian cancer after the prolonged usage of chemical hair relaxers, legal recourse may be an option. Cannata, Hendele & Cannata, LLP is actively involved in providing legal counsel and support to individuals affected by the use of hair relaxers. We offer free, confidential case evaluations to help you understand your rights and explore potential legal actions.
If you or a loved one has experienced health issues that you believe are linked to the use of hair relaxers, reach out to Cannata, Hendele & Cannata, LLP. Our experienced team is dedicated to ensuring that your voice is heard and that justice is served.
Concerned about the impact of hair relaxers on your health? Contact Cannata, Hendele & Cannata, LLP for a free case evaluation and expert legal guidance.