Toxic Hair Relaxer Lawsuit: How Hair Relaxers May Cause Uterine and Ovarian Cancer + Safer Alternatives
Hair relaxers, cosmetic products that work by chemically straightening the hair, are making a comeback among Black women, but at a high price – their health.
Women who regularly use hair relaxers are twice as likely to struggle with uterine cancer than those who do not, according to a recent study. The mortality rate for uterine cancer is the highest among Black women since they die of this disease at twice the rate of white women. This gap is the largest racial disparity observed for any cancer now, and toxic hair relaxers might significantly contribute to it.
Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end here, as using chemical hair relaxers frequently can also result in ovarian cancer. While Black women have the lowest rates of ovarian cancer, if they are using these products, the risk of developing the disease increases by a whopping 50%. Frequent use is defined as more than four times per year. Endometriosis is another disease applying hair relaxers can result in, as they contain endocrine disruptors such as phthalates. The disease often precedes ovarian cancer.
Up to 60% of Black women use hair relaxers, many of which abound in toxic chemicals. Some of the most dangerous substances found in these products are bisphenol A, phthalates, formaldehyde, and parabens. Some of these chemicals are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors, and since both uterine and ovarian cancer are hormone-sensitive diseases, frequent exposure to these substances can eventually lead to one of these cancers. The burns and lesions chemical hair relaxers often cause to the skin of the scalp facilitate the infiltration of toxic chemicals in the bloodstream.
So far, the manufacturers listed as defendants in lawsuits filed by women injured by hair relaxers include L’Oréal, Strength of Nature, Revlon, and Namaste Laboratories. Therefore, if you have been using their hair relaxers, we advise you to stop and find safer alternatives to straightening your hair. If you’re unsure about what can replace chemical hair relaxers, we’ve compiled a list of three effective options you can choose from depending on your budget and personal preference.
Developing Judicial and Legal Landscape
After the NIH’s study brought to light the risks that individuals who use hair relaxers are regularly exposed to, scandalized consumers began filing lawsuits against leading industry names, including L’Oreal, Dabur International, SoftSheen Carson, and Chicago-based Namaste Laboratories. The first legal action was filed in Illinois by Jenny Mitchel, a 32-year-old Black woman from Missouri who claims that her use of hair relaxers since the age of 8 was responsible for her UC diagnosis at 28 and subsequent hysterectomy.
Over the past months, the wave of litigation has been increasing to the point where plaintiffs have moved to centralize all claims in an MDL in Illinois’ Northern District, with manufacturers disputing the allegations and the need to consolidate cases. On January 26, 2023, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation held a hearing session in Miami, with a final decision on the matter expected in early February.
Regardless of the Court’s decisions, the FDA should leverage its newly acquired attributes to ensure that products containing hazardous chemicals don’t end up on market shelves. Toward this end, it should expand ingredient disclosure to include multiple dangerous contaminants, increase transparency requirements for manufacturers, and better define safety substantiation before cosmetic products are allowed to be commercialized.
Safer Alternatives to Toxic Hair Relaxers
Since the end of the last century, hair relaxers have been heavily marketed to Black women, including teenagers and even children. Nevertheless, the manufacturers have failed to warn of the adverse health effects using these products regularly can cause, which is why they can be held liable today. The following are three safe alternatives to chemical hair relaxers you can try if you want straight hair.
As a chemical process that involves the introduction of keratin protein to your hair, this method is one of the most effective. The keratin enters the porous areas of the hair to give it a healthy look. Keratin is one of the most important proteins for smooth and healthy hair. You will enjoy straight hair for up to six months if you choose a keratin treatment. Still, before you decide to have one, you should make sure the product doesn’t contain any harmful substances. The only drawback of this hair straightening method is that it’s quite expensive, with the cost ranging from $200 to $600.
Unlike a keratin treatment, which can only be done at a hair salon, this method is considerably less expensive, as you can straighten your hair in the comfort of your home. You will only need a flat iron, and to make the process easier, you can divide your hair into sections and straighten them one by one. It’s also recommended to use a heat-protectant hair serum, cream, or spray before using heat tools on your hair to avoid damaging it. The disadvantages of this method are that you can damage your hair over time if you use a flat iron frequently, and the results won’t last for a very long time.
As another viable alternative to chemical hair relaxers, silicone creams can help you make your hair smooth without using any heat tools. These products have a thick consistency, which makes them suitable for people with thick, voluminous hair. You should always make sure to apply silicone creams when your hair is partially dry, as the product gets well absorbed into your strands. The benefits of this method are that it allows easy hair styling, and it protects against sun damage, while the main drawback is that the cream is difficult to wash out.
Are you still unsure about what to use to straighten your hair? If so, you can now request a free, safe, non-toxic hair relaxer made by ethical companies that don’t use harmful chemicals by virtue of the Toxic Hair Relaxer Awareness Campaign. All you must do is fill out the form at the bottom of the page, and someone will contact you shortly for more details.
If you’ve developed uterine or ovarian cancer as a result of using hair relaxers, you are entitled to financial compensation. Contact Atraxia Law to help you file a toxic hair relaxer claim and explain your legal options.
About the Author
Miguel Leyva is a case manager at Atraxia Law, a paralegal firm assisting toxic exposure victims. The firm specializes in evaluating the claims of women who have been using chemical hair relaxers and developed uterine cancer, endometriosis, or ovarian cancer. Miguel Leyva is responsible for gathering and organizing relevant information about the clients’ injuries so they can subsequently file a claim.