For decades, millions of women have regularly used hair relaxers to help desirably style their hair. Manufacturers duly warned users of the potential for the products to cause hair and scalp damage. However, recent studies have linked the use of these products to an increased risk of developing uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and other hormone-related diseases.

A growing number of women and families of women who believe they developed the aforementioned diseases because of using hair relaxers have filed lawsuits against manufacturers of the products.

This article explores the recent research supporting claims about hair relaxers causing cancer and what actions those affected by these products can take to seek compensation for their injuries.

What Are Hair Relaxers?

Hair relaxers are a type of chemical treatment used to straighten curly or kinky hair. They work by breaking down the protein structure of the hair shaft, which allows the hair to be reshaped and straightened. Hair relaxers are typically applied to the hair using a brush and left on for a certain amount of time, depending on the desired level of straightening.

While hair relaxers can be an effective way to achieve straight, smooth hair, they can also cause damage to the hair and scalp if not used properly. Hair relaxers can cause hair to become brittle or break and can easily burn the scalp or cause open abrasions. Manufacturers warn users on the packaging or enclosed instruction sheets about the possibility of such damage if instructions are not strictly followed.

Recent research has revealed that the use of hair relaxers may cause even more serious problems for users than those the manufacturers warn about.

Hair Relaxers Linked to Cancer

In 2021 and 2022, respectively, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released research showing a link between using hair relaxers and an increased risk of developing ovarian and uterine cancer.

These two studies used data collected from a cohort study dubbed the Sister Study, which between 2003 and 2009 enrolled 50,884 women from diverse backgrounds, who were breast cancer-free and aged 35-74 years mask and had at least one sister previously diagnosed with breast cancer. During the baseline of the Sister Study, the participants were interviewed and completed self-administered questionnaires that included questions about hair product use. The hair products taken into account were hair dyes, relaxers, straighteners, pressing products, body waves, and permanents. For 10 years following enrollment, the participants were contacted annually for health updates regarding new cancer diagnoses and other health-related changes.

According to the NIH’s analysis of this data, women who used chemical hair relaxers and straighteners over four times annually were more than twice as likely to get ovarian or uterine cancer than those who did not use them.

Researchers have found that the use of hair relaxers may increase the risk of cancer because of the presence of harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde, parabens, metals, and phthalates. These chemicals are known as synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can alter hormones and contribute to an elevated risk of hormone-sensitive cancers such as ovarian, uterine, and breast cancer. According to the researchers, these cancer-causing chemicals can enter the body through scalp burns and cuts often caused by the repeated use of hair relaxers.

The NIH study discussed how women in the Black community may be disproportionately affected by these dangerous effects of extended use of hair relaxers. This happens because Black women tend to use hair-relaxing products more frequently and at earlier ages than other races and ethnicities. In fact, approximately 60% of the women in the study who registered as using chemical hair straighteners recently identified as Black women. The study states that this population of women is most likely to be diagnosed with aggressive uterine cancer subtypes and that uterine cancer death rates are highest among non-Hispanic Black women.

The NIH research also revealed that EDCs can cause conditions such as endometriosis and uterine fibroids, which can interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive and carry to term.

The Hair Relaxer Lawsuit: Holding Manufacturers Accountable

As more and more individuals have come forward with claims of developing cancer because of using hair relaxers, numerous lawsuits have been filed against major hair relaxer manufacturers like L’Oréal, ORS, Revlon, Strength of Nature Global, musk, and others. Common allegations against these hair relaxer manufacturers include:

  • Failure to examine the connection between toxins used in relaxers and cancer
  • Failure to issue hair relaxer recalls ensuring consumers were aware of cancer and other health risks
  • Failure to warn about the increased risk of cancer and other side effects associated with hair relaxer products
  • Providing false and misleading information on labels concerning the safety of hair relaxer products

The plaintiffs in hair relaxer lawsuits are seeking compensation for the damages they have suffered because of using these products. Compensation may include:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Other economic and non-economic damages

The amount of compensation awarded in a hair relaxer lawsuit will depend on the specific circumstances of each case, including the severity of the injuries and the degree to which the defendants are found to be at fault.

If you or a loved one have used hair relaxers or chemical hair straightening products and subsequently developed endometriosis, uterine fibroids, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, or endometrial cancer, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. If you believe you may have a case, you may wish to contact an experienced attorney who can help you determine your eligibility and guide you through the legal process.

Brock and Stout’s personal injury lawyers have over 27 years of experience helping clients get the compensation they deserve from manufacturers of faulty products. If you feel you have been harmed by the use of hair relaxers, contact us for a free evaluation of your claim. Let our family help your family.