A recent National Institutes of Health study linking frequent use of chemical hair straighteners to increased risk of developing uterine cancer also found that Black women may be more affected due to higher use of hair relaxers.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences led a study following nearly 34,000 women aged 35 to 74 over 11 years. Research showed exposure to chemicals found in hair relaxers significantly increased the risk of developing uterine fibroids and other female hormone-related health conditions, such as early puberty, low birth rate, early menopause and cancer.
“Previous studies on potential health hazards associated with hair relaxers included findings that connect specific hair product use with ovarian or breast cancer,” said Attorney Peter Gemma. “However, this is the first study to find medical evidence of a link between women who use straightening products and uterine cancer.”
The report, published in October 2022 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows approximately 60 percent of reporting participants who used straighteners in the previous year self-identified as Black women.
“It’s important for women to be aware of the potential risks associated with chemical hair straighteners and consult with their doctors before using hair relaxers,” Gemma said. “The findings of this report are a cause for concern among many African American women and other people of color who often use hair relaxers to style their hair.”
Gemma Law Associates focuses on product liability cases and will be representing women who have developed uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancers after using hair relaxers in a lawsuit. The lawsuit will allege companies failed to warn consumers about the potential health risks associated with hair straightening products.
Many hair relaxer products contain various potentially dangerous chemicals — lye, guanidine hydroxide, sodium hydroxide, formaldehyde and petroleum distillates — that can have adverse health effects if misused or used for extended periods.
Some area salons don’t offer hair relaxer services because of the harsh chemicals used in many products. Alisha Rodrigues, a master stylist and owner of Lavish Salon in East Providence, wasn’t aware of the recent cancer study or hair relaxer lawsuit but is familiar with the harmful ingredients found in some hair straightening products.
“We do not use relaxers in the salon because it is so damaging to the hair,” she said. “We specialize in curly hair, so it’s important to use healthy products that won’t ruin your curly hair.”
The hair relaxer lawsuit may include hair straightening products, such as Motions, Dark & Lovely, Soft & Beautiful, Optimum Care, Crème of Nature, Just for Me, Olive Oil Relaxer, Organic Root Stimulator and Brazilian Blowout.
Gemma Law developed an online tool to determine who is eligible to participate in the hair relaxer lawsuit. To qualify, women must have used a hair straightener or relaxer listed in the case and prove they developed or experienced uterine cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer.