Hair Relaxer

Hair Relaxer Lawsuits: Straighteners Linked to Uterine Cancer, Fibroids

What you need to know about filing a hair relaxer lawsuit

Dozens of lawsuits alleging that hair relaxers can cause uterine cancer and fibroids have been consolidated in federal court – and we believe that thousands more may be filed soon. Bailey & Greer, PLLC has extensive experience representing victims of toxic and defective products. We are currently reviewing cases on behalf of women who used chemical straighteners on their hair and developed cancer or fibroids. Please contact us in Memphis or Jackson, TN or in Little Rock, AR to see how we can help.

Study shows a link between hair straightening chemicals and uterine cancer risk

In October 2022, a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “found that women who reported frequent use of hair straightening products, defined as more than four times in the previous year, were more than twice as likely to go on to develop uterine cancer compared to those who did not use the products.” The study reviewed the data of 33,497 women who participated in the “Sister Study,” which sought to “identify risk factors for breast cancer and other health conditions.” All participants were between the ages of 35 and 74, and the “Sister Study” was entirely voluntary.

The 2022 research extrapolated from the “Sister Study” data that found 1.64% of women who had never used a hair straightener would develop uterine cancer by the time they turned 70. However, that risk increased in women who frequently used hair relaxers (4.05%). Further, about 60% of the participants who used hair relaxers were Black women, meaning they face a greater risk than non-Black women.

What are common hair straightening and relaxing products?

Almost 60 lawsuits have been filed and consolidated so far, and some of the products and companies on this list have been named in the lawsuits:

  • L'Oreal USA Inc
  • Godrej SON Holdings Inc
  • Dabur International Ltd.
  • Soft Sheen-Carson
  • Dark & Lovely
  • Namaste Laboratories
  • Darbur International
  • TCB Naturals
  • Soft and Beautiful
  • Strength of Nature LLC
  • Motions
  • Ultra Glaze
  • Just for Me
  • Cantu Beauty
  • ORS
  • Revlon

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What types of hair products have a potential link to uterine cancer and fibroids?

There are three specific types of products that could lead to an increased risk of uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer, fibroids, or other hormone-related cancers and diseases:

  • Chemical hair relaxers are designed to straighten “curly, coiled or tightly coiled hair by breaking the disulfide bonds found within the cortex layer of the hair.” This actually changes the texture of a woman’s hair and requires application every two months or so. It allows a woman to retain some of her hair’s natural curl or coil.
  • Chemical hair straighteners change the structure of proteins in the hair, causing it to straighten. They typically last for up to six months.
  • Anti-frizz/polish products are used in conjunction with straighteners and relaxers to “protect” hair. The chemicals used in these processes can cause brittleness and breakage; polishes are supposed to help keep moisture in the hair.

Which hair relaxer chemicals have been linked to the increased risk of cancer and fibroids?

The study mentions that certain chemicals – specifically parabens, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde – could contribute to the risk. Because chemical straighteners can cause burns and lesions, women who use these products could be absorbing these dangerous chemicals directly through their scalps.

Parabens, for example, are “endocrine disrupters that can mimic estrogen in the body.” Though they are not categorized as carcinogenic (cancer-causing), they have been linked to a potential increased risk of breast cancer in previous studies. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is also an endocrine disrupter, and it has been linked to breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has labeled formaldehyde as a “probable human carcinogen.” (The US National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer both say that it is.)

Most chemical relaxers also contain phthalates – specifically, Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), the “most common phthalate present in hair relaxers.” Phthalates are used to make hair more flexible, and DEHP is particularly dangerous.

Black and Latinx women often have elevated levels of phthalates

Research has shown that Women of Color are more likely to have elevated phthalate levels. According to Dr. Lesliam Quirós-Alcalá of Johns Hopkins University, this is what led to a small pilot study on phthalate exposure in hairdressers.

In 2021, a research team looked at phthalate levels in 23 hairdressers in Maryland, all of whom worked in Black and Dominican salons. They compared the phthalate levels to 17 office workers from the same region. They found that one type of phthalate, monoethyl phthalate (MEP), was 10 times higher in the hairdressers than the office workers.

Per Environmental Health News:

Quirós-Alcalá and the other researchers compared metabolite levels for nine different kinds of phthalates in a group of Black and Latinx hairdressers after they finished their shifts to those in a racially similar group of office workers. They found that the hairdressers had elevated levels of six different kinds of phthalate metabolites compared to both the office workers and to the general population as reported in past studies. "This is enough to tell me we need to study this further," Quirós-Alcalá told EHN, stressing the small sample size of the study.

Who can file a lawsuit for cancer or fibroids caused by chemical straighteners or relaxers?

Women who used straightening, relaxing, or anti-frizz/polish products at least five (5) times a year for at least the last four (4) years, and have developed uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer may be eligible for compensation through a lawsuit.

Women who used straightening, relaxing, or anti-frizz/polish products at least five (5) times a year for at least the last four (4) years and developed uterine fibroids after undergoing a hysterectomy or myomectomy may also be eligible for compensation through a lawsuit.

How our product liability lawyers can help you with your cancer claim

Bailey & Greer, PLLC has protected the injured for decades. We have secured millions on behalf of people whose lives have been altered because of cancer, defective products, and toxic exposure, including $9.4 million for a man exposed to commercial-grade bleach at a Cracker Barrell and $3 million for a man whose testicular cancer was misdiagnosed.

Our attorneys have tried cases before every court in every district in Tennessee, and have the resources and skill to handle complex litigation. Time and time again, we take on national corporations, manufacturers, and insurance companies who put their profits ahead of the people they serve.

Learn more about hair relaxer cancer lawsuits

If you or your loved one have used chemical straighteners and relaxers for years, and have developed uterine cancer, fibroids, ovarian cancer, or another life-threatening illness, you’re not in this fight alone: we want to help. Call Bailey & Greer in Memphis or Jackson or fill out our contact form. We maintain an additional office in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Bailey & Greer Team