Hair relaxers are a common product used in hair salons, but users beware: hair relaxers are now linked to a higher risk of developing uterine cancer.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recently released a study, and it found that women who frequently use hair straightening products are at a higher risk of developing uterine cancer than those who do not use them. The trial sampled a large swath of women; 34,000 were tracked for over a decade. The occurrence of uterine cancer more than doubled for those who regularly had their hair relaxed or straightened.
What is a hair relaxer?
A hair relaxer is a type of lotion or cream generally used by people with tight curls or very curly hair. The use of this product is most prevalent with Black women. The chemicals make the hair easier to straighten by chemically “relaxing” the natural curls. The active agent is usually a strong alkali, although some formulations are based on ammonium thioglycolate or formaldehyde.
The lawsuit that started it all
Plaintiff Jenny Mitchell was only 28 years old when she underwent a full hysterectomy, dashing her dreams of being a biological mother, and having a family. She used hair relaxants regularly since grade school and developed uterine cancer early.
The lawsuit alleges that these companies knew, or should have known, that their products increased the risk of cancer, yet manufactured and distributed them anyway. In addition, no warnings to consumers were provided on the packaging or in their advertising.
Mitchell blamed societal pressure for pushing her to use hair-straightening products at such a young age. She stated that she felt a need for her hair to “look a certain way, lay a certain way, flow a certain way in order to look professional” and “fit in.”
Uterine cancer is not only rare, but it does not run in Mitchell’s family, nor is it common to afflict a 28-year-old. Her illness was discovered at a fertility clinic, catching her off-guard. The fertility doctor noticed something was off, and sent her to an oncologist. Within a month, her reproductive organs were removed.
Her lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in monetary damages, as well as payment for medical bills and other expenses. She continues to be monitored by doctors as she has now entered early menopause.
Uterine cancer rates rising among Black women
Though uterine cancer is rare (making up around 3% of new cancer cases in 2022), it is on the rise in the United States. The rise is significant among Black women, who use relaxers more frequently than women of other races and ethnicities. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that there have been nearly 66,000 new cases of uterine cancer, and around 12,550 related deaths in 2022 alone.
Who are the defendants in this lawsuit?
The number of lawsuits will likely grow, which could increase the number of defendants. Currently, the defendants named are:
- SoftSheen Carson
- Strength of Nature
- Namaste Laboratories
A spokesman for L’Oréal, which owns the SoftSheen Carson brand, remarked that the company is “Confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no legal merit. L’Oréal upholds the highest standards of safety for all its products. Our products are subject to a rigorous scientific evaluation of their safety by experts who also ensure that we follow strictly all regulations in every market in which we operate.”
Kimberly Norman is the senior director of safety, regulatory, and toxicology issues for the Personal Care Products Council, which represents the cosmetics industry. She weighed in, arguing that the study did not prove that the products or their ingredients directly caused uterine cancer. She also noted that the company products are subject to safety regulations, including those established by the Food and Drug Administration.
Are there any alternatives to hair relaxers?
While the chemicals in alternate products may not be as strong as hair relaxers, being healthy is more important than having a specific hairstyle. Some alternative solutions include:
- A straightening iron
- Keratin treatments
- Silicone creams
- Cold-pressed virgin vegetable oils, including jojoba, olive, argan, and coconut
- Hair extensions and weaves
- Embracing your curls and a more natural look
What are the symptoms of uterine cancer?
With any type of cancer, early detection is key. Treating the illness in a timely manner increases the chances of a full recovery. Symptoms include:
- Pain in the pelvic area
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, spotting, or discharge
- Abnormal results from a pap test
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a medical doctor.
What if I used relaxers and have now been diagnosed with uterine cancer?
The attorneys at Allen & Allen have over 110 years of experience, and our sole focus is personal injury. If you have used hair relaxers and have now been diagnosed with uterine cancer, you may be entitled to compensation. Our product liability lawyers understand the nuances of these types of cases, and we are here to help. Call today for a free consultation, at 866-388-1307.