Lawsuit claims hair relaxers used by Black women linked to increased risk of cancer

A group of women have filed a lawsuit against L’Oréal, one of the world’s largest cosmetics companies, alleging that its hair relaxers caused them to develop cancer and other health problems. The lawsuit, which was consolidated in a Chicago federal court in February, seeks damages and a recall of the products.

Hair relaxers are products that are used to permanently or temporarily straighten curly or kinky hair. They are popular among Black women, who often face social pressure to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. However, hair relaxers contain chemicals that can damage the DNA of cells and increase the risk of cancer.

Lawsuit claims hair relaxers used by Black women linked to increased risk of cancer
Lawsuit claims hair relaxers used by Black women linked to increased risk of cancer

One of the main ingredients in hair relaxers is sodium hydroxide, also known as lye or caustic soda. This chemical can cause burns, hair loss, scalp irritation, and eye damage. It can also be absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream, where it can affect other organs.

According to the lawsuit, L’Oréal failed to warn consumers about the dangers of its hair relaxers, which include the Dark and Lovely, Optimum, and SoftSheen-Carson brands. The plaintiffs claim that they developed uterine, breast, ovarian, and other cancers after using the products for years. They also allege that L’Oréal knew or should have known about the link between hair relaxers and cancer, but continued to market and sell them anyway.

Studies suggest a possible association between hair relaxers and cancer

Several studies have suggested a possible association between hair relaxers and cancer, especially among Black women. A 2022 study by the US National Institutes of Health found that women who used hair straightening products several times a year were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer than those who did not. A 2021 study by Boston University found that heavy use of lye-containing relaxers was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. A 2017 study by Rutgers University found that hair dyes and relaxers were linked to a higher risk of breast cancer, especially among Black women.

However, the studies also acknowledged that the results were not conclusive and that other factors, such as genetics, lifestyle, and environmental exposures, could also influence the risk of cancer. The researchers called for more studies to better understand the effects of hair products on health.

L’Oréal denies the claims and says its products are safe

L’Oréal has denied the claims of the lawsuit and said that its products are safe and comply with the regulations. The company said that it conducts rigorous testing and research on its ingredients and formulas, and that there is no scientific evidence to support a causal link between hair relaxers and cancer.

The company also said that it is committed to diversity and inclusion, and that it offers a range of products for different hair types and needs. It said that it respects the choices of its consumers and that it encourages them to read the labels and instructions carefully before using any product.

The lawsuit is still pending and no trial date has been set. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and compensatory and punitive damages. They are also asking the court to order L’Oréal to recall its hair relaxers and to provide medical monitoring for the consumers who have used them.

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