Products Marketed as Safe to Black Women are Causing Uterine Cancer

Among Black women and women of color, hair holds a deep cultural significance. Hair isn’t just a symbol of beauty, but of pride, heritage, and strength. However, societal pressures over the past few decades, especially in professional settings, have often driven many women to turn to hair relaxers to fit into commercially-marketed standards of beauty. The tragic irony is that these hair relaxers, once thought of as solutions, are now revealing themselves as significant and grave health threats to Black communities.

For decades, hair relaxers have been a staple cosmetic product for Black women, utilized to straighten, flatten, and style naturally curly hair. Yet, what many thought was an innocuous beauty product has now come under scrutiny. Recent studies indicate that these hair relaxers may contain hazardous chemicals with potential endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic properties. 

Alarmingly, findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggest a direct link between frequent usage of these hair relaxers and an elevated risk of uterine cancer. Researchers found that the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times greater among women who frequently used hair relaxer chemicals, compared to women who never used the products. These implications are profound, especially considering that the affected group comprises primarily Black women, African-American women, and women of color.

Deception and Distrust: Hair Relaxer Health Concerns

Hair relaxers have become a prominent tool in the beauty world marketed to Black communities, designed to relax curly hair and straighten hair strands. For decades, the narrative and messaging around hair relaxers was of empowerment and aesthetic appeal. Black women have historically faced societal pressures to adhere to certain beauty standards, especially within professional contexts. Many were even directly told that their natural hair was unacceptable. Marketing strategies seized upon this pressure, presenting hair straighteners as not just desirable, but essential for acceptance and success.

Yet, beneath the veneer of these marketing campaigns lay unsettling truths, either suppressed by the companies or overlooked due to inadequate product testing. Composed of chemicals like formaldehyde, sodium hydroxide, guanidine carbonate, and ammonium thioglycolate, these chemicals are potentially endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic. 

Even before this information began to emerge to the public, the consumers of these products have long had noticeable and direct injuries from their use. These chemicals are potent; many users experience scalp irritation, skin burns, and even rashes. The long-term consequences are even more alarming: weakened immune systems, higher susceptibility to cancers, including breast, bladder, and uterine cancer. One of the most concerning ingredients found in some hair relaxers is formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Its exposure has been linked to serious health complications, including certain types of cancer and respiratory issues.

The rising wave of knowledge around the harmful effects of hair relaxers has evoked feelings of deep betrayal among Black women. For many, it’s a shocking realization that a product they’ve faithfully used, and in some cases were encouraged or even pressured to use, could be linked to life-threatening health conditions. 

This heart-wrenching discovery has spurred a reevaluation among countless families, previously attributing their health issues to genetic predispositions, but now facing the possibility that external factors like hair relaxers played a pivotal role. The seeds of doubt have sprouted into full-blown mistrust, as the community grapples with the idea that their health may have been compromised for profit, all under the guise of beauty and acceptance. The narrative of “it runs in the family” is being overshadowed by a sobering reality that external, preventable factors might have played a cruel hand in the health struggles of many Black women.

From Legislation to Advocacy: Protecting Natural Hair Styles

The Black community has recently highlighted a parallel issue and enacted important civil rights legislation: The CROWN Act of 2022. The “CROWN Act” (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) stands as a monumental legislation against race-based and hair-based discrimination, ensuring that natural hair and protective hairstyles frequently associated with Black heritage, such as braids, locs, and twists, cannot be grounds for discrimination in workplaces or schools. 

This act reflects the persistent advocacy of the Black community for their rights, reclaiming their narrative and culture against prejudiced norms. Similarly, just as the CROWN Act addresses systemic bias, Black women now have the prerogative to challenge cosmetic companies that have misleadingly marketed potentially harmful products as safe. By holding these corporations accountable, Black women can further assert their rights, ensuring not only the acceptance of their natural beauty but also the integrity and safety of products tailored to their communities.

Mass tort litigation for hair relaxers carries a dual-purpose mission. First, it aims to provide some form of financial compensation to those women who have tragically been diagnosed with cancer due to the use of these products. While no monetary value can truly compensate for the immeasurable damages, especially when lives have been lost, it’s an essential step towards acknowledging the harm done. Secondly, this litigation seeks to either remove these hazardous products from the market or, at the very least, ensure consumers are adequately informed of the risks. This proactive approach aims to protect future generations of Black families from suffering the heartache of losing loved ones to such avoidable circumstances.

Join Forces With Watts Law Firm LLP for Advocacy and Action

Watts Law Firm LLP has a mission and commitment to the countless women who have been unknowingly subjected to potential harm by the use of hair relaxers. The mission is clear: to ensure that these cosmetic companies selling harmful chemicals marketed as safe are held accountable, that justice is served to the women who have been diagnosed with preventable cancer, and that every woman affected has her voice heard and her story told. 

Watts Law Firm LLP seeks to amplify these voices through our litigation efforts against prominent cosmetic manufacturers who have been marketing these dangerous products as safe. With these companies opposing the centralization of cases that are being filed across the nation, Watts Law Firm LLP’s dedication to pushing forward with our clients at our side is unwavering. One defendant, cosmetic giant L’Oréal, while stubbornly clinging to the assertion that its products are safe, is facing numerous lawsuits all around the country that challenge those safety claims. Their assertion of these lawsuits having “no legal merit” doesn’t undermine the mounting evidence against them, and we feel strongly that the research and evidence will prevail in favor of our clients. 

Empower Your Hair Relaxer Claim

The potential number of affected women is staggering, with a vast majority of Black women and African-American women in the U.S. using hair relaxers regularly. With rising rates of uterine cancer, particularly among this population, the urgency of this issue cannot be overstated. As we look to the future, the scope of this litigation will only grow. With each new case filed, the strength of the collective voice becomes louder. Together, under the guidance, expertise, and power of Watts Law Firm LLP, we can make a difference. 

We understand that these women, including those who have passed away, are not just numbers, and they need a voice to speak truth to power. They are individuals with stories, families, and dreams. And they deserve justice. 

FAQs About Hair Relaxer Litigation

What type of cancers and diseases have been linked to chemicals in hair relaxers? 

The frequent use of hair relaxers has been shown to elevate the risk of developing estrogen-dependent cancers. Specific cancers that have been linked to these products include endometrial, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Disturbingly, women who apply chemical straighteners more than four times annually face an approximate 2.5 times higher likelihood of being diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Additionally, many hair relaxers contain phthalates, a type of endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) that’s been associated with the onset of endometriosis. This condition involves the abnormal growth of uterine tissue outside the uterus, often leading to pain, excessive bleeding, and, in severe cases, necessitating multiple surgeries.

Furthermore, research has drawn significant connections between the ingredients in hair relaxers and the development of uterine fibroids. These benign tumors, also referred to as uterine leiomyomata, are found within the uterus.

Do I qualify to join the mass tort litigation against hair relaxer manufacturers? 

Women, especially those who have used hair relaxers four times a year or more, and have been diagnosed with uterine cancer attributed to these products, can file lawsuits that may be consolidated in our mass tort litigation. Cases centered on hair relaxer-induced uterine cancer are prioritized, however, other types of diseases and cancer may also be included, including but not limited to: endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. If you or a loved one has any of these illnesses and were using hair relaxer products, speak to our legal professionals who can answer your questions and give you information about our lawsuits. 

How do I know if my, or my loved one’s cancer was caused by hair relaxers? 

While establishing causation between a product and health issues can be complex, it’s primarily the responsibility of the attorneys to prove liability. As a potential plaintiff, your main role is to provide detailed information about your personal experiences and medical history. Our legal team is equipped with resources and expert witnesses who are specialized in this field. They will work diligently to demonstrate the causation between the hair relaxer products and the health conditions in a court of law. You can trust in our expertise and commitment to building a strong case on your behalf.

Disclaimer: This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

Mikal Watts

Written on behalf of Mikal Watts, and reviewed by Watts Law Firm LLP

Mikal C. Watts is Board-Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a Martindale-Hubbel AV Rated Lawyer.