Hair Straightener Cancer Cases

Hair Straightening Products and Potential Health Risks

The Connection Between Hair Straightening Products and Ovarian, Uterine, and Endometrial Cancers

At the Mancini Law Group P.C., we understand the growing concerns about the safety of personal care products, including hair straightening treatments, and their potential health risks. One area of concern that has garnered attention in recent years is the potential link between the use of certain hair straightening products and the development of ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and endometrial cancer. This page aims to provide an overview of this topic and address common questions. If you would like a no cost Consultation, please call the Mancini Law Group P.C. at 773-745-1909

Marketing Narrative Pressuring Black Women to use Hair Straightening Products

Hair relaxers were historically marketed to Black women through a variety of strategies and messaging. The marketing of hair relaxers to this demographic evolved over time and reflected broader societal and cultural influences. Here are some key aspects of how hair relaxers were marketed to Black women:

  1. Straight Hair as Professional and Desirable: One of the primary marketing messages was that straight hair was more "professional" and "desirable." Advertisements often suggested that using relaxers could help Black women conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, making them more socially and economically accepted.

  2. "Good Hair" Messaging: Hair relaxer advertising sometimes reinforced the concept of "good hair," which typically meant straight or wavy hair. The implication was that using relaxers could help women achieve the coveted "good hair" look.

  3. Convenience and Manageability: Marketing emphasized that relaxed hair was easier to manage and style. Advertisements often portrayed women who had used relaxers as having more control over their hair, making it less time-consuming to maintain.

  4. Before-and-After Transformations: Hair relaxer ads commonly featured dramatic "before-and-after" images to showcase the transformative power of the product, with the "before" image showing natural, kinky or curly hair and the "after" image showing straightened hair.

  5. Celebrity Endorsements: Companies frequently used celebrity endorsements to promote hair relaxers. Celebrities with relaxed hair, like Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, were featured in advertisements to persuade consumers to use the products.

  6. Community and Sisterhood: Some marketing campaigns fostered a sense of community and sisterhood, portraying relaxer use as a way for Black women to bond and support one another in their beauty routines.

  7. Magazine and Media Advertising: Hair relaxers were heavily advertised in magazines and other media targeted at Black women, such as Ebony, Jet, and Essence. This made them easily accessible and visible to the target audience.

  8. Educational Workshops and Beauty Schools: Companies often conducted workshops and programs in Black communities to educate women on how to use relaxers effectively and safely. They sometimes partnered with beauty schools to offer training on hair care and styling.

  9. Product Evolution: As the market for hair relaxers evolved, companies developed different formulations to cater to various hair textures and needs. They marketed these variations as suitable for different hair types, appealing to a broader range of consumers.

Hair Straightening Products and Formaldehyde

Many hair straightening products, particularly certain keratin treatments, contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing compounds. Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling gas that can be released into the air when these products are heated during the straightening process.

Formaldehyde is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This classification means that there is sufficient evidence to support that formaldehyde exposure can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Ovarian Cancer, Uterine Cancer, and Endometrial Cancer

On October 17, 2022, this National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) study revealed that women who used chemical hair straighteners suffered a higher rate of uterine cancer compared to individuals who did not use these products. The study involved 33,497 U.S. women ages 35-74. The women were followed on average for nearly 11 years. During this period, 378 uterine cancer cases were diagnosed. Women who used hair straightening products more than four times in the year prior to enrollment were twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared with the women who did not use the products. National Institutes of Health (NIH)

On October 5, 2021, the journal Carcinogenesis published results from a study of 40,559 women. Participants completed questionnaires on hair product use, including straighteners/relaxers. “Over a mean follow-up of 10 years, 241 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Frequent use (>4 times/year) of straighteners/relaxers or pressing products in the year prior to enrollment was associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer (HR = 2.19, 95% CI: 1.12-4.27),” the authors reported. Carcinogenesis

Regulatory Oversight

Many countries have regulatory standards and guidelines in place to control the use of formaldehyde in personal care products, including hair straightening treatments. Manufacturers are often required to disclose the presence of formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing agents in their products. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed banning hair-straightening products that contain or emit formaldehyde, more than a decade after the cosmetic industry's own experts declared the products unsafe.

Safety Precautions and Your Legal Rights

If you have concerns about the safety of hair straightening products, it is essential to be informed and take appropriate safety precautions when using these products. Follow recommended safety measures, such as using products in well-ventilated areas, wearing protective gear, and adhering to product instructions.

If you developed uterine or ovarian cancer from regular, prolonged use of hair straighteners and/or relaxers, our lawyers will work to recover your losses, including:

  1. Costs of past and future medical treatment
  2. Past and future lost wages
  3. Past and future pain and suffering
  4. Punitive damages

If a loved one died from uterine cancer or ovarian cancer after regular, prolonged use of these types of products, we will file a wrongful death action on their behalf. 

At the Mancini Law Group P.C., we are here to provide guidance and legal support for individuals who may be affected by the use of hair straightening products. If you have questions or concerns about potential health risks associated with these products, we encourage you to reach out to our legal team at 773-745-1909 for a consultation.