Hair Relaxer Lawsuits and Racism

Hair relaxer lawsuits are a type of product liability lawsuit that alleges that hair relaxer products caused cancer or other health problems. Hair relaxers are chemical products that are used to straighten curly hair. They contain a number of harsh chemicals, including lye, which can be irritating to the skin and eyes. Some studies have linked hair relaxer use to an increased risk of cancer, including uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.

Sister Study in October 2022

The first hair relaxer lawsuit was filed in 2017.  The litigation did not go far. That changed in October 2022. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed a new study indicating a heightened risk of uterine cancer in women who frequently use chemical hair straighteners or relaxers. This was no small-time study done by small-time researchers.  The research was undertaken by specialists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and analyzed data from over 33,000 women participating in the extensive, long-term study focused on women’s health. It is called the “Sister Study.”

The findings showed that women employing hair relaxers at a minimum of once a month were approximately twice as likely to be diagnosed with uterine cancer compared to those who never used such products. This risk escalated with the increased usage of hair relaxers. For instance, women utilizing hair relaxers four times or more within a month had around three times the risk of developing uterine cancer compared to those abstaining from these products entirely.

The study’s authors postulate that the potential carcinogenicity of hair relaxers could be linked to the disruption of hormonal balance within the body. Given that hormones significantly contribute to the onset of uterine cancer, any interference with hormonal regulation could conceivably elevate the risk of the condition.

Hair Relaxer Lawsuits That Followed

Since then, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against hair relaxer manufacturers, including L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. The lawsuits allege that the companies knew about the health risks of hair relaxers but failed to warn consumers. In 2022, Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the hair relaxer lawsuits into multidistrict litigation (MDL). This means that all of the cases will be heard together by one judge.

The hair relaxer class action lawsuit is still in its early stages, but it is expected to proceed to trial in the next 18 months.  If you have used hair relaxers and have been diagnosed with cancer or another health problem, you may be eligible to file a hair relaxer lawsuit. You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. Here are some of the most common health problems that have been linked to hair relaxer use:

  • Uterine cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine fibroids

Hair Relaxers and Racism

The relationship between racism and hair relaxers is rooted in societal norms and expectations that have historically favored Eurocentric beauty standards, which often marginalize and stigmatize natural Black hair textures.

hair relaxer societal pressureFrom a historical perspective, during the time of slavery and continuing into the era of segregation and discrimination in the United States, straight, smooth hair was often associated with White individuals and was seen as the standard of beauty. Afro-textured hair, on the other hand, was negatively stereotyped and deemed “unruly”, “unprofessional”, or “unattractive”. This resulted in societal pressure on Black individuals to conform to the Eurocentric beauty standard, often through the use of hair relaxers or straighteners.

One of the initial actions taken by slave owners upon the arrival of enslaved Africans on American shores was to cut their hair. This act served to subdue their spirit and facilitate their control. Hair, which previously held significant cultural pride and symbolism, was degraded and often used as a means of punishment.

The conditions of slavery demanded long hours of strenuous labor, leaving enslaved individuals with no time for personal grooming or hair care. Hair that was once a symbol of identity and pride was often concealed under cloth to protect from the harsh elements and to hide its unkempt state.

White Americans failed to appreciate the beauty of African or Black hair, often comparing it to the wool of a sheep. This resulted in the once-prized feature becoming a source of embarrassment, often hidden or cut off.

In 1786, Louisiana’s Governor, Don Esteban Miro, implemented the “Tignon Law,” mandating Black women to cover their hair with a tignon (scarf). This was a form of social marker indicating their slave status, regardless of their actual freedom.  Women of color were mandated to wear a scarf or handkerchief over their hair, serving as an explicit indicator of their affiliation with the slave class, regardless of their actual status of servitude. Women found ingenious ways to get around the law, using luxurious fabrics and adornments, but this law still used hair as a way of control.

That is all ancient history.  But the societal pressure for Black women to straighten their hair remains strong. This is an example of systemic racism, where societal systems and norms disproportionately disadvantage certain racial or ethnic groups. In the case of hair relaxers, it’s an example of how societal beauty standards can negatively impact the health and wellbeing of Black individuals.

Hair Relaxer Lawsuits and Racism

The bottom line is that we cannot pretend that race does not play a role in hair relaxer lawsuits. There are two currents of racisim in the litigation.  The first is obvious. These companies pushed these societal beauty standards and the expense of Black women.

But the allegations in these lawsuits are that there was no warning or labeling on hair relaxer product that normal use of the Products could cause her to develop cancer. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that they knew were in the products have long been recognized as having the potential to trigger a wide array of detrimental health effects in humans. These encompass conditions like endometriosis and irregularities in reproductive organs, as well as diverse forms of cancer. Moreover, they can lead to alterations in the functionality of the nervous system and immune responses, provoke respiratory complications, and stimulate metabolic disorders. EDCs are also linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, issues related to growth, and neurological and learning disabilities.

Then why use these chemicals?  They are a cheap way straighten hair. So putting these chemicals in hair relaxers and not telling Black women about it… let’s just say is has racial overtones.

File a Hair Relaxer Lawsuit

Our lawyers are currently seeking and accepting new hair lawsuit cases from anyone who may have developed cancer or other injuries as a result of long-term use of hair relaxer products. If you have a potential claim, our attorneys want to help you. Contact us about a potential lawsuit if you used hair relaxer for a long time and were subsequently diagnosed with any of the following conditions linked to chemicals in those products:

Contact our law firm today for a free consultation at 800-553-8082 or contact us online