Why are women across the country filing suit against top hair product manufacturers? Recently a reputable study was released highlighting the dangers of chemical hair relaxers and straighteners. On October 17th, 2022, The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a study discovering a strong link between chemical hair relaxers/straighteners and uterine cancer. The study, funded by the US government, was done by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It found that women who frequently used straighteners and relaxers for at least 5 years were significantly more likely to developing uterine cancer. In fact, their risk of developing uterine cancer more than doubled.  

This is not the first study that has linked chemical hair straighteners to an increased risk of cancer. In 2019 the National Cancer Institute published a study with similar findings, stating that women who used hair straighteners and permanent hair dyes were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer in their lifetime. 

Black women Disproportionately Harmed

In the US alone, millions of black women regularly use chemical straighteners and relaxing products. Hair straighteners originally gained popularity in the 60’s when black women faced bias and discrimination in the workplace due to their natural hair texture. As such, many women subscribed to the Eurocentric beauty standard by straightening their hair chemically to avoid discrimination. Today, black women are still the largest consumer of all hair relaxing sold in the US. 

In the study done by the NIH included 33,000 women, 60% of which self-identified as black women. Due to their more frequent use of hair straightening or relaxing products, black women are disproportionately at a greater risk for developing uterine cancer. The incidence rate for uterine cancer overall is twice as high for black women in comparison to white women in the US. 

Uterine Cancer – Statistics and Prognosis

Uterine cancer is the 4th most common cancer and the 6th leading cause of death related to cancer for women in the US. As a result of frequent use of hair relaxers, women as young as their 20’s are being diagnosed with uterine cancer. 

Common symptoms of uterine cancer include:

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pain in the pelvic region
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex
  • Unusual weight loss

Anyone presenting with the symptoms above should talk to their doctor about their concerns. They may need to be screened for uterine cancer. 

Lawsuits Filed Across the Country 

Following the study’s release in October, women across the country have begun to file lawsuits against top manufacturers of hair relaxers and straighteners. The first lawsuit was brought by Jennifer Mitchell of Missouri, who used hair relaxers from the age 10, and was diagnosed with uterine cancer at age 28, resulting in a hysterectomy. Her suit was filed October 21st with the Chicago federal court against L’Oreal, SoftSheen Carson, Strength of Nature, Dabur and Namaste Laboratories, top manufacturers of chemical straightening products.

Since Mitchell filed, there have been at least 8 more suits filed, on behalf of at least 13 plaintiffs, across four district federal courts in the US. As a result, the plaintiffs have filed a request to create a multi-district litigation, or MDL, for the cases. It is anticipated that there will be a high volume of suits filed, which is why an MDL is likely to help make the process of filing suit against these common defendants more efficient. 

MDL’s are used in federal courts to expedite the process of filing a large number of suits against a common defendant. Similar to a class action lawsuit, the MDL would be assigned to a district court and a single judge to oversee the process. However, unlike a class action lawsuit, in an MDL each individual case is still considered on their own merit, but the discovery process is combined. Typically, these sorts of cases are settled, with plaintiff amounts varying based on the harm done.  

We are considering cases from brands like:

Soft Sheen Carson
(Owned by L’Oreal)
(Owned by Dabur)
Strength of Nature Luster’s
  • Dark & Lovely
  • Optimum
  • Bantu
  • Ultra Precise
  • ORS Olive Oil
  • HAIRepair
  • Curls Unleashed
  • TCB
  • TCB Naturals
  • Just for Me
  • Motions
  • Soft & Beautiful
  • African Pride
  • Pink
  • Smooth Touch
  • Short Looks

We are also considering straightening products such as: Schwarzkopf Glatt, Natika, Revlon Africa’s Best, Ultrasheen, and Cantu Shea Butter. 

What Chemicals are Causing the Harm? 

The link to uterine cancer has largely been attributed to chemicals such as parabens, nitrosamines, bisphenol A, metals, and formaldehyde. The chemicals are absorbed through the scalp during treatment, and the harsh nature of the products can cause burns and lesions, worsening the exposure to the scalp and into the body. Many of these chemicals, specifically formaldehyde, have long been known to be highly toxic to humans and linked to an increased risk of cancer.

All chemical hair relaxers also contain an endocrine disrupting chemical called diethylhexylphthalate (DEHP). This chemical interferes with hormone receptors and is known to cause developmental abnormalities and damage to the reproductive system. 

Due to the toxic nature of many of these chemicals, manufacturers should have known that there was a risk associated with including them in their products. Not only did the manufacturers ignore past studies about the dangers of the chemicals used in their products, but they also failed to warn consumers of the risk associated with using their products. As a result, women across the country have been harmed or placed at an increased risk of harm. 

Call The Yost Legal Group

The defective product lawyers here at the Yost Legal Group are dedicated to obtaining justice for those wrongfully harmed by products through no fault of their own. We are currently pursuing cases for individuals harmed by chemical hair relaxers or straighteners.  If you or a loved one have used hair relaxers or straighteners and been diagnosed with uterine cancer, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call us today at 1 (800) YOST-LAW or visit our website to fill out an inquiry to see how we can fight for you.