Lawsuit Against Hair Relaxer Manufacturers
Those who used any L’Oréal® hair relaxer product (such as Dark Lovely, Motions, Organic Root Stimulator, Olive Oil Relaxer, and others) and later developed endometrial cancer or uterine cancer might be able to recover compensation. Harmful chemicals in these products may be causing cancer and other health problems.
Hair Relaxer Products in Lawsuit
Hair relaxer products work by degrading (or damaging) the hair’s keratin proteins. A hair relaxer loosens the hair’s tight curls by breaking hair’s disulfide bonds. The products’ chemicals essentially flatten hair by altering its protein structure. Alkali solutions with a high pH degrade the keratin proteins in hair, hence causing it to “relax.”
Harmful Substances in Hair Relaxers
Phthalates, known as “plasticizers,” are used by L’Oréal and other hair relaxer makers to give their hair products a softer feel. Research shows these phthalates may disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates the body’s production of hormones.
Because hair relaxers are applied to the hair’s root, they can “burn” the scalp with their harmful contents. These chemicals can seep into the skin through wounds left by burns.
The Link Between Hair Relaxers and Cancer
Recent research shows some of the chemicals used in L’Oréal hair straightening treatments may increase a woman’s risk of developing uterine cancer. One recent study showed that using chemical hair-straightening treatments gives one a 4% chance of developing uterine cancer by the age of 70. Women in the study who did not use these products had a 1.6% probability of developing cancer. So this study found that women who used hair relaxer products raised their risk of developing uterine cancer compared with women who did not use hair relaxers.
First Lawsuit Filed Over Hair Relaxer
On October 21, 2022, a 28-year-old Missouri woman who had used chemical hair relaxers for 18 years filed the first hair straightener case in Chicago. L’Oréal is the first defendant named in that suit. About nine similar cases have been filed in the U.S. so far.
The plaintiff in the Chicago suit said in her petition that she regularly used used chemical hair relaxer from the age of 10 to age 28, roughly every two months. She said she either applied the products at home or paid for a professional salon application.
After being diagnosed with uterine cancer in August 2018, she underwent a complete hysterectomy. She still faces regular medical treatments. She had no prior history of cancer in her family.
The plaintiff’s petition said she had used Dark & Lovely, Motions, Organic Root Stimulator, and Olive Oil Relaxer. Additional hair straightener products that may be hazardous include:
- Ultra Precise
- Just for Me
- African Pride
- TCB Naturals
- Africa’s Best
- Creme of Nature
- Mizani Rhelaxer
- Soft & Beautiful
- Ultra Sheen Supreme
Product Liability Lawsuit
The suit filed against L’Oréal is a product liability lawsuit. This is a specific type of personal injury claim made by someone harmed by an allegedly hazardous or defective product. The manufacturer of the product is typically the target of such a suit, though some product liability litigation also targets distributors, retailers, and other supply chain players.
One important feature of product liability lawsuits is that injured parties may not need to prove the manufacturer was negligent. At minimum, they need to show the product had a defect that caused injuries. Product liability claims are hence made simpler in some respects, but legal challenges remain to prove a company’s product was defective or unreasonably dangerous.
Hair Relaxer Products not FDA Approved
The FDA did not require L’Oréal to obtain approval before putting hair straighteners on the market. In addition, hair product makers are not required to list each chemical in their products. They are allowed to simply classify all of the substances together with vague terms like “fragrance” or “perfume.”
Evidence nonetheless suggests L’Oréal knew, as early as 2015, that the chemicals in its hair straightening products were hazardous.
Unwarned consumers hence purchased L’Oréal hair straightening products without knowing they contained a potentially cancer-causing ingredient. The Chicago filing against L’Oréal and other hair relaxer parties alleges the company knew its products included hazardous phthalates that might cause serious health problems, yet failed to warn consumers.
The plaintiff in the case filed in Chicago specifically alleges that L’Oréal “actively and intentionally concealed and/or suppressed material facts, in whole or in part, to induce consumers, including Plaintiff, to purchase and use the Products and did so at her expense.”