The hair relaxer litigation has begun to see more and more women filing lawsuits after a study published in October 2022 found that hair relaxer product users increase their risk of uterine cancer.
Victoria Clark filed her complaint on January 27,2023 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Her complaint accuses L’Oreal and subsidiary Softsheen-Carson LLC of participating in negligent, willful and wrongful conduct in the marketing, sales, and promotions of Dark & Lovely Hair Relaxer. It further alleges that the companies failed to disclose the endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the product, chemicals that raise the risk of uterine cancer and other serious health problems.
Related: Color of Change wants Retailers to Audit Hair Straightener Products
Ms. Clark joins a growing number of primarily Black women filing lawsuits against the companies that sold them hair relaxers or straighteners. The suits followed recent publication of several studies that highlighted side effects linked with “permanents” (is anything permanent?) and chemical straighteners. The products have been marketed for decades as a safe method for flattening natural hair curls.
Claims have also been filed against the makers of other brands of hair relaxers over the alleged link to ovarian cancer and uterine fibroids. Those products include:
- Dark & Lovely
- Just for Me
- Other widely-used brands
Ms. Clark indicates she began using Dark & Lovely in 1988. She regularly applied it to her own scalp herself, or else she had a professional salon stylist do so for decades, until October 2021. That was when she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.
Her lawsuit complaint says: “There was never any indication on the packaging that this normal use could and would cause her to develop uterine cancer.”
Her petition says that Ms. Clark underwent a full hysterectomy in January 2022 following her cancer diagnosis. She continues to undergo three-month medical appointments required by her cancer treaters.
Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Risks
Studies recently published link hair relaxer products with cancer. The studies have raised legitimate concerns, considering the widespread use of these hair care products, primarily by Black, but also other women, throughout the country.
Researchers published findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in October 2022. They warned that the chemical hair relaxers’ ingredients may cause uterine cancer. Researchers found that the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times greater among women frequently exposed to hair relaxer chemicals, compared with women who were not exposed to the products’ chemicals.
The research raised concerns over several toxic phthalates and endocrine disrupting chemicals in hair straightening products. Researchers found that 4% of women who frequently used chemical hair relaxers developed uterine cancer by the age of 70. Meanwhile, just 1.6% of women who never used the products were diagnosed with cancer. Researchers surmised cancer risk was much higher among Black women, who comprised just 7.4% of the study’s participants, yet accounted for 59.9% of the women who reported that they used chemical hair straighteners.
Individual products such as Dark & Lovely were not singled out in this study, but researchers concluded that mounting evidence about the link between hair relaxers and cancer means more studies should be done. It needs to be determined whether these hair products should be removed from store shelves, or whether the use of the dangerous chemicals in these products should be limited or banned for safety reasons.