The Unsettling Connection Between Hair Relaxers and Severe Health Issues

Women have used chemical hair relaxers for generations to achieve sleek, straight hairstyles often held up as beauty standards. However, this pursuit may come with a hidden cost. Alarming new research suggests a link between these typical hair straightening products and severe health issues, including uterine cancer.

But before you panic, let’s break down the science, expose the lack of regulation, and empower you with knowledge. Your health and well-being deserve the truth, not just the glossy promises of a salon-perfect look.

The Toxic Ingredients In Hair Relaxer

You might be surprised that your hair relaxer contains several toxic chemicals to your scalp and body. Let’s break them down:

Sodium hydroxide (lye):

This harsh chemical gives relaxers their straightening power. It works by breaking down the protein bonds in the hair.  It can also cause severe burns and irritation on the scalp.


Formaldehyde is the same stuff used in embalming fluid and hair relaxers. When heated, this toxic chemical can be released from hair relaxers. It can irritate the eyes, nose, and lungs in poorly ventilated rooms. Additionally, it can pose health risks such as eye problems, nervous system problems, respiratory issues, nausea, chest pain, vomiting, and rashes.


These preservatives are used to prolong the shelf life of products, but they have also been linked to hormone disruption.


Often concealed under the general term “fragrance,” phthalates are endocrine disruptors that have been associated with reproductive problems.

The reality is that women who have trusted these hair relaxers to enhance their beauty are now facing health consequences. For decades, Black women, in particular, have relied on hair relaxers as part of their regular beauty routines. As a result, they’ve endured burning scalps and chemical smells, often unaware of the potential dangers of the products.

Now, many of these women are coming forward with stories of uterine cancer, breast cancer, and uterine fibroids. They claim that these conditions were caused by their long-term use of chemical hair treatments. They describe feeling misled by the beauty industry, which often downplayed the risks or hid them behind vague ingredient labels.

The frustration and anger felt by these women and their families have fueled a wave of lawsuits against major manufacturers. The hair relaxer lawsuit alleges that companies knew or should have known about the potential dangers of their products but failed to warn consumers clearly.

As identified by TorHoerman Law, lawsuits are currently being filed in the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of women. You may be eligible to file a lawsuit if you suffer from severe health issues due to hair relaxers.

These lawsuits represent a systemic failure to prioritize the health and safety of consumers, particularly women of color. It’s a wake-up call for the beauty industry to take responsibility and for us, as consumers, to demand transparency and accountability.

The Unsettling Link to Cancer

Now you know about the toxic ingredients found in hair relaxers, let’s understand how these lead to health diseases like cancer.

Uterine Cancer

Studies have found a link between the use of hair relaxers and a higher risk of uterine cancer in Black women. This risk is due to frequent and long-term use and is even more pronounced in postmenopausal women compared to premenopausal women.

The concerns don’t stop at cancer. Relaxers have also been linked to other reproductive health issues like fibroids, cysts, and even early puberty in young girls. It’s a domino effect of potential harm from those seemingly harmless bottles on our bathroom shelves.

Many experts believe endocrine disruptors in these products may be the key contributors to this health crisis. By interfering with our hormones, these chemicals could be creating a perfect storm for uterine cancer and other health issues to develop.

Breast Cancer

Another disturbing connection has emerged between chemical hair relaxers and breast cancer – the most common cancer affecting women worldwide.

While the science is not yet definitive, several studies have raised serious red flags. For example, research has shown a correlation between the combined use of hair relaxers and hair dye and the development of breast cancer.

This is particularly alarming for Black women, who already face a higher mortality rate from breast cancer compared to white women. While the reasons for this disparity are complex, the disproportionate use of hair relaxers is a factor that cannot be ignored.

Brain Cancer

The toxic formaldehyde found in chemical hair relaxers is also a neurotoxin. Which means it can negatively affect the brain and nervous system. Researchers recently found formaldehyde in many popular hair relaxer brands, raising severe concerns about its potential impact on brain health.

Many studies have also suggested a possible connection between hair products and brain tumors. That’s why we need more research, and quickly. Scientists must investigate this potential link more deeply and give us the answers we deserve.

In the meantime, it’s wise to exercise caution. Consider how often you use relaxers, look for products with fewer harsh chemicals, and don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about the potential risks.

Other Health Risks

I don’t think we’re done with the list of potential hair relaxer horrors yet. Cancer is a huge concern, but other health risks are lurking beneath the surface, too.

Early Puberty

The endocrine disruptors in hair relaxers trigger early puberty in young girls, sometimes as early as 8 or 9. This leads to early puberty, which has been linked to severe health issues later in life. It includes increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

Uterine Fibroids

Relaxers have also been associated with uterine fibroids, those non-cancerous growths that can cause pain, heavy bleeding, and even infertility. Black women are already more susceptible to fibroids, and relaxer use may exacerbate the issue.

Other Health Concerns

You’re not alone if you’ve ever experienced a burning scalp or hair loss after using a relaxer. These are common side effects, along with skin irritation and respiratory problems. So, even if you avoid cancer, your body might still be paying a price.



Can a Relaxer Permanently Damage Hair?

Yes, relaxers can permanently damage hair. The harsh chemicals used in relaxers to straighten hair can weaken the hair shaft and, in severe cases, cause hair loss. While some damage can be adequately mitigated, the structural changes caused by relaxers are irreversible.

What Can I Use Instead of a Hair Relaxer?

Consider heat styling with a blow dryer and flat iron or silicone creams for temporary straightening. For longer-lasting results, keratin treatments or Japanese straightening are options. You can also explore natural methods like oil treatments or henna, which may loosen curls over time.

How to Permanently Straighten Hair Without a Hair Relaxer?

There is no permanent way to straighten hair without chemical treatments like relaxers. However, some methods offer longer-lasting results than others. These include keratin treatments, which can last several months. Natural remedies like milk masks or hot oil treatments can help temporarily smooth hair but are not permanent solutions.

The Lack of Regulation and Transparency

The lack of proper regulation exacerbates the alarming health issues associated with hair relaxers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), responsible for the safety of our cosmetics, needs a firmer grasp on hair relaxers.

Unlike Europe, where over 1,300 ingredients are banned from cosmetics, the U.S. FDA only restricts or prohibits eleven of them. While European women are protected from a list of harmful chemicals, American consumers are left in the dark. Unknowingly, Americans are using products that could be detrimental to their health.

This lack of transparency is a serious problem. We should know what we’re putting in our bodies, especially regarding products linked to health issues.

So, what can we do? We can demand better. We can speak up and call out companies prioritizing profit over our well-being. We can vote with our wallets and choose safer, more transparent products. We can also support organizations fighting for stricter regulations and consumer protection.

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