Chemical Hair Straighteners

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Chemical Hair Straightening Lawsuit

Truth: Millions of women across the United States use hair straightening and hair relaxing products every year in order to straighten out their curls.

 

Truth: Some chemicals used in hair straighteners have been linked to uterine cancer, breast cancer, and other diseases.

 

Truth: As a result of this risk, the manufacturers of these hair straightening products are now facing lawsuits.

A woman having her hair straightened with chemicals at a beauty salon.

The plaintiffs filed their lawsuits against the hair straightener manufacturers because they failed to warn consumers about the increased risks of cancer. The plaintiffs allege that the companies knew about the risks but continued to advertise and sell their products anyway. They are seeking monetary compensation and for their medical bills to be covered. If you have used hair straighteners with harmful chemicals that have been linked to uterine and other cancers and developed cancer as a result, you may have a case against the company that manufactured and marketed that product. Contact Farah & Farah today for a free case evaluation.

What Is a Hair Straightener?

A hair straightener, also known as a hair straightening product or a hair relaxer, is a type of product that smooths and straightens hair that is normally frizzy or curly. There are hair straighteners that come in the form of electric flat irons that may also include other features. Other hair straightening products are products applied to the hair. Some of these are creams that work on a more temporary basis while others are intended to be permanent.

Factors that Determine Which Hair Straightening Product to Use

Certain hair types are better suited to certain hair straightening products. Additionally, your lifestyle may also influence your choice. Some people don’t have the time to apply a daily product or use a flat iron every day. People with little time in the morning may therefore prefer a more permanent chemical straightener over a temporary cream.

How Hair Type Influences Hair Straightening

The type of hair also plays a role. Someone with wavy hair could more easily use a daily straightener or a flat iron because it would take less time to straighten that way each day. Very frizzy hair or hair with very tight curls might require a chemical straightener. The temporary straightening options might not be strong enough to have an effect.

Benefits of a Chemical Hair Straightener

Using a longer-term solution like a chemical hair relaxer could be a good option for those who are busy and don’t have a lot of time to spend on a daily straightening routine. Plus, people who have tightly curled hair or natural hair can achieve relaxed, straight hair when they might not otherwise be able to. This in itself can also free up time because straight hair may be easier to tame. Plus, there can be more hairstyle options available with relaxed hair.

Downsides of a Chemical Hair Straightener

Although a chemical hair straightener may produce more long-lasting straight hair than other hair straightener options, it also has some downsides. To begin with, the chemicals in a chemical hair straightener can be harsh. This could damage the hair over time, especially if the hair is fine, dry, or previously dyed. It’s also possible that a chemical hair relaxer could harm the scalp.

What Causes Hair to Be Curly?

There are two primary factors that influence whether hair will be curly or straight: molecular bonds in the hair strands and the shape of each hair follicle. No matter what type of hair you have, it’s made out of a substance called keratin. Keratin is a protein that helps hair to maintain its structure. This protein is also found in things like nails, skin, feathers, claws, horns, hoofs, and more.

Molecular Bonds in Hair Strands

Keratin is made up of an amino acid called cysteine, which contains sulfur-based molecules that can create bonds amongst themselves along the length of a strand of hair. Cysteine molecules at the top of a strand of hair, for example, can bond with other cysteine molecules further down the length of the strand of hair. The more of these bonds exist along the shafts of hair, the curlier the hair will be. Straighter hair has fewer of these tight bonds.

Follicle Shape

The follicle is the opening in the scalp through which the hair grows. It’s the shape of these openings that can determine how many bonds the cysteine molecules can make with each other. In straight hair, the follicle is a more perfectly round shape, which isn’t conducive to many bonds. In curly hair, however, the follicles are more oval in shape. The flatter the oval shape, the more bonds the molecules can form and, therefore, the tighter the curls. Wavy hair, for example, would involve oval-shaped follicles, but they would be rounder than those for much tighter curls, yet not as round as those for straight hair.

How Does a Chemical Hair Straightener Work?

A chemical hair straightener works by dissolving the molecular bonds that occur along the shafts of hair. Such a hair relaxer actually works better on curlier hair than it does on straighter hair. This is because there are more bonds to dissolve and, as a result, the effects will be more noticeable.

 

By contrast, a temporary hair relaxer works by weakening the bonds between those molecules without actually breaking them. The heat only from a flat iron hair straightener works similarly in that it weakens the bonds for a temporary straightening effect. A chemical hair straightener typically involves both heat and the chemicals in the straightening product to fully break the bonds and produce permanently straight hair.

How Long Does a Chemical Hair Straightener Work?

The effects of a chemical hair straightener are permanent. However, because hair grows and the new hair that grows in will do so with the same molecular bonds as usual, the hair straightener will need to be reapplied at regular intervals.

How Often Does a Chemical Hair Straightener Need to Be Reapplied?

How often someone would need to get their hair re-straightened depends on how quickly their hair grows. Typically, however, it would be necessary every 6 to 8 weeks to avoid curly hair near the scalp and straight hair at the ends.

What Chemicals Are in a Hair Straightener?

A common ingredient in chemical hair straighteners is lye, which is a strong alkali substance that is commonly used in caustic bases. Another name for lye is sodium hydroxide. Other chemicals that may be included in a chemical straightener include:

Some of these chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are known to be carcinogenic, which means that they can cause cancer in humans.

Possible Damage from a Chemical Hair Straightener

Even under normal circumstances, a chemical straightener could damage your hair or even your scalp. It’s for this reason that, while it’s possible to use one at home, most professionals in the industry would recommend having your hair professionally straightened in order to reduce the risk of such damage.

Researchers have also found a link between certain chemical hair straighteners and an increased risk of uterine cancer and breast cancer.

Hair Straightener Links to Uterine and Breast Cancer

In October 2022, the United States National Institute of Health announced the results of a study that the organization had conducted. The study observed 33,497 women over a period of 11 years. The participants in the study ranged in age from 35-74 and during that time, 378 of them were diagnosed with uterine cancer. The researchers found that those who were more at risk of developing cancer were those who had used chemical straightening products on their hair. 

The study found that 1.64% of women who did not use hair straightening products would develop uterine cancer during their lifetimes. Of those who did use hair straighteners, by contrast, 4.05% would develop cancer. Hair straightening products were the only ones linked to cancer. The study also looked at perms, highlights, bleach, and hair dyes and found no increased risks for breast or uterine cancer involving these products.

Who Is More at Risk of Uterine Cancer?

A higher percentage of women who use hair straighteners are African American. This is due to a number of factors, including the fact that natural Black hair tends to have tight curls and kinks. There’s a lot of social pressure in the United States for African American women to straighten their hair to conform to beauty standards based on the hair of their White counterparts. Natural Black hairstyles are often viewed as against school dress codes or inappropriate for work in a professional setting by those in positions of authority, which can negatively impact their lives if they don’t straighten their hair. 

This also means that they’re at higher risk for uterine and breast cancer as a result.

What Is Uterine Cancer?

Uterine cancer is a type of cancer that can occur in two forms: endometrial cancer and uterine sarcoma. Of the two, endometrial cancer is the more commonly occurring form. Both types of cancer are commonly referred to as uterine cancer, even though they’re different.

Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer starts in the lining of the uterus. It’s often caught early because of the abnormal vaginal bleeding that can occur. Often, removing the uterus entirely is an option for treatment that could remove the cancer entirely.

Symptoms of Endometrial Cancer

The symptoms of endometrial cancer can include:

Causes of Endometrial Cancer

Endometrial cancer is caused by a mutation that occurs in the cells of the endometrium, or the lining of the uterus. This mutation alters the DNA of those endometrial cells and results in cancer forming there. What causes this mutation to occur, however, isn’t known.

Risk Factors of Endometrial Cancer

The following factors can increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer:

Uterine Sarcoma

Uterine sarcoma is the other type of uterine cancer and is much less common than endometrial cancer. This type of cancer begins in the muscles and tissues that support the uterus, called the myometrium. Uterine sarcoma is also more aggressive than most other uterine cancers.

Symptoms of Uterine Sarcoma

The symptoms of uterine sarcoma can include:

It’s possible for symptoms to go unnoticed until the later stages of cancer, at which point it may have spread to other parts of the body. In some rare cases, there aren’t any noticeable symptoms at all.

Causes of Uterine Sarcoma

Just like with many other cancers, uterine sarcoma develops due to unusual cells that then multiply and spread. However, it’s unknown exactly what causes those cancerous cells to form in the first place.

Risk Factors of Uterine Sarcoma

The following factors can increase the risk of uterine sarcoma:

  • Genetics
  • Race (Black people are more likely to develop uterine sarcoma than other groups)
  • Tamoxifen used to treat breast cancer
  • Radiation treatment on the pelvis

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is another type of cancer that has been linked to the use of chemical hair straighteners. This type of cancer forms in the cells within the breast tissue and can affect both men and women.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

The symptoms of breast cancer can include:

Causes of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer can occur when cells within the breasts begin to grow in an abnormal way. These abnormal cells then multiply and spread. Often, breast cancer starts in the ducts within the breasts that produce milk, but that’s not the only place it can begin. For many, breast cancer risk is inherited.

Risk Factors of Breast Cancer

The following factors can increase the risk of developing breast cancer:

Hair Straightener Lawsuits

A lawsuit against L’Oréal, a French cosmetics company, was filed in October of 2022 on behalf of a woman in Missouri named Jenny Mitchell, who developed uterine cancer and claimed that it was due to long-term exposure to phthalates and other chemicals in the hair straightening products she had used since she was eight years old. Debrosse Zimmermann, Mitchell’s attorney, said that the case would mark a turning point for the millions of women of color who regularly treated their hair with such hair relaxers. 

Mitchell is suing L’Oréal because of the uterine cancer she developed, which has ruined her dreams of having children. She says that women of color are introduced to straightening products by cosmetic companies from a very early age due to Eurocentric beauty standards that favor fine, straight hair. She is seeking compensation in the form of $75,000.

Mitchell’s lawsuit is not the only one against cosmetic companies that sell hair relaxers. Others have also been filed in New York and in California.

Should I Consider a Hair Straightener Lawsuit?

If you have regularly used a chemical hair straightener, especially one that contains phthalates or formaldehyde, with 4 uses or more within a 12-month period, and have been diagnosed with one or more of the following conditions at least one year following the first usage of the product:

then you may have a case against the company that manufactured the product.

Farah & Farah is committed to holding companies accountable for their actions when they have harmed their customers in the interest of profits. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. You won’t have to pay a dime unless your case is successful.

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