The Health Risks of Hair Relaxers: Unveiling the Lawsuit’s Concerns

Hair relaxers and straightening products have gained popularity among individuals looking to straighten and manage their hair. However, recent legal cases have brought attention to the potential health hazards associated with these products.

According to The Guardian, over 57 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts across the United States, alleging that hair relaxer products sold by L’OrĂ©al and other companies can cause cancer and other health issues. As a result, these lawsuits are being consolidated in a Chicago federal court, as ordered by the US judicial panel on multidistrict litigation.

This article will examine the concerns raised by these legal cases, shedding light on the health risks involved with hair relaxers and the implications for consumers.

Understanding Hair Relaxers and Their Composition


Composition of Hair Relaxers

Hair relaxers typically consist of a combination of active ingredients, conditioning agents, and other additives. The primary active ingredients in relaxers are sodium hydroxide (lye) or calcium hydroxide. These alkaline substances work by breaking down the protein bonds in the hair, known as disulfide bonds, which are responsible for the hair’s natural curl pattern.

Harmful Ingredients in Hair Relaxers

While sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide are the main active ingredients in hair relaxers, some products may also contain potentially harmful additives. Parabens, for example, are preservatives commonly found in cosmetic products, including hair relaxers. They have been associated with various health concerns, including hormone disruption.

Another concerning ingredient found in certain hair relaxers is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde-releasing agents, such as methylene glycol or formalin, are used in some relaxers to help straighten the hair. However, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause irritation, allergic reactions, and respiratory issues.

Safety and Precautions


When using hair relaxers, it is crucial to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer carefully. It is recommended to perform a patch test before applying the relaxer to the entire head to check for any adverse reactions. It’s also important to wear protective gloves and avoid contact with the scalp to minimize potential damage or irritation.

Development of Cancer

Recent scientific studies have indicated that the use of chemical hair straightening products, including hair relaxers, may pose health risks such as an increased likelihood of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, breast cancer, and other health problems.

According to the TorHoerman law group, a study has revealed that frequent use of hair straightening products, defined as using them more than four times in a year, was associated with over twice the risk of developing uterine cancer compared to those who did not use these products.

This alarming information has prompted the emergence of hair relaxer lawsuits as affected individuals seek legal recourse for the health issues they believe are linked to the use of these products.

Scalp and Skin Irritation


Scalp and skin irritation are common side effects of using hair relaxers. The strong chemicals present in relaxers can cause discomfort and adverse reactions on the scalp and surrounding skin. Symptoms such as burning, itching, redness, and inflammation may occur shortly after the application of the relaxer. Prolonged or repeated use of relaxers can further exacerbate the irritation and may even result in chronic skin conditions or increased sensitivity. It is important to be aware of these potential risks and take necessary precautions when using hair relaxers, such as following instructions, performing patch tests, and seeking professional advice.

Chemical Burns and Hair Damage


Improper application or prolonged exposure to hair relaxers can pose a significant risk of chemical burns, which may result in severe burns, blisters, and scarring. Additionally, the use of relaxers can weaken and damage the structure of the hair shaft, leading to hair breakage, thinning, and even hair loss.

According to a study involving 715 African-American women aged 18 and over, it was found that 90% of women who experienced hair breakage reported using chemical treatments.

Respiratory Issues and Inhalation

During the application of hair relaxers, strong fumes are released, which can be inhaled by individuals present in the vicinity. These fumes contain a mixture of chemicals, including formaldehyde, known for its respiratory irritant properties. Regular exposure to these fumes can result in the development of respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, and other breathing difficulties.

In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, a study revealed that hairdressers and stylists who frequently worked with hair relaxers had a higher likelihood of experiencing respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Hormonal Disruption and Reproductive Health

Certain ingredients commonly found in hair relaxers, such as phthalates and parabens, have been linked to disruptions in hormone levels and potential negative effects on reproductive health.

These chemicals can imitate or interfere with the body’s natural hormones, raising concerns about their long-term use and the potential impact on fertility and overall hormonal balance.

Several studies have indicated that exposure to hair straightening products is associated with lower levels of sex steroid hormones, an increased risk of uterine leiomyomata (fibroids), earlier onset of menstruation, and an elevated risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Legal Actions and Consumer Advocacy


As the health risks associated with hair relaxers and straightening products have come to light, numerous lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers, alleging inadequate product labeling, failure to warn consumers about potential hazards, and misrepresentation of ingredients.

These legal actions serve as a wake-up call for both manufacturers and regulatory bodies to prioritize consumer safety and ensure that hair relaxers meet stringent safety standards.


The recent lawsuits highlighting the health risks of hair relaxers have raised concerns about the safety of these products. It is important for consumers to understand the risks involved and make informed choices about their hair care. Manufacturers and regulatory agencies need to prioritize research, development, and transparency to ensure the safety and well-being of consumers.

By working together, informed consumers, responsible manufacturers, and diligent regulators can promote safer hair care practices and protect the health of individuals using hair care products.