IYKYK: Another Study Links Black Women And Hair Relaxers To Cancer And Infertility

IYKYK: Another Study Links Black Women And Hair Relaxers To Cancer And Infertility

The natural hair movement of the last decade was spawned by Black women’s concerns about the chemicals in many hair straightening products and relaxers and their refusal to be bound by antiquated and harmful ideas surrounding Black hair.

Now, a study suggests that the use of chemical relaxers could have far-reaching health concerns due to the use of toxic ingredients like cyclosiloxanes, formaldehyde, parabens, diethanolamine, sodium hydroxide, phthalates, triclosan, and benzophenone-3, according to California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control. Multiple studies conclude that these and other chemicals found in common straightening products have been linked to uterine cancer, infertility, fibroids, breast cancer, and endometriosis.

Washington lawmakers are now calling on the Food and Drug Administration to “conduct a thorough and transparent investigation,” according to Cleveland.com.

U.S. Rep Shontel Brown, along with Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley, are two of the prominent voices urging the FDA to determine whether or not the products should be marketed as safe for use. “As a result of anti-Black hair sentiment, Black women have been unfairly subjected to scrutiny and forced to navigate the extreme politicization of hair,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter. “Hence, generations of Black women have adapted by straightening hair in an attempt to achieve social and economic advancement.”

Early this year, beauty company L’Oreal found itself at the center of numerous lawsuits filed by consumers who claimed their products caused cancer and other health problems. The lawsuits also claim that L’Oreal and other companies knowingly expose women to deadly chemicals without warning. For medical professionals like OB/GYN Dr. Lauren Bouchard of Cleveland, the responsibility should always be to arm people with the necessary information to make the best decisions for themselves. “I tell them that there are some studies that show there may be a link between products including perms and relaxers, and cancer, fibroids and endometriosis,” Bouchard said. “I ultimately leave it up to their discretion, but they should know that link is present.”

A Boston University School of Public Health study tested over 11,000 people and found fertility rates to be lowest among women who reported using relaxers for over 10 years or at least five times per year.