Hair Relaxer Cancer Lawsuit Illustrates Societal Issues Black Women Face in America

By Osborne & Francis
July 18, 2024

Instead of being free to embrace their natural hair, Black people, especially women, have faced discriminatory treatment in the workplace, at school, and in society in general based on their hair. In order to minimize the discriminatory treatment they face, many Black women and girls rely on chemical hair relaxers to straighten their natural curls. 

New research has sounded the alarm that chemical hair relaxers contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can increase a woman’s risk of cancer. Women across the country are understandably outraged and are seeking to hold beauty companies like L’Oreal accountable for their negligence. 

The personal injury attorneys of Osborne & Francis share your frustration, and we are prepared to advocate on your behalf for the compensation you deserve. You can reach out to us at (561) 678-0156 or contact our offices in Boca Raton or Orlando to schedule a free case evaluation to discuss your legal options and learn more about the services we offer.

What is the “Hair Relaxer Cancer” Lawsuit?

Multiple studies have shown that there is likely a causal relationship between the heavy use of chemical hair relaxers and certain types of cancer, particularly those that begin in the female reproductive system. One NIH study determined that women who use chemical hair relaxers at least 4 times a year were at twice the risk of developing uterine cancer as compared to women who didn’t use chemical hair relaxers.

60% of the women who used chemical hair relaxers at this rate identified at Black, meaning that the carcinogens in chemical hair relaxers are having a greater impact amongst Black women because they tend to use these products more frequently. In addition to the increased risk of cancer from a commonly used product, Black women face racial discrimination in healthcare, which negatively impacts their treatment outcomes. 

Women who have been exposed to these chemicals and developed cancer are seeking compensation for their damages in hair relaxer cancer lawsuits. Even in the face of condemning research from reputable institutions, companies like L’Oreal claim that their products are safe for consumers. The plaintiffs in the chemical hair relaxer lawsuits argue that beauty companies had an obligation to thoroughly test their products and add warning labels to alert consumers to the risks of using these products.

Hair Relaxer Can Cause Immediate Side Effects and Long-Term Health Issues

Both at-home and salon hair relaxers are composed of harsh chemicals. Chemical hair relaxers can cause hair to become brittle, dry, and even fall out. These products have also been known to burn or lacerate the scalp, causing painful wounds. In the long-term, this can be dangerous because open wounds allow the chemicals from additional applications to leach into the body.

Once the toxic chemicals from the hair relaxers have entered the body, they can interfere with the endocrine system which controls the body’s hormone levels. The endocrine-disrupting chemicals trick the body into thinking that estrogen levels are high, leading to the uncontrolled growth of mutated cells. These cancer cells take resources from healthy cells, and eventually damage tissue and organs. Thus far, the cancers linked to frequent chemical hair relaxer usage include those that are impacted by estrogen levels, such as: 

It should also be noted that there is a significant discrepancy between reproductive cancer survival rates for Black women as compared to other races. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that uterine cancer kills Black women at twice the rate of white women. Black women are also more likely to develop aggressive forms of reproductive cancers. 

To summarize, Black women are at a higher risk for developing cancers of the reproductive system such as uterine cancer, and they are more likely to use cancer-causing chemical hair relaxers, and when they do develop cancer of the reproductive system they are significantly less likely to survive.

Black Women are Pressured to Meet White Beauty Standards

Prejudiced attitudes towards Black women’s hair have been ingrained in our vocabulary for generations. For example, using words like “nappy”, “crazy”  or “unprofessional” to describe Black womens’ natural curl patterns perpetuates the idea that their natural hair is unacceptable and inappropriate for public consumption. Failing to attempt to meet White beauty standards can result in fewer job opportunities, social isolation, and other repercussions. 

Black women have been subjected to discriminatory treatment and pushed to conform to White beauty standards to avoid this criticism. One of the most common ways to achieve this is by straightening their hair. Many of the women currently pursuing product liability claims against chemical hair relaxer makers started using the toxic products as young teenagers, exposing them to decades worth of cancer-causing chemicals.

Corporations Manufacture and Market Dangerous Products That Exploit the Pressure Black Women Experience 

For decades, beauty companies have marketed their products to Black women as a way to “tame” their natural hair. Their marketing campaigns have preyed on the insecurities forced upon Black women through years of discrimination. As it turns out, these beauty companies failed to adequately screen their products for carcinogens, putting women’s health and reproductive futures at risk. Still, they refuse to provide a warning label alerting customers to the dangers of using their product repeatedly.

What makes this especially problematic is that the makers of chemical hair relaxers are effectively profiting from an insecurity they perpetuate. In order for the effects of the chemical hair relaxer to last more than several weeks, the products must be reapplied. Advertisements for these products remind women to keep up with their hair by using straightening products, lest it revert back to its natural “wild” state. In effect, that means that many Black women have been exposed to the carcinogens in chemical hair relaxers multiple times a year, often for decades.

The Rise of the Natural Hair Movement

Recent years have brought about a resurgence of Black women embracing their natural hair texture. There have been movements like this before, such as the “Black is beautiful” campaign of the 1960s, which celebrated features such as curly hair, wider noses, and dark skin. Now, Black women are rightfully refusing to accept that they must straighten their hair in order to be taken seriously in the workplace and in society in general.  

New Legal Protections for Black Women Protect Them from Discrimination Because of Their Natural Hair

This cultural movement has coincided with a legal movement to secure protections for Black people who want to wear their natural hair or use protective styles that have been stereotyped as unprofessional, such as dreadlocks. For example, in 2019 California passed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act, into law. 

It makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of hair texture or style, marking a meaningful step for the civil rights of Black people. Since then, 9 other states have passed similar laws. On a national level, the CROWN Act passed the House of Representatives in 2022, but did not pass the Senate despite substantial support.

Why Should I Choose Osborne & Francis to Represent Me?

The product liability lawyers of Osborne & Francis recognize that beauty companies have deliberately targeted Black women to sell their defective products to, and it is Black women who are now paying the price for the negligent practices of multi-million dollar beauty companies. As a result, many Black women have sustained significant physical, emotional, and financial losses. 

We are equipped to present a persuasive claim for damages that maximizes your compensation. The product liability attorneys of Osborne & Francis have earned the trust and gratitude of our clients through results-driven, compassionate service. Our tenacious team of chemical hair relaxer cancer lawyers will demand accountability for your injuries and damages in a product liability lawsuit.

Osborne & Francis Stands With Black Women. We’re Here to Help You Get the Compensation and Justice that You Deserve

The appalling negligence displayed by the makers of chemical hair relaxers must be addressed. The product liability attorneys of Osborne & Francis have the negotiating skills, subject matter expertise, and resources necessary to maximize your compensation and hold them accountable.

We are proud to be representing hair relaxer cancer clients in order to secure settlements that reimburse them for the physical, financial, and emotional losses they have sustained. Our team has taken a number of personal injury claims to trial during our years of service when we believed that our clients weren’t being offered a fair settlement, and we’ll do the same for you.

If you have repeatedly used chemical hair relaxers and developed reproductive cancer our team wants to speak with you. You can reach out to us at (561) 678-0156 or contact our offices in Boca Raton or Orlando to schedule a free consultation with one of our dedicated product liability attorneys. Our team will diligently represent you in a chemical hair relaxer lawsuit to get you the compensation you deserve.

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