Hair relaxers formaldehyde
Credit: KOMUnews/Flickr/Susu Yan/

Hair relaxers' hidden health risks exposed

Hair relaxers have been linked to reproductive disorders and cancers, raising questions about their continued aggressive marketing to Black women.

Linda Villarosa reports for The New York Times.

In short:

  • The FDA has proposed banning formaldehyde in hair relaxers due to its cancer risks, responding to research by scientists like Dr. Tamarra James-Todd.
  • Studies show a strong link between hair relaxers and reproductive health issues such as early puberty, uterine fibroids, and cancers.
  • Despite evidence and declining sales, many Black women continue to use relaxers due to societal beauty standards and lack of regulatory oversight.

Key quote:

“These products never said, ‘Hey, may cause cancer.’ Millions of African American women have used this product. We have to shine the light and hold these people accountable.”

— Jenny Mitchell, lead plaintiff in class-action products liability litigation.

Why this matters:

The link between hair relaxers and severe health outcomes is a serious public health issue, especially for Black women who are disproportionately affected by reproductive health problems. Read more: Racist beauty standards leave communities of color more exposed to harmful chemicals.

About the author(s):

EHN Curators
EHN Curators
Articles curated and summarized by the Environmental Health News' curation team. Some AI-based tools helped produce this text, with human oversight, fact checking and editing.

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