Hair Relaxers, the Fight for Health and Beauty, and the Societal Impact

For generations, Black women have navigated a world shaped by Eurocentric beauty standards. These standards often define their natural hair textures—coily or curly—as undesirable. To achieve the straight hair that was considered ideal, many of them turned to chemical relaxers. 

While offering a temporary solution, these products have recently come under scrutiny due to a potential link to health risks and cancers. This blog post will highlight how this newfound awareness has sparked change. This change is in the legal action against manufacturers and a cultural shift towards embracing natural hair.

Hair Straightening Cancer and Black Women

There is a notable disparity in the incidence of cancer among women due to the prolonged use of hair straighteners. Black women are more susceptible to cancer from hair chemicals compared to others. 

According to Drugwatch, a groundbreaking study conducted at Boston University reflected this connection. The research identified a connection between the frequent use of chemical hair relaxers and higher chances of uterine cancer in Black women.

There was another investigation by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in 2022. This study involved 33,000 women and echoed Boston’s findings. Imagine the plight of women using chemical hair straighteners since childhood and now facing the wrath of cancer. 

The Lawsuit

These scientific findings have also ignited a wave of lawsuits against hair straightener manufacturers. Several women are filing for compensation against companies like L’Oreal, Dark & Lovely, and Just For Me, to name a few. 

The main crux of the hair straightener cancer lawsuit is that the manufacturers hid the potentially fatal health risks associated with these products. Moreover, since the symptoms took years to show, most of the users could never understand the lurking dangers of fatal cancers. 

According to TorHoerman Law, the cases involving hair relaxers and cancer have been combined into one multidistrict litigation (MDL), covering multiple jurisdictions. More than 8,000 cases are pending in the MDL.

A Personal Story of Courage

The human cost of chemical relaxers extends far beyond statistics. Bree-Shawna Watts’s story exemplifies the life-altering impact these products can have. 

According to NBC News, at the young age of 32, she received a devastating diagnosis: uterine cancer. Following this news, she underwent a hysterectomy, a surgery that removed her uterus and cervix, leaving only her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Initially, doctors believed her symptoms stemmed from a fibroid, a benign uterine tumor. However, the final diagnosis of uterine sarcoma, a cancerous tumor, was a crushing blow. 

Despite this setback, Watts’ courage and resilience have ignited a spark. She went through 25 rounds of radiation treatment and began hormone therapy, which she needs to maintain for a decade.

Societal and Cultural Shift

The growing evidence of hair straightening chemicals and cancer has fueled a movement advocating freedom to embrace natural hair textures. Women are now asserting their right to express themselves without apprehension or bias due to their hair. Watts’s story is a poignant reminder of the toll chemical relaxers can take on people.

It also highlights the importance of prioritizing both health and self-acceptance. Also, the legal actions have ignited a more extensive dialogue regarding beauty standards and societal expectations to adhere to Eurocentric ideals.

The Rise of the Natural Hair Movement

According to Vogue, a powerful movement, the Natural Hair Movement, for self-acceptance and self-love is gaining momentum. This is particularly true among younger generations. This cultural shift is empowering women to celebrate their natural hair textures and reject narrow beauty standards.

This newfound sense of assurance is driven by two crucial elements: 

  • There is an increasing recognition of the possible health hazards linked to chemical relaxers.
  • A more positive portrayal of natural hair in media. 

With knowledge readily available, young women are making informed choices about their hair care.

The popularity of natural hair care products and services has surged in tandem with this movement. Businesses catering to this market are flourishing, offering a wealth of options for those choosing to embrace their natural texture. This boom presents exciting opportunities for local entrepreneurs who can tap into this lucrative market. 

The Natural Hair Movement goes beyond aesthetics; it’s a social movement with a powerful message. It’s a call for self-love, the freedom to express oneself, and the dismantling of unrealistic beauty standards that have oppressed Black women for generations.


Q: Why are there lawsuits against hair straightener companies?

Many women are suing manufacturers because they allege the companies failed to warn about potential cancer risks associated with relaxers.

Q:  Is there a link between straighteners and cancer?

Studies suggest a possible connection between frequent use of relaxers and an increased risk of uterine cancer in Black women. More research is needed.

Q: What’s the Natural Hair Movement about?

It’s a cultural shift encouraging Black women to embrace their natural hair textures and challenge Eurocentric beauty standards.

To conclude, this fight against hair relaxer manufacturers represents a much larger conversation about societal beauty standards and self-acceptance. The legal action seeks justice for those potentially harmed. And the Natural Hair Movement empowers a new generation to embrace their authentic selves and redefine beauty on their terms. 

It’s a movement with the potential to ripple outwards, fostering inclusivity and challenging narrow definitions of beauty across all communities.

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