Women around the world with curly and kinky hair know the struggle. It can be beautiful and unique, but it comes with difficulties. Kinky or curly hair tends to be more prone to tangles and knots due to the natural curl pattern, which can make combing or brushing hair a painful and frustrating experience. In addition, curly hair is often drier than straight hair because natural oils from the scalp have a more challenging time traveling down the hair shaft. This can lead to frizz and dryness, which can be especially problematic in humid weather. Also, breakage and split ends can make it challenging to maintain length, and shrinkage can make it appear that your hair isn’t growing.
Not all hair products are created equal; finding ones that work well for kinky or curly hair can be challenging. Many products contain harsh ingredients that can strip natural oils from the hair or weigh it down, leaving it looking greasy and limp. Now we’re learning that some harsh chemicals in hair relaxers can affect our health, from respiratory issues to developing cancer.
How Hair Relaxers Can Harm You
Hair relaxers are made up of harsh chemicals that break down the natural bonds in hair, allowing it to be straightened. However, these chemicals can also cause damage to the scalp, hair follicles, and hair strands. Some of the potential health impacts of hair relaxers include:
1. Scalp irritation: The chemicals in hair relaxers can irritate the scalp, leading to redness, itching, and even sores.
2. Hair breakage: Hair relaxers can weaken hair strands, causing them to break off easily. This can lead to hair thinning and hair loss.
3. Chemical burns: If hair relaxers are left on the hair for too long, they can cause chemical burns to the scalp and skin.
4. Allergic reactions: Some people may be allergic to the chemicals in hair relaxers, leading to hives, swelling, and difficulty breathing.
5. Hormonal disruptions: Some studies have shown that the chemicals in hair relaxers can disrupt the hormones in the body, leading to health issues such as early puberty in girls and decreased sperm count in men.
6. Presence of Formaldehyde: A recognized carcinogen, formaldehyde can be absorbed via the skin or inhaled through vapors while being applied. The health effects of formaldehyde include difficulties with the eyes, the lungs, and the respiratory system as well as an increased chance of some cancers, like tumors in the nasal cavity.
7. Increased cancer risk: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in chemical relaxants can harm our systems’ delicate hormonal balance. Cancers of the uterus, the breast, the ovaries, and the endometrium have all risen significantly with the use of pharmacologic relaxants.
Hair Relaxer Lawsuits in Illinois and Across the US
Recently, nearly 60 lawsuits against major hair relaxer manufacturers, including L’Oreal, have been consolidated in a federal court in Illinois. The plaintiffs seek damages for alleged defects, misrepresentations, and negligence related to their hair relaxer products.
The hair relaxer lawsuits against L’Oreal and other manufacturers, such as Revlon, SoftSheen-Carson, and Procter & Gamble, alleging that their products are defective, dangerous, and misrepresented to the public. The lawsuits claim that the hair relaxers contain harsh chemicals that can cause severe injuries, such as scalp burns, blisters, scabs, and infections. The suits also allege that the manufacturers failed to warn consumers of the risks associated with their products or provided inadequate or misleading instructions and labels. Finally, the lawsuits accuse the manufacturers of negligence, breach of warranty, fraud, and other misconduct related to their hair relaxers’ design, testing, and marketing.
The consolidated cases were transferred to the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in February 2023, where a single judge will hear them. The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive relief, and other remedies from the defendants. L’Oreal has already rebutted the claims in a statement; the other defendants have not yet responded to the consolidated complaints but are likely to defend themselves against the allegations vigorously.
Have Hair Relaxers harmed you?
If you think hair relaxers may have harmed you, take these steps to protect yourself and hold manufacturers responsible.
1. Seek medical attention from a healthcare provider experienced in treating hair and scalp conditions. They can assess the extent of the damage and provide appropriate treatment, which may include medication, topical treatments, or other therapies.
2. Document your symptoms and medical treatment, and keep records of any products you have used, including brand names, lot numbers, and purchase dates. This information may be useful if you decide to pursue legal action against the manufacturer or seek compensation for your injuries.
3. Consider consulting with an attorney specializing in personal injury or product liability law. They can advise you on your legal rights and options and help you pursue a claim against the manufacturer if appropriate.
It’s important to act quickly to ensure your health and avoid the Illinois statute of limitations for filing your case.
What are the Implications of the Hair Relaxer Lawsuits?
These lawsuits significantly affect product safety and consumer protection in the beauty industry. They serve as a reminder that companies are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe and properly labeled and that consumers have the right to know the potential risks associated with using them. In the case of hair relaxers, the lawsuits allege that the manufacturers failed to warn consumers of the risks associated with their products or provided inadequate or misleading instructions and labels, which could have severe consequences for users.
The suits also raise questions about the role of regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in overseeing the safety and labeling of cosmetic products. The FDA has limited authority over cosmetic products, which are not subject to pre-market approval or mandatory reporting of adverse events. While the FDA can take enforcement action against cosmetic products that are misbranded or adulterated, it relies largely on voluntary compliance and industry self-regulation. The hair relaxer lawsuits may prompt calls for stronger regulation of cosmetic products and more robust oversight by regulatory agencies to protect consumers.
The cases could have severe financial implications for the defendants and the industry. If the plaintiffs succeed in proving their claims, the defendants may be liable for significant damages, legal fees, and other costs. Moreover, the lawsuits’ negative publicity and reputational damage could harm the defendants’ brand image and sales and lead to decreased demand for hair relaxers and other similar products. This could cause a ripple effect on the industry, as other companies may face increased scrutiny and litigation over their cosmetic products.
Overall, the hair relaxer lawsuits against L’Oreal and other manufacturers have far-reaching implications for product safety, regulation, and the beauty industry. As more consumers become aware of the potential risks associated with cosmetic products, companies must take proactive steps to ensure their products are safe and properly labeled and comply with applicable laws and regulations. In turn, regulatory agencies may need to strengthen their oversight and enforcement efforts to protect consumers from harm.