For many Black women, having a relaxer was once considered a societal norm. Yet, that same staple of Black hair care could be doing more harm than good.
That is certainly the case for 28-year-old Jenny Mitchell, who claims that she developed uterine cancer which led to her having a hysterectomy as a result of years of relaxer use as previously reported by The Shade Room.
She also learned that the National Health Institute had been tracking over 33-thousand women for 11 years citing those who reported frequent use of hair straightening products were more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer.
Hair Relaxers Found To Have Cancer-Causing Chemicals, Lawsuit, National Health Institute Claim
The most disturbing part is that companies like L’Oreal and Soft Sheen could have been aware of the risks associated with prolonged use and failed to warn consumers.
Black women are now breaking their silence and seeking justice for what they consider negligence on behalf of the relaxer industry. Jenny Mitchell along with countless other women are now filing a federal lawsuit against several major hair care manufacturers.
Could this be a case of companies being misinformed about the dangers of their products? Or have these companies been placing profit over the protection of their consumers?
Mitchell says this issue not one Black women should ignore.
“I don’t want another me,” Mitchell told TSR Investigates’ Justin Carter. “At 28, not being able to have a family of your own.”
Lawsuit Filed Against Major Hair Hair Product Lines After Black Woman Develops Uterine Cancer
She and her attorneys are filing a major federal lawsuit in Illinois against L’Oreal, Soft Sheen and other hair care products many Black women depend on to straighten their hair, products like Motions No Lye Relaxer, Soft & Beautiful, Just for Me, Olive Oil Girls, Dark & Lovely and Southern Carson.
“As an African-American woman, it is the societal norm to have your hair look a certain way,” Mitchell went on to say. “Don’t wear your hair natural because it looks unprofessional.”
But she says that societal norm has caused her to lose the ability to have children. She was even more stunned when the aforementioned National Health Institute had been tracking over 33,000 women for 11 years.
On October 22, 2022, they released a study that found that those 33,000 who used hair straightening products were “more than twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to those who do not use the products.
Study Tracked 33,000 Women Over 11-Year Period, Found Those Who Use Relaxers Twice As Likely To Develop Uterine Cancer
Over that 11-year period, the institute reported 378 cases of uterine cancer diagnoses.
“Our clients will have their day in court, we are prepared to fight, we are confident in the science, and they need to be held accountable,” said attorney Diandra “Fu” Debrosse Zimmerman. “For their refusal to warn, and for their priority over money.”
That remains the biggest question regarding these cancer-causing products: what do these companies know? And if they do know, when did they learn of it?
According to the lawsuit, hair straightening products have been known to damage the endocrine system which “regulates all biological processes in the body.”
Such relaxers contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals which can cause uterine cancer, especially the chemical Di-2-ethylhexylphthalate, or DEHP for short.
It claims that the chemical is “highly toxic” and insulin resistant, and leads to high blood pressure alongside the aforementioned reproductive problems: “including earlier menopause, low birth weight, pregnancy loss and preterm birth,” the lawsuit states.
“Highly Toxic” Chemical Found In Hair Straighteners, With No Warning On Packaging Lawsuit Claims
Despite having used the products for upwards of two decades, Mitchell and her lawsuit allege that “there was never any indication, on the Products packaging or otherwise, that this normal use could and would cause her to develop uterine cancer.
NYC-based OBG-YN Dr. Heather Irobunda tells The Shade Room that the chemicals in question are also linked to ovarian and breast cancer.
Dr. Irobunda says the concerns have been ignored by the medical community until now.
Women like Mitchell who file lawsuits against such hair care companies have a solid case as long as they can prove that the companies knowingly sold their products with dangerous chemicals without providing ample warning on the packaging.
Dr. Irobunda went on to say that she discourages her patients from using such products, and offers healthier alternatives such as heat like a flatiron, which have not been found to be cancer-causing.
Renowned Defense Attorney Ben Crump Takes On Case, Expects “Thousands” More Women To Come Forward
Meanwhile, renowned defense attorney Ben Crump, who has taken on Mitchell’s case, tells The Shade Room that his phone has been ringing off the hook.
“We expect there to be thousands of more women to come forward,” Crump said, adding that “this is only the beginning.”
Crump went on to say that Black women should not be risking their health for some abstract sense of European beauty. And Mitchell implores fellow women of color to regularly get checked out by their OBG-YN, especially if they regularly use such hair care products.
The Shade Room reached out to L’Oreal for comment, who said the lawsuits “have no merit.”
“We are confident in the safety of our products and believe the recent lawsuits filed against us have no merit. L’Oreal upholds the highest standards of safety for all of its products. Our products are subject to rigorous scientific evaluation by experts.”
TSR Investigates explores cold cases and special interest news stories underrepresented in mainstream media.