Straightener Chemicals in Hair Relaxer Products Led to Uterine Cancer, Lawsuit Alleges

Side effects of hair relaxers used since she was 10 years old caused an Alabama woman to develop uterine cancer, which she indicates was a direct result of chemicals in Dark & Lovely, Just for Me and other straighteners

  • Lawsuit indicates chemical straighteners like Dark & Lovely, Just for Me, Optimum and Motions caused uterine cancer
  • Plaintiff used the hair relaxers and perms for decades before the diagnosis
  • Although manufacturers knew or should have known about the side effects from chemical hair straighteners, lawsuit alleges they failed to conduct adequate testing and withheld warnings from Black women
  • Complaint joins a growing number of hair relaxer lawsuits being filed after publication of an October 2022 study
  • LEARN MORE ABOUT CHEMICAL HAIR RELAXER LAWSUIT

An Alabama woman indicates chemicals contained in wide used hair straighteners like Dark & Lovely, Just for Me, Optimum and Motions caused her to develop uterine cancer, alleging the manufacturers failed to warn women about the potential side effects from hair relaxers and perms widely used by Black women.

Krystal Sanders filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on December 23, indicating the chemical hair straighteners contain toxic chemicals known to increase the risk of uterine cancer, fibroids and other injuries.

L’Oreal USA, Inc., Soft Sheen-Carson, LLC, Strength of Nature, LLC, Godrej Consumer Products Ltd, Dabur USA, Inc. and Namaste Laboratories are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which indicates the companies failed to adequately test their products and misrepresented the safety of chemical hair straighteners for decades.

Although manufacturers knew or should have known that their hair straighteners contain toxic chemicals that are known to increase the risk of uterine cancer and uterine fibroids, the lawsuit indicates that the companies engaged in a “callous, reckless, willful, depraved indifference to the health, safety and welfare” of Ms. Sanders, and specifically targeted young Black children with their advertisements, creating generations of devoted customers who did not know they were exposing themselves to an increased risk of uterine cancer.

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Sanders indicates she began using various hair relaxer products when she was only 10 years old, in 1993. Those products include Dark & Lovely, TCB Naturals, Just For Me, ORS Olive Oil, Optimum, and Motions.

Following continued use of the products of nearly three decades, Sanders indicates the hair relaxer caused uterine cancer diagnosed in December 2020, which she never realized was a direct result of the hair straightener chemicals she had been applying to her scalp for decades.

“There was never any indication, on the Products’ packaging or otherwise, that this normal use could and would cause her to develop uterine cancer,” Sanders’ lawsuit states. “The injuries and damages sustained by Plaintiff Krystal A. Sanders were caused by Defendants’ products.”

Hair Relaxer Uterine Cancer Risks

Chemical straighteners like Just for Me, Optimum, ORS Olive Oil, Dark & Lovely, Motions and other hair relaxers have been marketed for decades as safe, targeting Black women looking to remove the natural curls in their hair. However, in recent years, studies have been published which make a connection between the use of hair relaxer and cancer, raising concerns about the wide spread use of the products by Black and other minority women throughout the U.S.

In October 2022, researchers published findings in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which warned that ingredients used in the chemical hair straighteners may cause uterine cancer. Researchers found that the rate of uterine cancer was nearly three times greater among women who frequently used hair relaxer chemicals, compared to women who never used the products.

Researchers from the National Institute of Environmental Health reviewed data on nearly 34,000 women in the United States between the ages of 35 and 74 who completed questionnaires on their use of multiple hair products, including hair dyes, straighteners, relaxers, or pressing products, and permanents or body waves. A 10 year follow-up on the incident rate of uterine cancer diagnosis was performed.

According to the results, researchers identified 378 uterine cancer cases, finding participants who used hair straightening products at least once had the highest rate of uterine cancer diagnosis compared to any other hair products involved in the study. They also had a higher rate of uterine cancer when compared to women who used no hair straightener products.

January 2023 Hair Relaxer Lawsuit Update

Sanders’ complaint joins a growing number of similar Dark & Lovely lawsuits, Just for Me lawsuits, and other claims being brought over side effects of hair relaxer products, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturers failed to disclose the risks associated with phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints spread throughout the federal court system, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion to establish a hair relaxer MDL (multidistrict litigation) in December 2022, which would transfer the claims to one U.S, District Judge to preside over coordinated discovery and a series of early “bellwether” trials. The U.S. JPML will consider oral arguments over whether the hair relaxer lawsuits should be consolidated on January 26, 2023.

If centralized pretrial proceedings are set up in the federal court system, Sanders’ lawsuit would be consolidated with other similar claims in 2023. However, if a settlement or other resolution is not reached during the pretrial proceedings, the claim would later be returned back to the Northern District of Illinois for an individual trial.

Ultimately, it is expected that the litigation will include several thousand lawsuits over uterine cancer, breast cancers, uterine fibroids and ovarian cancer from hair relaxer products.

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Lawyers are reviewing claims for women diagnosed with uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids and other injuries.

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Image Credit: Kelly Heck Photography

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