Millions of women use chemical hair relaxers on a regular basis. In 2022, new scientific research revealed that chronic exposure to the chemicals in hair relaxer products can cause uterine and ovarian cancer. This new evidence prompted a wave of lawsuits against the manufacturers of hair relaxer products by women claiming that they developed cancer as a result of using these products.
Our mass tort lawyers have been at the forefront of the hair relaxer cancer lawsuits from the very beginning. We are currently accepting hair relaxer cancer cases from women across the country.
About Hair Relaxers
Hair relaxers, also known as “hair perms” or “straighteners,” are cosmetic products predominantly used by African American women to achieve a flat hair appearance. The process of hair relaxing, or lanthionization, can be carried out either at home or at a salon. Typically, the product is applied to the hair’s base or root and left in place to undergo a “cooking” process. During this process, potent chemicals within the product target the hair’s natural protein structure, compelling it to flatten. Generally, retreatment is necessary every 4-8 weeks.
Hair relaxers often contain harsh chemicals like phthalates, which pose potential harm to the human body due to their classification as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs can disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system, responsible for regulating hormones such as estrogen. Notably, these chemicals are frequently not listed as individual ingredients on the product label. Instead, they are often broadly categorized under terms like “fragrance” or “perfume.”
Chemicals in Hair Relaxers
Hair relaxer products contain many powerful chemicals. Di-2- ethyl hexyl phthalate (“DEHP”) is a particularly harmful phthalate chemical that is found in hair relaxer products. It is used to make the product adhere to the scalp and absorb into the hair. DEHP is an EDC that is known to cause major disruption to the endocrine system and trigger hormonal imbalances.
This interference can lead to various reproductive and developmental issues, including infertility, cancer, and developmental abnormalities. Scientists have shown that DEHP acts as a mimic for the female hormone estrogen, contributing to hormonal imbalances.
In response to these health risks, numerous countries have implemented regulations to restrict the use of DEHP and other phthalates in consumer goods. For instance, the European Union has prohibited the use of DEHP in children’s toys, and the United States has imposed limitations on its inclusion in children’s products. However, the use of hair relaxers by children raises more invasive concerns, as the direct application of these products with the chemical poses a more intimate exposure compared to playing with a toy, emphasizing the need for increased awareness and regulation.
NIH Study Links Hair Relaxer to Cancer
In October 2022, the results of a groundbreaking long-term study called the “Sister Study” were published. The Sister Study was conducted by a research team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and it included a group of over 50,000 women who participated in the study.
The Sister Study found that frequent use of chemical hair relaxers (over 4 times per year) over long-time periods increased the risk of uterine cancer by 150%. The results of the Sister Study were definitive proof that hair relaxer was linked to uterine cancer. Chronic exposure to the chemicals in hair straightener products has also been linked to increased risks ovarian cancer and breast cancer, and other health conditions involving the female reproductive system such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis.
Hair Relaxer Class Action Lawsuit
Almost immediately after the publication of the Sister Study article regarding the connection between hair relaxers and cancer, women across the country began filing product liability lawsuits against cosmetic companies that make relaxer products. The primary cosmetic companies named as defendants in these cases have been L’Oreal, Dabur Ltd., and Godrej Ltd. These companies make popular hair relaxer brand such as Dark & Lovely, Africa’s Best, Motions, and Just for Me.
In January 2023, the hair relaxer cancer lawsuits in federal courts were consolidated into a new class action MDL in the Northern District of Chicago. The hair relaxer MDL was one of the fastest-growing mass torts in the country in 2023. It began with less than 50 cases at the start of the year and by December it had over 8,000.
The plaintiffs in the hair relaxer lawsuits are women who used chemical hair relaxer products a regular basis for many years and were subsequently diagnosed with uterine cancer and ovarian cancer. These women alleged that the manufacturers negligently failed to warn them about the potential risk of cancer associated with the chemicals in their products.
Predicted Settlement Value of Hair Relaxer Lawsuits
The hair relaxer lawsuits will most likely be resolved in some type of global settlement in which the defendants agree to set aside a large sum of money for a settlement fund that is used to compensate plaintiffs. In global settlements like this, individual plaintiffs are ranked into “tiers” for purposes of determining the amount of their settlement payout. Plaintiffs with strong claims are in the highest settlement tiers and get more money.
In the hair relaxer class action, uterine cancer cases are expected to fall within the highest settlement tier due to compelling scientific evidence establishing a causal link between hair relaxer use and uterine cancer (as demonstrated in the Sister Study). Additionally, uterine cancer is deemed a more serious injury when compared to uterine fibroids or endometriosis.
Our attorneys project that the settlement compensation for hair relaxer-related uterine cancer cases may vary, ranging from $300,000 to $1,750,000. The wide range in this estimated value is due to the fact that individual uterine cancer cases could be valued much differently based on specific circumstances surrounding each case. We think a successful ovarian cancer case could have a settlement value of $400,000 to $750,000. The value for ovarian cancer cases is lower because the causation evidence is not as strong.
Contact Us About a Hair Relaxer Lawsuit
If you used chemical hair straightener and were later diagnosed with ovarian cancer, contact our office today for a free consultation at 888-322-3010- or get a free online consultation.