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Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuits

Michelle Llamas, BCPA

Dec 18, 2023

Why Are People Filing Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuits?

Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuits

Chemical hair straightener lawsuits claim that hair relaxer products made by L’Oreal and other companies cause cancer and other health issues. According to lawsuits, manufacturers failed to warn that their products could increase the risk of uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancer.

Why Are People Filing Chemical Hair Straightener Lawsuits?

People are filing chemical hair straightener lawsuits because they claim these hair straighteners have increased the risk of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer and to a lesser extent, ovarian cancer. Women who were diagnosed with these cancers after using chemical hair straighteners may qualify to file a lawsuit.

Those affected by these chemical hair straighteners began filing lawsuits after a 2022 National Institutes of Health study found the risk of uterine cancer was higher in women who used chemical hair straighteners.

Women who used these products more than four times a year had more than double the risk of uterine cancer, according to the NIH study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. In addition to uterine cancer, other studies have linked chemical hair straighteners to increased risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis and breast cancer.

Companies being sued include L’Oreal, Strength of Nature, Soft Sheen and others. Lawsuits claim that these products were heavily marketed to Black women, who are more likely to use chemical hair straighteners.

Thirty-two-year-old Jenny Mitchell was one of the first women to file a lawsuit in October 2022 after doctors diagnosed her with uterine cancer. Her lawsuit claimed that her uterine cancer “was directly and proximately caused by her regular and prolonged exposure to phthalates and other endocrine disrupting chemicals found in Defendants’ hair care products.”

Hair Straightener Lawsuit Updates

As of Dec. 15, 2023, there were 7,984 hair straightener lawsuits pending in multidistrict litigation in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois. A total of 8,083 cases had been filed. Lawyers expect many more people to file chemical hair straightener lawsuits and are still accepting cases. So far, there have been no trials or global settlements approved in the Illinois MDL.

Recent updates include:

  • December 2023: Plaintiffs continue to file lawsuits. Both sides are working on their bellwether test trial protocols, and plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery from defendant L’Oreal USA.

  • November 2023: As of November 2023, there were 7,967 pending lawsuits in the Illinois MDL.

  • August 2023: As of August 2023, 39 additional hair relaxer cancer lawsuits were pending in the Illinois MDL.

  • July 2023: 236 cases were pending in the Illinois hair relaxer MDL.

  • June 2023: 149 cases were pending in the Illinois MDL. A total of 152 lawsuits were originally filed.

  • March 2023: 78 cases were pending in the Illinois MDL.

  • February 2023: The Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated all hair straightener lawsuits in the Northern District of Illinois.

  • January 2023: Tamara Sigars filed a lawsuit against L’Oreal and other companies after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

  • November 2022: Lawyers filed a motion to consolidate all hair straightener lawsuits in multidistrict litigation in Illinois.

  • November 2022: Carla G. Rose and Dollie Dillon filed a class action against Dabur International and Namaste Laboratories to recuperate the purchase price of hair straightening products.

  • October 2022: Jenny Mitchell became one of the first women to file a hair straightener lawsuit against L’Oreal and other companies after she was diagnosed with uterine cancer.

  • October 2022: An NIH-funded study found women who use hair straighteners have an increased risk of uterine cancer, breast cancer, fibroids and other serious conditions.

The Illinois MDL began with more than a dozen individual injury cases. Defendants also face an Illinois class action that demands L’Oreal and other companies reimburse plaintiffs for the full purchase price of the defective products.

“The presence of EDCs in Defendants’ Toxic Hair Straightener was not disclosed in the products’ label, in violation of state and federal law,” according to the class action complaint.

How Does Chemical Hair Straightening Work?

Chemical hair straightening works by using heat and chemicals to break down the natural bonds in hair. Three types of these bonds are disulfide, hydrogen and salt bonds.

When people apply chemical hair straighteners to hair, they break disulfide bonds. This allows the hair to be permanently straightened. The process requires ongoing maintenance because the effect typically lasts until hair grows out.

Chemicals in hair straighteners include sodium hydroxide, ammonium thioglycolate, sodium thioglycolate, formaldehyde, cyclosiloxanes, parabens, diethanolamine, phthalates, benzophenone-3 and triclosan. Exposure to these chemicals may cause cancer or other health issues.

What Cancers Are Caused by Chemical Hair Straighteners?

Uterine cancer and breast cancer are the top two cancers linked to hair straighteners. Researchers have found that endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, in chemical hair straighteners are to blame for an increased cancer risk.

In addition to cancer, studies have also linked chemical hair straighteners to endometriosis and uterine fibroids. People who frequently use these products have a greater risk of cancer and other health problems.

According to researchers, women who use the products more than four times a year, or every five to eight weeks, have the greatest risk of developing uterine or breast cancer. Phthalates, parabens and a very toxic chemical called DEHP are some of the cancer-causing chemicals in hair straighteners.

A greater proportion of Black women reported using hair straighteners, researchers found.

Uterine Cancer

The 2022 NIH study found women who use the products more than four times in 12 months have more than double the uterine cancer risk.

Scientists studied data from 33,947 women aged 35 to 74. They found that women who reported using hair straighteners had higher incidence rates of uterine cancer than those who did not use straighteners.

Breast Cancer

A 2019 NIH study also linked chemical hair straighteners to an increased risk of breast cancer. Researchers found a 30% increased risk of breast cancer in women who used chemical hair straighteners every five to eight weeks.

In addition, researchers found Black women had a higher risk of breast cancer from chemical hair straighteners because they were more likely to use these products. Despite this study, currently the litigation is only focused on uterine, endometrial and ovarian cancer. Lawyers say that could change when more scientific evidence presents itself for other cancers or conditions.

Cosmetic Brands in Lawsuits

Cosmetic brands in chemical hair straightener lawsuits include L’Oreal products and popular brands such as Soft & Beautiful and Dark and Lovely.

“Defendants knew or should have known that their hair relaxer products were dangerous and defective because they contain highly toxic EDCs and they manufactured, marketed and sold them anyway,” according to lawsuits.

Chemical hair straightener brands named in lawsuits include:

  • Dark and Lovely

  • Just for Me

  • L’Oreal

  • Motions

  • Namaste

  • Olive Oil Girls

  • Optimum

  • Soft & Beautiful

  • Strength of Nature Global LLC

  • TCB Naturals

These brands are popular among Black women, who are more likely to use chemical hair straighteners.

“Sixty percent of the participants who reported using straighteners were Black women. The bottom line is that the exposure burden appears to be higher among Black women,” said Chandra Jackson, one of the NIH study’s co-authors.

Who Is Eligible to File a Lawsuit?

You may be eligible to file a chemical hair straightener lawsuit if you used a chemical hair straightener and received a diagnosis of uterine cancer, endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer. Only a licensed attorney can tell you if you are eligible.

A chemical hair straightener lawyer may ask you about your experience with chemical hair straighteners. If you have any receipts or medical records, make sure you have these with you when you speak to an attorney. If you aren’t sure about your diagnosis, the lawyer may be able to help you obtain medical records.

If you are interested in filing a lawsuit, speak to an attorney right away. There may be a time limit to file a claim. If time runs out, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit.

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