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New York Times Article - The Disturbing Truth About Hair Relaxers

There was a recent article written by Linda Villarosa, a contributing writer, and published in June 2024 by The New York Times. The article delved deeply into the impact and risks related to the use of hair relaxers, particularly by Black women.

I am sharing this article for further reading because I have been doing a series on toxins and my last blog related to the dangers of hair dyes and strengtheners.

One of my Yoga students, Dr. Adana Llanos, an epidemiologist at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and an investigator for the Women’s Circle of Health Study shared the article with me. She was also featured in the article.

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • According to a 2020 study, about 89% of Black women in the U.S. have used hair relaxers. Scientific evidence shows that hair products marketed to Black women contain endocrine-disrupting substances linked to early menstruation and reproductive health issues like uterine fibroids, preterm birth, infertility, and cancer.

  • Many hormone-related health issues are more prevalent in Black women than in other women. This includes a more aggressive form of breast cancer, which contributes to a 28 percent higher death rate from the disease compared to white women.

  • In October 2022, the Sister Study led by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found compelling evidence. The study followed nearly 34,000 women and revealed that frequent use of chemical hair-straightening products, mainly by Black women, increased the likelihood of developing uterine cancer by two and a half times compared to those who did not use the products. Uterine cancer, the most common cancer of the female reproductive system, has seen a rise in aggressive subtypes, particularly among Black women, since 2000.

  • The American government's lax oversight means that even package labeling cannot be trusted. Studies have found that 84% of toxic ingredients are not listed on the packaging. Furthermore, higher levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been found in the urine of Black women compared to that of white women.

  • Straight hair continues to be the dominant standard of beauty for Black women, from working-class women to those in government and corporate America, as well as celebrities and even someone in the White House.

  • In 2022, Michelle Obama mentioned that she felt the need to straighten her hair while serving as the first lady, rather than wear a natural style. She expressed that America was just adjusting to having a Black man in the Oval Office and a Black family in the White House, and there was resistance to embracing natural hair.

Below are the research findings of Dr. Adana Llanos, regarding the potential link between the use of chemical hair relaxers and hair dyes and the increased risk of breast cancer among Black women.

  • Dr. Llanos became involved in the research project to investigate her hypothesis that the use of these products could lead to a higher risk of breast cancer and more aggressive tumor features.

  • The study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research in 2022, included nearly 3,000 subjects, most of whom were Black women.

  • The findings revealed that women who used relaxers before the age of 12 and those who used these products for more than 10 years, whether at home or in salons, were more likely to develop larger and more aggressive breast tumors.

  • Dr. Llanos emphasized the importance of focusing on them, given their significant consumption of these products.

In October 2022, the first lawsuit was filed shortly after the Sister Study research was published.

Since then, there have been advertisements on billboards, the internet, and television promoting "Hair Straightener Uterine Cancer Lawsuit" and urging people to call immediately. Thousands of Black women across the country have been recruited as a result.

In February 2023, as the number of cases increased, the lawsuits were consolidated into a class-action multidistrict litigation (MDL). MDL is a federal legal procedure designed to expedite the handling of complex cases, such as air-disaster litigation or product-liability suits.

Currently, there is a substantial amount of evidence showing the connections between hair straighteners and dyes, which should be taken seriously.

Each of us needs to educate ourselves with knowledge that can safeguard our well-being and that of our loved ones.

I am eager to receive your feedback on the effects of hair straighteners and dyes on your health.

In Good Health,


DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide medical advice. The purpose is to provide education and a broader understanding to my readers. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. I do not recommend or prescribe, or recommend changing dosage or discontinuing, any prescription medications or pharmaceutical drugs.



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